well, now that spring is in the books and a handful of players are starting to transfer out, we've learned a little more about this team, but I think we'll see some of the newer arrivals in the mix in the fall
I think we all know that AM is the starter. The real question is who is the top backup, and are they halfway decent? I think McCaffrey surprised some people with how he hit the ground running in the spring, but I think he's going to have a tough time passing Vedral who has real live gameday experience. I see Vedral as the backup with McCaffrey being worked into the mix with the 4 game redshirt rule. Bunch and Masker will hopefully also see some mopup duty on occasion but that's it.
This will be interesting in the fall. Brody Belt and Mazour are not going to see meaningful game time snaps. Bradley appeared to whiff on his shot to lay a claim to the job as well. so that's basically everyone we saw in the spring, so that means the top 3 RBs basically didnt do much this spring lol, since 2/3 of them arent on campus yet, and the other 1/3 has legal trouble. I think MW's legal stuff gets taken care of before the fall and it wont be a big deal. He and Mills are going to be the workhouse RBs, but I think that Johnson is going to get a ton of carries as a true frosh as well with his speed. I can also see Thompkins getting some 4 game redshirt playing time as well.
DUCK-R - Wandale Robinson, Miles Jones, Mazour
slot - Spielman, not sure who else
outside 1 - Andre Hunt, Kade Warner, Darien Chase/Demaryion Houston
outside 2 - Mike Williams/Woodyard, Darien Chase/Demaryion Houston
it will be interesting to see who steps up amongst the wideouts during "voluntary" summer workouts. big opportunity for some guys to earn some playing time. the tough part about this offense is predicting formations and use of players. I know last year they moved Morgan around at times positionally to get him better matchups. I think this year we'll see more/similar versatility out of the offense, with a TE being flexed out, more use of the duck-r position, motioning MW out of the backfield into a WR position, etc. Right now I think we're going to see a lot of Spielman and Robinson (if they both can stay healthy and take the pounding), but other than that, I'm not sure. it sounded like Hunt stepped up this spring so if he keeps progressing he probably has the leg up right now, but I can also see one of the other frosh making a jump. This is also the last year for Williams/Woodyard so hopefully they'll take the next step also. Warner is always going to get some playing time because he's where he's supposed to be and blocks well. anyway, with the SF offense I'm not as concerned about individual talent at WR because I think they can adjust to use the RBs/Duck-R/TEs more, plus this offense can get people open. Still, it would be nice to see another WR or two really step up as a reliable option.
TE is all but finalized as the top 3 guys from last year return. the big question will be if they've improved enough to be more involved in the offense in year two. hopefully they find time to get frosh Hickman some snaps and preserve his redshirt.
LT - Jaimes, Gaylord
LG - Hixson, Raridon
C - Jurgens, Farniok
RG - Wilson, Sicheterman
RT - Farniok, Gaylord
I think the staff, really, really, really wants Jurgens to win the OC job. Once he gets his body right, he could be a good one so I dont blame them. I think they think his ceiling is so high there that it's better to let him learn on the fly and get the experience. I've heard his athleticism for the position is off the charts, he can pull and get to the second level better than any other interior OL already. but, he's getting his ass handed to him in one-on-ones and up the middle, because his weight/strength isnt where it needs to be and he's brand new to the position. I'm ok with little Farniok or Hunter Miller at C also. if things arent looking good with Jurgens early in fall camp, expect to see the staff tinker with Wilson and/or Hixson at C and sliding others around. other than that, Hixson seems like a nice fit after moving to OG from OT. Wilson, Farniok, and Jaimes return as starters, and it sounds like Gaylord has come along as a decent swing OT. Still waiting for Raridon to make a move. Havent heard anything about Bando, either. I expect all of the incoming frosh to play in 4 games and redshirt. including Benhart. I just dont see him being able to step in as a true frosh and play OT, but then again Jaimes did it and at a smaller size. I hope he's that good that he's in the mix but I think he's better off redshirting.
