Pretty enjoyable afternoon at Ross-Ade for the Spring Game....didn't think I was going to go until the last minute after the weather started to clear out. Beautiful day and some pretty solid outings for a number of the Boiler football team.
I was interested in keeping an eye on some of the younger kids now on the roster, and I kept going back to DE Ryan Russell, the RS freshman from Carrollton, TX. He had 2 sacks and some hurries on the day, and he might just be the heir-apparent to the Den of DE tradition for the Boilers. Mebane was solid as well, but Russell caught my attention from the get-go. Will be interesting to see how much he can progress over the next four years. Rashard Frazier is also another young gun at DE I am anxious to see develop for the Boilers.
I also liked the play of sophomore Center Cody Davis. Listed at 6-5, 279, he held his own against the some of the vet standouts. He'll probably not be able to get to be the starting center until his senior year, but I liked what I saw out of him today. And I am liking that the overall average size of our OLine is continuing to get bigger. Still not quite big enough just yet to match the top programs around the nation (some OT's and OG's at 6-6/6-7, 280+ ... some still sidelined with injuries like Kelly and Foy) but at least we're getting better in the trenches in that respect. Whoever is recruiting that position is doing pretty well....I just hope they're getting the best coaching possible, because they have the size to be a dominant force over time.
Higgs and Kawaan Short were beasts out there on defense again - no suprise. For our DT's, I hope the likes of Gaston, Pamphille, Taylor, Neimeier, Cooks and Issac keep the Boilers more stout against the run this year. I'm also looking forward to seeing how well Jalani Phillips progresses - he has tremendous potential in the coming years. Hope he can tap it.
As for the offense, the "regulars" looked steady, although I still worry quite a bit about the QB position. Henry was okay, TerBush did alright, but no one "wowed" any of us. The biggest surprise for me was the freshman QB from Warren Central, Dolapo McCarthy. I thought that for a freshman he did pretty well, considering he had to wait until the last part of the scrimmage before getting into the game. Kid has a decent arm and his running ability could be an asset on 2nd and 3rd down situations.
Running game - pretty decent but not and still without Bolden - had some consistent running but no "wow" factor. I do like what I saw of Jr. Gavin Roberts and Jr. JUCO transfer Akeem Shavers. Sean Matti and Reggie Peagram had their moments, and with a healthy Bolden, all these guys could give the Boilers a HUGE/deep talent to draw on at the RB position.
TE's Sterling Carter, Justin Sinz and Gabe Holmes gives us some good size in short yardage and Red Zone situations, so I hope those guys can come through when it counts. I think they weren't utilized as much as they need to be in game situations (maybe by design for today?) but still lots of time until the season kicks off for their emergence - which I think will be critical for the quick, safe outlet passes for Henry/TerBush/Marve.
Wideouts. I think we have some speed, but no standouts - yet. Of course, they need to have the QB get them the ball consistently, but much of the day our QB's were pressured so much they couldn't get off a pass deeper than 10-15 yards except on a few occassions. And other than Siller, we don't have much in the way of size at the wideout position. Although Torwudzo is a guy to keep an eye one. He brings that bigger frame to the mix IF he can push his way onto the field throughout the year. But other than those two (and Tommie Thomas at 6-2) we really are top heavy on slot-types (6-footers or smaller). As you'll note throughout the nation, and in the B1G, corners and safeties are getting bigger each year...so 6' at the wideout position gives up a huge amount of size for many passes that are high or end up as "jump balls".
Overall, we have some speed and talent on the team. Defense seems our strongest suit at present and I think we'll have to hope they can carry the team much of the way. Especially against the run. However, if our offense can cut loose (with the OL being the key) and run the ball effectively, then I like our chances to win 6 or 7 and push for a bowl game.