I thought it might be fun to look at each position group and match my impressions of where my expectations were before spring practice and where they’re at after G-Day. Keep in mind this is far from expert. All I’ve got to go on are Smart’s comments and what I watched in a controlled scrimmage.
But, hey, that’s what mid-April is all about.
- Offensive line. You’ve got a major transition in coaching philosophy – the third in three years, mind you – and a major reshuffling of personnel due to the departure of two seniors, so, yeah, expectations weren’t too high at the start of spring practice. I’m not gonna say G-Day knocked me on my ass, but I saw some unexpectedly good stuff out of Lamont Gaillard as well as some expected enormousness from Ben Cleveland. I’d still say the o-line is a work in progress and won’t be surprised at all if Tyler Catalina’s arrival for August practice results in another shuffling of linemen. Unchanged.
- Wide receivers. As far as I’m concerned, as a group, they’re the most pleasant surprise of the spring. Stanley and Chigbu look like contributors. If the hands Reggie Davis displayed at G-Day aren’t a mirage, you can count him in, too. I also noticed the receivers seemed more physical in their downfield blocking, something that was missing last season. (Anybody catch that crackback block from McKenzie?) Coley looks like he’s an underrated position coach so far. Stock up.
- Tight ends. We thought they’d be good and deep and that Chaney would make more use of them than Schottenheimer did. So far, so good. Unchanged.
- Running backs. With the injuries and Turman’s departure, this group is thin. Real thin. Let’s hope Holyfield can contribute. Of course, Chubb’s return would change everything. Stock down.
- Quarterbacks. I’ve already had my say on them. Stock up.
- Defensive line. As a group, my biggest concern coming out of spring. None of the injuries appear serious or long-term, but the suspensions for the opener are a huge worry. There is some talent, but is there enough depth to hold up against a HUNH offense that’ll try to run 80-90 plays in the Dome? Is it realistic to expect any of the true freshmen coming in the summer to contribute right off the bat? Consider me very nervous about the d-line right now. Stock down.
- Linebackers. It’s funny how little I had to say about the linebackers at G-Day. But with Reggie Carter’s return, it appears there’s a set starting four and some talent behind them. The big question here is what kind of year does Lorenzo Carter have. Unchanged.
- Defensive backs. I guess the easy reaction to take to giving up over 600 passing yards last Saturday would be panic. Or despair. But I can’t say I feel that anxious about it. There were some break downs, but there were also some completions that were well defended. There appears to be a starting foursome in place, but there also appears to be a lot of battling going on for playing time. August will be big. Unchanged.
- Placekickers. I’ll have to take Kirby’s word on this one, as G-Day didn’t fill me with confidence. (Admittedly, Ham was the victim of some bad luck.) I think I only saw one kickoff reach the end zone. Not good, even if not unexpected. Unchanged.
- Punting. Ramsey looks fine. Did I mention Ramsey looks fine? Good, because I didn’t see anything else and Kirby was honest enough to admit it’s an area of concern this spring. There’s a punter on scholarship coming in the fall, which could be an even bigger thing than we might expect if Ramsey surprises us and wins the starting quarterback job. Although it would be cool to watch the strategery that would flow from having the same guy run the offense and punt… Unchanged.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.