NT Daniels, Daniels/Green
I think our top 6 is pretty well set, and maybe make that 7 now that SF and staff added the late JUCO NT who's immediately eligible. anyway, I really like this group. a lot. lots of talent and depth, and now after another year hopefully some more strength and size. I think we'll see the DE spots interchangeable for the most part, and I expect a lot of rotation all game and season long. I think we'll see our DL hold up well against the run but also be more disruptive than we saw last season. last year's redshirts in Robinson and Rogers will see some spot duty but as long as the top guys stay healthy I dont think we'll see many others in the mix except for garbage time. Robinson will get his 4 games and redshirt. not sure what Chris Walker's development is at this point, but he's still young. Maybe we'll see Vaha take a step up after getting reacclimated to the game. I think we'll also see guys move around across the line at times depending on down and distance. the new JUCO will help with all of that as well because I think he'll be playing both NT and DE.
OLB Ferguson, Davis, Garret Nelson
ILB Barry, Hannah/Heinrich
OLB Domann, Tannor, Alston
I actually like the starting 4 here, plus Honas and Tannor as backups. they definitely have a lot to prove, but Ferg was arguably our best OLB last year when healthy, Tannor did ok for a true frosh, and Domann looked like a beast even though he'd never played the position before. depth is a concern across the board, though. the primary backup at ILB is still recovering from a torn ACL and the other ILB options are true frosh. I like Heinrich and Hannah, and I think one of them will step up and surprise (my money is on Hannah, I think he's bigger and more physical at this point, oh and there's the whole fact that he isnt injured). it sounds like Alex Davis has finally had the light come on, hopefully it translates to production on the field. My money is on the top 3 both inside and outside are going to be seeing the field the most often, although I think we'll see Davis/Domann used more or less depending on matchups and opposing offensive schemes.
CB Bootle, Taylor
S Deontai Williams, Taylor
S Dismuke, Taylor
CB Jackson, Taylor
so, it looks like Cam Taylor is the fifth DB right now. those top 5 are solid. Bootle had a lot of pass breakups last year, hopefully he can turn some of those into interceptions. Jackson is supposedly all in now and more physical, he's always had the athletic ability. Williams was the biggest playmaker at S last year, but he didnt know the calls. now he knows the defense and I expect to see him continue to make big plays. Dismuke seems to have finally gotten it all together as well. He's also a great athlete who can hit. I'm excited to see what these top 5 do in regards to takeaways this year. moving Lee to S was a good move. He's a good tackler and will provide some depth. hopefully CJ Smith comes back healthy because he has some potential at S as well. it will be interesting to see if Braxton Clark takes a step up as well as a backup. unfortunately I'm not expecting to see much of some of the other legacy DBs such as Anderson, Butler. of the incoming frosh, I think we'll see them all play, but I think we'll see them all redshirt as well. there's definitely talent there with those incoming frosh, I just dont see any of them coming close to beating out the any of the top 5-7 for even a solid backup spot. still, hopefully they can work those guys into the mix all season long on a rotating basis to help provide depth in the defensive backfield but also to help out on special teams.
P - Armstrong
K - Pickering
LS - Urbach
I feel good about our special teams. Pickering settled down the second half of the season last year and should only continue to improve. Armstrong did great last season and should also improve. Also dont overlook the benefit of having a left footed punter. Urbach returns as longsnapper (and hopefully we'll see Damien Jackson get some work at snapping as well)
anyway, overall, the talent and depth seems better than last year. there are still some holes, but it's getting better. probably a good sign is how little opportunity there is right now for an incoming frosh to step into the two deep. our DL is so deep that last year's redshirts will probably barely see the field. 4 talented DBs coming in probably wont crack the two deep at all. the offensive skill positions is where we'll probably see some new names, though. definitely at RB, definitely at duck-r, and probably also at WR.
the biggest things I'll be looking at when fall camp rolls around is if there's any shuffling on the OL (i.e. how is the progression of Jurgens at C going?), how the depth and health at both ILB and OLB? and then the offensive skill positions, RB/Duck-R/WR.