Here's a look back at the end of spring summaries. for those that didn't see them then or want to refresh on how things stood. Look for reports on 2-a-days starting next week.
Be warned, this is obscenely long and probably should have been broken into smaller segments.
First Team Offense
Quarterback, Chris Simms
Height: 6-5 Weight: 225
Class: Sr. Number: 2
Consistency. Consistency may be the biggest thing that Chris takes away from this spring. Despite difficult conditions all spring long, Chris has been very methodical and effective behind center this spring. Simms may look like a sunshine boy, but over the last month Chris showed he could throw in windy, rainy, or even frosty conditions with the same power and accuracy that make him so dangerous in the sun.
Chris has looked comfortable throwing to all the routes, and looked especially deadly on slants, outs, and sprints. Chris looked poised as the captain of the offense as he continually dictated the pace of passing drills and helped maintain the focus of his teammates.
Chris has been challenged this spring by a stifling first team defense. The first team offense didnít enjoy a lot of success against that first team defense, but they did find a few openings. Most importantly, Chris was forced to make quick decisions against the first team defenseÖ some of them worked to his favor, some to his detriment. Obviously, Chris is a critical part of the offense and I will address him more specifically with additional words later.
Tailback, Cedric Benson
Height: 6-0 Weight: 205
Class: Fr. Number: 32
After spring break the coaches put Cedric through one day of hell, giving him over half the carries. Cedric showed no ill effects, and the coaches seemed content with that display. Before and since that day, the story on Cedric has been his lack of playing time. The coaches know that Cedric is their man, and with running back being one of the main risk positions for injury, they donít want to take any chances. In the time that Cedric has spent at running back he has looked as impressive as ever.
Tailback, Brett Robin
Height: 5-11 Weight: 200
Class: Jr.-RS Number: 25
Admittedly, Brett Robin wasnít a name that used to make me think ďtoughĒ. After watching Brett take the majority of the carries this spring, I think he might be somewhere in the definition of the word. The ball was wet and cold for much of the spring and Brett had only two fumbles that I can recall. Brett isnít the best at anything at running back, but he works hard for his yards and he is dependable in every facet of the position.
Fullback, Matt Trissel
Height: 6-0 Weight: 240
Class: Sr. Number: 46
Matt Trissel is a rock at fullback. Every time he lined up this spring, you knew what you were going to get, a solid fullback. Matt isnít a great receiver, but he can catchÖ he isnít a great runner, but he can runÖ he isnít a dominant hitter, but he finishes his blocks.
Split End, Sloan Thomas
Height: 6-2Weight: 200
Class: Jr. Number: 9
All he does is catch touchdownsÖ and everything else thrown his way. In Royís absence this spring, Sloan has gotten a lot more playing time. He didnít squander his opportunities. During the first two weeks of spring there were some great battles between Sloan and Nathan Vasher, and Sloan got the best of those battles. Sloan has had some drops in the second part of the spring, but he has also continued to make the biggest catches. Sloan established that he is a go-to guy this spring, and that he can be the man for an offense.
Flanker, B.J. Johnson
Height: 6-1Weight: 200
Class: Jr. Number: 82
B.J. Johnson and Chris Simms didnít get in a groove this spring. Many have noted that B.J. is getting open but Chris isnít finding him. Quite frankly, I havenít seen as much of this as some have indicated. B.J. has gotten separation downfield at times, but he isnít getting a great deal of separation early in his routes. I think B.J. plays a more physical style than the other receivers. He likes to keep the cover man on his hip and make a play at the end. Anytime B.J. is has 1-on-1 coverage, he wants the ballÖ and he probably should get it. However, Chris is looking to hit wide-open targets, or work pockets against the zone. B.J. did make quite a few big catches in practices and scrimmages, but he wasnít the offensive centerpiece that one would anticipate in Royís absence. Even though B.J. didnít get as many touches as he may have liked, he did have a few good runs on reverses and his blocking on runs was better than any other receiverís.
