Hey, remember when this blog used to be about college football?
Spring practice for the Dawgs starts tomorrow, building towards an ESPN telecast of the G-Day game on April 11. After that, there are only 146 short days until kickoff.
To prepare, I want to give a position-by-position outlook for the Dawgs the way I see it. Offense today, defense tomorrow.
Bold=starter (these are my predictions as to who will be the starters come Opening Day, and may not reflect the current depth chart)
italics*=incoming freshmen whom I believe will redshirt in '09.
Joe Cox, Logan Gray, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger*
OUTLOOK: I know that we are going to miss Matt Stafford's talents, and there is certainly no one on this list who can match Staff's arm strength. However, I am excited to see what Joe Cox can do with this offense. From all accounts, he is extremely knowledgeable of the offense, and he has always been very accurate as a passer. I do have a little concern regarding how well he can throw the deep ball, because that is something that we have to be able to do to run our offense effectively. He obviously won't be able to throw it like Stafford does, but it has to be an option in order to keep defenses honest, and also to fully utilize guys like A.J. Green and Marlon Brown. But there is no doubt that this guy is a leader, and is relishing that part of his role, which I love to see.
At backup, I fully expect to see Logan Gray on the field quite a bit as a "change-up" style quarterback. I don't think it will be anything similar to what we did with Shockley/Greene in that I don't expect to see a set timetable to get him in a game (every third series, etc). But I think you have to get him on the field quite a bit, for a couple of reasons. First, I think he's too talented athletically to leave him sitting on the bench, and I think he could be very effective in spot duty with his ability to both run and throw. Second, Joe C is a senior...this guy needs to be ready to take the reins next year, which means we need to get him some looks in real-game situations (not just mop-up duty).
Then you have the two freshmen...I think there is the possibility that they might BOTH redshirt, but if one of them is going to see the field I think it's Murray. Mettenberger is still pretty raw right now, and I think the redshirt year will do him some good. Both of these guys will get a chance to compete with Gray for the starting job next year.
Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Dontavious Jackson, Carlton Thomas, Washaun Ealy*
OUTLOOK: Unfortunately, I think this is a position where we have "quantity over quality." I was not at all impressed with King's performance last year, either as a runner or (especially) as a blocker. Also, reading between the lines of some of the coaches' comments about him, I don't think they have been really happy with the attitude or the effort he has displayed. We know he has talent...hopefully, the chance to be the #1 guy will be motivation enough for him to work to become the guy who was one of the more highly recruited tailbacks in the country.
Behind King, you have several guys looking for playing time. Richard Samuel was somewhat impressive last year as a true freshman, but he needs to work on holding on to the ball. D-Jax put up MONSTER numbers in high school, but was sidetracked by the injury bug last year (and won't be available in spring practice, either). Carlton Thomas is an undersized guy who has coaches raving about his speed and quickness...look for the coaches to try to find ways to get the ball into his hands, maybe at punt returner.
With this much personnel at the position, I think it's almost a lock that Ealy redshirts...and that's assuming he actually makes it to campus this year (academics may be an issue, although the latest reports have been positive).
Shaun Chapas, Fred Munzenmaier
Outlook: I listed Chapas as the starter, but these guys are really interchangeable. We'll miss Southerland, but Southerland missed quite a bit of time last year and there wasn't much dropoff as these guys filled in admirably. Both of these guys can run, catch, and block...no game-changer here or anything, but definitely solid football players.
A.J. Green, Michael Moore, Kris Durham, Tony Wilson, Israel Troupe, Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Rontavious Wooten*
OUTLOOK: There are some nice weapons here. A.J. Green certainly lived up to the hype last year, and gets a chance to prove that he can be the #1 guy. I love what we are hearing about this guy's desire and work ethic...let's just hope he can stay healthy. He was hampered by a groin strain last year, and he is still taking it pretty slow to keep from re-aggravating it in the spring.
On the other side of Green is most likely Michael Moore, although I think there will be some competition for that spot. Moore is one of those guys who seems like he has been on campus forever...he is a 5th year senior who has shown flashes of playmaking ability in somewhat limited time. He had 29 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Moore will be pushed by: Kris Durham (great hands, better than expected speed), Tony Wilson (tough receiver...always seems to pick up extra yards), Israel Troupe (????...lot of talent coming out of high school, has not gotten many chances so far), and Tavarres King (super-quick slot-type guy who showed some potential before going down with an early-season injury last year).
And then there is Marlon Brown...this guy is a physical specimen (6-5, 200 LB, 40 time probably in the 4.55 range) who really came on strong this past year and became one of the most sought after WR in the nation. He will push for playing time, and if he develops as expected he sets up an unbelievable WR tandem with A.J. Green.
Bruce Figgins, Aron White, Bryce Ros, Orson Charles, Arthur Lynch*
OUTLOOK: This is a strange bunch...normally, I can get a good idea of what style offense a team runs by what kind of TEs they have on the roster, but this is a mix-and-match group. Figgins is the old-school tight end, who is probably 65% blocker, 35% pass catcher. White is a hybrid type, built more like a big WR than a TE (6-4, 228) who has shown an early ability to stretch the field. Ros is an enigma...he played FB and DL in high school, but certainly has the build (6-4, 242) and the pedigree (his dad Frank was a captain on the 1980 MNC squad).
The trend continues in the 2009 signees: Arthur Lynch is a big blocking TE who has shown some ability to catch (like the white version of Figgins), while Orson Charles is an athletic freak who was actually moved to WR in the Rivals.com recruiting rankings.
So what does it all mean? Versatility, baby. There is a lot of talent in this group, and I'm very interested to see how Coach Bobo goes about getting them involved.
Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis, Trinton Sturdivant, Vince Vance,
Josh Davis, Justin Anderson, Tanner Strickland, Ben Harden, AJ Harmon, Jonathan Owens, Kevin Perez, Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette*, Austin Long*
OUTLOOK: Yeah, that's right. SIXTEEN offensive linemen on the Opening Day roster. Kudos to the coaching staff for taking a position that seemed to be a liability a couple of years ago and changing it into what I think may be the strength of the team this year. If we can ever keep this group even relatively healthy, then the possible question marks at QB and running back all of a sudden look a lot more promising.
Boling is the MVP of this group, in my opinion. He has been a do-everything guy...he's played every position except center (at least I don't THINK he's played center), and has played admirably everywhere we've put him. If we can ever put him somewhere and leave him (RT is my guess as to where he ends up), there is no telling what his potential can be.
The rest are an impressive mix of size, athleticism, and nastiness.
Oh, and one more thing...of that group, only Vince Vance is a Senior, and only two of my projected starters (Boling and C. Davis) are Juniors...everybody else has at least two more years after this one. So you might assume that they are too young...except that with the injury problems we have had over the last couple of years, there is a LOT of experience in those younger groups as well.
Fired up yet? I'll be back tomorrow with the defense, and maybe the special teams as well.