Tight End, Bo Scaife
Height: 6-3Weight: 250
Class: Jr.-RS Number: 80
If there were an offensive player of the spring award, it would belong to Bo Scaife. Bo has taken his game to a new level this spring and if he stays healthy he will have an all conference type of year. Bo has probably had more catches than anyone this spring, because no one can really cover him. Derrick Johnson and Lee Jackson are very fast linebackers, and he was able to get open on both of them the majority of the time. Cedric Griffin tried to cover him for a practice and found out just how difficult it is. Bo is strong, agile, and fastÖ and if this spring is any indication, he will be a key component of our offense from now on.
Left Tackle, Robbie Doane
Height: 6-6 Weight: 315
Class: Sr. Number: 71
Robbie Doane is a returning starter and is battle tested, neither of which very many of our linemen can boast right now. However, Robbie has not established a clear gap between himself and the back-ups this spring. He has faired well with help from a tight end on his assignments. However, he has been abused this spring repeatedly by Austin Sendlein and occasionally by Chase Pittman. Overall, I would say it has been disappointing for Robbie this spring, because he didnít raise his level of play.
Left Guard, Tillman Holloway
Height: 6-3Weight: 315
Class: Jr.-RS Number: 61
Tillman has cemented his place on this offensive line as a dominant force. Tillman has been an explosive run blocker and a suffocating pass blocker. No one has been as impressive in the 1-on-1 drills as Holloway. The main issue for Tillman is to stay healthy, because he always seems to be tweaking his neck and back. Tillman has all the tools to be an All-AmericanÖ if not this year, perhaps next.
Center, Jason Glynn
Height: 6-2Weight: 275
Class: So.-RS Number: 52
Jason was thrown right into the fire from the first day of spring. He has responded to the challenge, and has made himself the clear choice for starting center. I have been most impressed with Jasonís mental performance this spring. The first team offensive line has been consistently sharp on blitz pick-ups and much of the credit should go to Jason. Jasonís weakness has been in 1-on-1 match upsÖ he simply canít consistently handle powerful defensive linemen 1-on-1 (in run or pass blocking) at this point. His footwork and positioning are good, but he letís defensive linemen get low on him and drive him back or force him to the side. The good news is that this seems to be Jasonís only weakness right now and itís something that he can definitely focus on in the off-season.
Right Guard, Derrick Dockery
Height: 6-3Weight: 310
Class: Sr. Number: 76
Derrick Dockery, along with Tillman, anchors this line. The coaches know they have a shutdown player in Dockery. Derrick is poised to make a run at the All-American team in his senior campaign, especially if he gets to stay at guard. Derrick is powerful, light-footed, and technically sound and savvyÖ everything you need from the leader on your offensive line.
Right Tackle, Jonathan Scott
Height: 6-7Weight: 297
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 73
After impressive showings at Left Tackle during the first two weeks of spring, the coaches decided to shuffle things up and to get Jonathan at First Team Right Tackle. That move may prove to be the smartest one they made all spring. Scott has the lightest feet of any of the big linemen, and is a very capable pass blocker. Jonathan has not looked dominant at right tackle, but he has held his own against two very quick, athletic defensive ends (Cory Redding and O.J. McClintock). If Scott isnít the answer at Right Tackle, there may not be one. Derrick Dockery would probably be moved tackle to fill the void. That being saidÖ now that Jonathan is on the first team, I donít see him leaving.
Second Team Offense
Quarterback, Chance Mock
Height: 6-2Weight: 215
Class: So.-RS Number: 5
The back-up quarterback spot was open when spring began, but Chance wasted no time in establishing himself in the role. He played like the job was his from the first spring practice, and has never looked back. Two years have clearly given Chance the time he needed to adjust to college speed. He has looked very comfortable behind center despite the fact that he has been constantly under siege the entire spring. Often times, Chance has not even had time to finish his drop before being pressured by defensive linemen. Chance has rarely panickedÖ often scrambling to create more time or simply throwing the ball away. Chance has also shown that if he is given the timeÖ he can make things happen with his arm as well. He isnít as consistent of a passer as Simms, but Chance does find his receivers (despite some tough weather conditions). At one practice, Chance was the best quarterback at practice and that speaks volumes for how far he has come. Chance needs game experience, but the future looks very bright for Mock.
Tailback, Anthony Johnson
Height: 5-11Weight: 195
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 23
After a two-week stint at cornerback, AJ returned to tailback just in time to knock everyoneís socks off. His play, especially the last week, had coaches, players, and fans alike singing his praises. Johnsonís extremely quick lateral shifts and explosions into contact really make his running style fun to watch. His carries, especially in the last two scrimmages, proved that AJ could be a contributor to this team at tailback. However, I still think AJ should be given time at cornerback. I think that it took AJ some time to get back into football, as his basic footwork was just off at the beginning of spring drills. As spring wore on, Anthonyís coordination returned and he really started playing well. The reality is that with Cedric Benson in front of him and Selvin Young, Albert Hardy, and whoever may be recruited at the position this year coming in behind himÖ Anthony will have a hard time seeing significant playing time at tailback. Nonetheless, I really liked what I saw from him at the end of spring and I have no doubt that he will find a way to contribute to this team.
Fullback, Brock Edwards
Height: 6-5Weight: 250
Class: Jr. Number: 84
Super athletic fullback? Yes please. Brock started off slow, not really getting any significant time in the first two weeks of spring. In fact, I think he was operating at about 80% even after Spring Break. However, you have to be excited about what Brock potentially brings to the position. He is a good receiver, a talented runner, and just an all-around powerful athlete. None of those are what Brock brought to fullback these last two weeksÖ instead Brock Edwards brought the wood. Brock laid down some eye opening blocks, culminating with the smashtastical blast on Chase Pittman Saturday. It is my earnest belief that part of the reason for training Brock at Fullback is to allow for a more flexible audible package that could range anywhere from I-back, to Ace, to 3-Wide. What I didnít anticipate was that Brock could significantly enhance the position as a lead blocker. Brock gets to his blocks very quickly, which could be potentially huge with Benson. If Brock can solidify his run-blocking technique this could take our I-back running game to a new level.
Fullback, Will Mathews
Height: 6-3Weight: 250
Class: So.-RS Number: 37
Will was one of the most pleasant surprises this spring. I knew very little about Mathews before spring began. Simply put, Will is the most punishing runner we have on the team. I havenít seen him go down once from the first hit he takes. He is an effective receiver out of the backfield as well. Will still needs to work on using his power to finish blocks, but if he does thatÖ he represents the entire package at fullback.
Split End, Brian Carter
Height: 5-11Weight: 185
Class: So. Number: 1
Many people speculated that Brian would get a look at defensive back this spring, based solely on Brianís height. Thatís why itís called speculation. Brian has shown the coaches that he has the soft hands, runs crisp routes, and can threaten in deep routes throughout the spring. In fact, I would say he went from the #6 receiver, to possibly the #4 receiver on this team. After seeing what he has to offer at wide receiver it would be hard to see BC getting a look at corner, but you really never know .
Flanker, Tony Jeffery
Height: 6-2Weight: 175
Class: So.-RS Number: 12
Tonyís performance this spring has been somewhat disappointing. He has had the most inconsistent hands of the scholarship wide receivers, and he hasnít had very many big catches. Nathan Vasher and Roderick Babers have shut him down on a consistent basis. However, his spring ended on a high note with a touchdown catch in the last scrimmage. Tony is too athletic to not be a solid contributor to this offense.
Flanker, Kyle Shanahan
Height: 6-3Weight: 185
Class: Sr.-RS Number: 87
Kyle Shanahan looks ready to pick up where he left off last year. Kyle runs extremely tight routes and can usually create plenty of separation with just his route cuts. He has reliable hands and he can use his body to shield off defenders. Itís hard to say who will be the #4 receiver right now, but whoever it is will have a great opportunity to contribute. The simple fact that a receiver, who has all the tools of the position down, like Shanahan, isnít a starter on this team is a testament to the skill we have at the position.
Tight End, Chad Stevens
Height: 6-4Weight: 255
Class: Sr. Number: 36
Chad Stevens likes to hit. There must be some linebacker in his blood, because he is always looking for his next target. He brings an aggressive, no holds barred mentality to the field and he has looked really sharp as a blocking tight end. Chad isnít the most graceful receiver, but he can usually get the job done.
Tight End, Artie Ellis
Height: 6-4Weight: 235
Class: Jr.-RS Number: 81
Artie Ellis is another player that has really made the most of his chances this spring. In the first scrimmage Artie didnít look athletic enough at his bulkier weight to play tight end. However, those impressions were soon left by the wayside because Artie started getting open often and catching almost everything thrown his way. Chance and Matt started looking to Artie with regularity. He even filled in for Bo on the first team a few times and looked up to the task. With Brock moving to fullback, Artie is the main backup as a receiving threat at tight end, and he should see some action this year.
Left Tackle, Alfio Randall
Height: 6-6 Weight: 315
Class: Sr. Number: 79
Itís been an up and down spring for Alfio. Early on he was in the hunt for the opening at Right Tackle, but his play there was just not up to par. After Spring Break, Alfio was moved to backup Left Tackle. His play at Left Tackle has been so much better than at Right, that itís hard for me to believe itís the same player. Toward the end of spring I thought Alfio looked every bit as good as Doane, and I think he may challenge for playing time there after the off-season. If nothing else, Alfio is a very legitimate backup for Doane on the left side.
Left Guard, Beau Baker
Height: 6-5Weight: 280
Class: Sr.-RS Number: 74
Fifth year seniors are cherished on offensive line. Players like Beau exemplify the reasons for that adulation. At 280 lbs., Beau is very small to play on our offensive line at any position, especially guard. But Beau gets the job done, and the coaches have made it clear that he is the only strong backup they have at guard so far. Beau executes his blocks, picks up the right men on blitzes, and just makes things happen. With all the injuries that occur on offensive line, we may need someone to step in at guard at some point this yearÖ Beau is the type of guy that will come in and the offense wonít miss a beat.
Center, Will Allen
Height: 6-6 Weight: 297
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 72
Will has had his fair share of trouble this spring at the center position. He has shown the ability to block powerful defensive linemen 1-on-1. However, the second team defensive line struggled mightily on blitz pickups all spring. Of course, they had a hard time just keeping the front four out of the backfield, so the problem might have been more an execution issue than a line call issue. However, if Will were consistently making the right line calls, I have to believe he would have gotten a look with the first team, and that didnít happen. It is well known that center is one of the hardest positions to learn in football, so it certainly isnít a surprise that Will is going to have some growing pains. If Will can get the position down mentallyÖ his shift to center will eventually pay big dividends for his team.
Right Guard, Lionel Garr
Height: 6-7 Weight: 350
Class: So.-RS Number: 75
Lionelís spring has probably left him feeling disappointed. Lionel was the front-runner early on for the starting right tackle position. However, Lionel really didnít show what the coaches were looking for; specifically, Lionel didnít have the lateral quickness to effectively block defensive ends. After spring break, Lionel was moved from first team right tackle to second team right guard. The move to guard may eventually be strong for Garr who could be a much-needed backup player this year and could take on a starting role next year.
Right Tackle, William Winston
Height: 6-7 Weight: 350
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 78
William hasnít been as impressive as Jonathan Scott, but he has looked very good at times. William is developing surprisingly good footwork for a player as young and large as him. He has struggled with Cory Redding quite a bit, but thatís to be expected of a freshman battling a senior All-Conference player. He was able to handle the quick, athletic rush of O.J. McClintock and thatís impressive for a guy whoís as large as Winston. A year of backup will do Winston some good, and he should be ready to battle for a starting spot next year.
Other Offensive Players
Quarterback, Matt Nordgren
Height: 6-5 Weight: 220
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 7
Mattís spring started off slow but built momentum. In the beginning of the spring Matt just looked very uncomfortable in the backfield. He wasnít seeing the routes develop, he wasnít hitting his targets, and he just looked rushed in general (he in fact was, but he was losing his cool). Matt is still adjusting to the speed of the college game, but he definitely made some progress this spring, culminating with a 5-for-5 performance in the last passing scrimmage. Matt finally started looking comfortable in that scrimmage as he calmly made his reads and found his receivers. Matt doesnít throw as hard as Chris or Mock, but he does have nice touch on his mid range passes. Matt wasnít ready to be the backup quarterback, but he did show that he has the potential to play well at this level.
Left Tackle, Roman Reeves
Height: 6-7 Weight: 320
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 66
Roman probably wanted more playing time this spring, but just didnít get much of it. He struggled in 11-on-11 when he did play, but he also had some flashes that make me think he could be a dominating lineman at some point. Romanís high point came during the last week of spring in 1-on-1 drills, when he looked like a seasoned veteran going up against Marcus Tubbs. Roman stood him straight up on a bull rush much to Marcusí dismay.
Left Guard, Terrance Young
Height: 6-6 Weight: 350
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 69
Terrance has struggled for most of the spring at guard. He isnít showing the mobility that is required to play div 1 football right now. Terrance does have to power to dominate when he gets a block on someone, but he just doesnít have light enough feet at this point. If Terrance can get his size down, I think he could really make some progress.
Right Guard, Mike Garcia
Height: 6-3 Weight: 315
Class: Fr.-RS Number: 51
Mike is another player who would have probably liked more playing time this spring. I think his mobility was still hampered by lingering effects of his injury. He did get more time in the last practice and spring game, but had a hard time blocking Miguel McKay (he isnít alone there). Mike will have plenty of time to get to 100% and improve his play in the fall.
The spring practices have awakened a lot of questions and debate on the board regarding certain personnel and/or schemes on this team. Iíd like to address some of those issues here (ones pertaining to the offense), and offer my takes on them.
Can Chris Do It?
It seems that this is the question that everyone really wants answered. Obviously, spring football canít answer this questionÖ but that doesnít mean that spring practice is irrelevant to the question.
After watching Chris the last 3 years and watching him this spring, a few things have become clear to me. First, Chris is constantly improving. He has improved every year he has been here in his throwing techniques, reads, decisions, and leadership. If you canít notice that, you may as well disregard the rest of my opinion. Chris can make passes that only a handful of guys can make at this level. This spring, when Chris has decided on a target, his passes have been from good to excellent. Very, very few of Chrisí mistakes this spring were the results of poorly thrown balls.
Chris does have weaknesses at quarterback. Chris has narrow field vision. That is to say, the range of players that Chris sees is limited to a relatively small window. I wonít speculate on why that is, but it definitely costs him at times. Chris often does not notice open receivers outside that vision range and he tends to focus on one side of the defense. He also looks for a player who is clearly open and rarely throws to 1-on-1 coverage, even if itís a mismatch. The combination of those factors leads Chris to throw to his dump off routes a high percentage of the time against a good defense. The problem is that Chris has a tendency to just turn and fire to the dump off route without checking to see if the route is really open. That is to say, I think Chris makes a read that tells him the route should be open, but doesnít actually survey the area before throwing the ball.
So do I think Chris can get it done in big games? Well, to me the question comes down to how Chris approaches his game and this team. Chris has been tested this spring and I think that he had made progress. Iíve noticed him throw the ball away more when nothing develops, Iíve noticed him use pump-fakes and crisp play-action fakes to help his receivers out, Iíve noticed him get a lot more comfortable throwing passes regardless of weather conditions, and Iíve notice him confidently changing the offense at the line. Those improvements will help Chris against strong defenses. Chris needs to play within his game to be successfulÖ take his time on reads and use his excellent passing ability to get the ball to the openings. Recognize that he has a strong defense and special teams to back him up, so he doesnít need to make positive yards on every play. I think if Chris even accomplishes one of those goals it would be enough put this team in a position to win every game.
With the departure of three starting offensive linemen, there were definitely questions at offensive line going into the spring. Things have worked out pretty well. At guard we have excellent starters (Holloway and Dockery are much better than I gave them credit for) but we lack much depth. If we can get one more solid backup at guard I would feel much more comfortable (my guess is Justin Blalock or Lionel Garr).
At right tackle I think Jonathan Scott is the answer. He is quick enough to compensate for some mistakes. He isnít as strong as Mike Williams was, but he will just get better and better at tackleÖ like Williams did. If things really donít come together for Scott at tackle, Dockery will probably slide out and we are going to have a youngster at guard (not what we want).
At center my main concern is how we use Jason Glynn. If we put him in a tough position against defensive tackles, like we did with Matt Anderson, we will have the same problems. However, given thatÖ I think Jason understands the line calls just as Matt did, so there wonít be any drop-off at the position and there is a chance for improvement.
My only real concern is at Left Tackle. Robbie Doane has not stepped up as I thought he would going into spring. However, Robbie has the benefit of playing all last year over my doubt, and he wasnít a big weakness for this offensive line. It would be much more empowering if we could rely on our Left Tackle in 1-on-1 match ups more and it would free up the tight ends, full backs and left guard a lot more.
As far as schemes go, I have seen some variation this spring that gives me hope. The ďflying WĒ hasnít been as prevalent and we have executed a lot more outside runs. With Cedric Benson in the backfield and McWhorterís presence on the staff, I donít think itís ludicrous to expect some change for the good in this department.
Overall, this group starts out behind last yearís unit and may have some trouble early on. However, they have two outstanding guards to build on and I think they could be a better unit than last years by the end of the year.
Can Greg Do It?
Iíll start by saying that I donít like to spend much, if any time second guessing Greg Davis. I do like to understand what is going on and how our offense unfolds, so I try to observe offensive schemes and trends.
The reality about our passing offense is that it is not very accessible to young players. The schemes are NFL complicated and it just takes and long time to learn all the reads and adjustments. Did anyone else notice that Roy Williams went deep almost all the time his freshman year? I earnestly think he didnít really know his route reads and was going out and making plays on his athleticism. We started to see that again toward the end of last, and I think that Roy, B.J. and Sloan understand this offense now, after two years of starting at receiver. They seem to have a better feel of how to be aggressive and still work within the scheme, which should significantly improve our passing attack this year. One of the staples of the west coast offense is that the reads and routes are designed so that there is always one route that should be open, regardless of defense. This can be important in the NFL, where the differences in athletic ability are too small to count on for every play production.
However, even in the NFL coordinators use the west coast offense to exploit personnel match ups. Greg Davis does not. He relies on the players and scheme to produce open targets against all defenses, period. The more seasoned the players become, the better this offense will executeÖ but Greg Davis leaves it up to the players to exploit defenses, he does not strategize to exploit the strengths of his players and the weaknesses of the defenseís players. Additionally, Greg uses the run and pass like they are parts of completely separate game plans. With Cedric back for a full second year, the running game promises to be improved, and that alone may be able to carry this offense to the next level. Perhaps Greg will start to understand more of the subtleties of this offense and his game planning will become more cohesive. A different approach or variation to this offense would be more dominant, but that isnít to say this one canít be successful. With a seasoned set of wide receivers and a very experienced quarterback this passing attack has the potential to be significantly better than last years. Overall, thereís evidence that this offense will fall short of most peoplesí expectations, but still be dominant enough to score enough points to win against anyone. One thing is for sure, if this offenseís passing attack can get better at the college level, it will this year.
I realize that I havenít touched on all the major topics that have been raised, but I hit on all of the key personnel and what I feel are the three biggest issues on offense. This thread is pretty wide open as far discussion is concerned, and I hope it can remain tolerant to different viewpoints. I would appreciate it if the people who choose to participate in that discussion would think out their viewpoints and elaborate on them with observations or facts. If arenít willing to put some time and thought into the discussion, Iíd appreciate if you expressed your view on another thread.
This thing is long, long, long and consequently there are probably hundreds of typos and word misuses. Hopefully they arenít too distracting to forgive. My thoughts and opinions feel a little crisper now that Iíve put some of them down, and I may address or adjust them as other people open me to other possibilitiesÖ thatís the beauty of discussion isnít it? I hope you enjoy.
"Sorry sweetheart, we haven't got time for anything else."