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Now that the first depth chart – via the ASU games notes release – is out, there are some very interesting things to learn from it simply by what names are and are not on it. Moreover, the names also lead me to believe that this depth chart is a shell of what it will really be come kickoff on September 1st. However, these are the names put out by our staff…so let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Quarterback – So pretty much anyone who has been around this program since Coach Ruff and crew arrived know that when it comes to the QB position, you don’t get good information from this staff…but you also get GREAT info by what they say and how they say it. For instance, EVERYONE knew that Dominique Davis was going to be the starter in 2010…but it was a game time decision according to the staff. This year, you had to live in Siberia not to know that this QB race was between Rio Johnson and Shane Carden – always was. With Cody Keith in his first active season and Brad Wornick in his last, it just makes sense. Further, for an “OR” to be on the DC with Rio and Shane tells me that this staff intends to play them both – at least in the first game. Pretty obvious, IMO, that Rio will get the start based on being the No. 2 last season and because it takes pressure off of Shane. I think either will be successful unless the staff over pressurizes the situation with the short leash and an “OR” next to the two every week.
Running Back – Wow…how the worm turns. I am happy for Michael Dobson. That kid has been picked apart since his first action and was pretty much written off going into this season. To see his name atop the depth chart is a surprise to me but one that I am not bothered by at all. I think Reggie Bullock will see the lion’s share of the carries, over time, but with a great spring, Michael is primed to be a big part of the O, too. The bigger surprise is that Hunter Furr is NOT on the DC and that Vintavious Cooper – who only got into camp a few weeks ago – is. Now, Lincoln Riley was very candid with me earlier this year that they were excited about Vintavious…that he was a potentially outstanding back, with quarterback hands and instincts. What concerns me is that Hunter was hyped as being the strongest and fastest. Does this mean he is struggling to get the offense down? Was this hype to push Reggie and Michael? Looking like the latter to me. And with Vintavious…does this mean that he showed so much in a couple of weeks that he is already DC worthy? And, if so, should we expect to see Vintavious pushing for more and more PT as he “waters in” to this offense? Is he our soon-to-be featured back? I remember another “junior” sized running back around here that was pretty damn good…is Vintavious channeling Mr. Smith? Gonna keep a very close eye on that young JUCO transfer.
Outside Wide Receiver – OK…so am I the only one who feels a little misled here…I feel almost downright lied to. Where the hell is Dayon Arrington. All we heard in the spring and summer and early fall camp was how improved, how serious, how good Dayon was playing and what a playmaker he could be. Of course, we will rotate a ton of receivers and he will get his chances, but not on the DC…kind of insulting if you ask me. Expected to see him as one of the No. 2s on this DC. That said, Andrew Bodenheimer and Reese Wiggins are not surprises and to see them atop the DC at their OWR positions is re-assuring – consistent and reliable, both. It is the No. 2 spots that are somewhat shocking. While Jabril Solomon was touted as a guy who might be ready to go from the jump – and his play so far has not lessened his case – how is that we need a True Frosh in this talent-rich receiving corps? Seems to me we would try like hell to RS him and only use him should attrition set in. This is why not seeing Dayon’s name is bothersome. Perhaps the plan is to try to RS Jabril, but maybe not. Maybe we promised early playing time…who knows. Seems somewhat unnecessary to me. On the other side, behind Bodie, I am also surprised to see Lance Ray there. Not because he is not a huge talent – he is and he proved it already – but I am surprised because he has only been practicing a few days. He must be good…that is all I can say on that one.
Inside Wide Receiver – No real surprises here. The Justins – Hardy and Jones – are listed as expected at one of the IWR positions while Derrick Harris – now sporting the familiar Harris No. 17 – is stepping in to cover for Danny Webster – who not only is recovering from surgery but also now trying to figure out how to get back into the staff’s good graces following an off-field issue. Harris and Donte Sumpter are really all the Pirates have there so no surprise there on the DC. Hopefully, this might allow for a few packages where the Justins are both on the field at the same time coming out of the IWR spots.
Offensive Line – To be honest, like many of you I am sure, this was the first spot on the DC that I looked and more specifically, right to the middle – Center. I am not stunned that Taylor Hudson is starting, but I am stunned that Josh Clark is still sitting at No. 3. Lincoln Riley told me that Josh had some non-football items to address – that were not BAD things – but things to address nonetheless. Does this mean he has not addressed them yet? This is worrisome. I like CJ Struyk, but think he is a year away from really competing as a center. We are going to need Josh, so this is worrisome to me. No surprises at Left Tackle or at the starting guard positions. I am a littel concerned that Drew Gentry is listed as the No. 2 at both guard positions. I get that it most likley means that he is first reserve, but I worry that it also means that none of the other guards has emerged as game ready. Where is Tre Robertson’s name? Most troubling to me is what is going on at Right Tackle. Hey…I love the feel good story of Robert Jones transforming himself into a stud at Tackle and with ECU’s track record of sending converted defensive linemen to the NFL, it is not a stretch, but when you see an “OR” next to Robert and Grant Harner, it gets my attention. Perhaps the rumors about Grant’s relative health are true and if he is somewhat on the mend – or will not be healthy for this season – we are for some serious concerns at Right Tackle. We need Grant to be the starter – a veteran and uber experienced starter – if this is going to be a good year at that position. This is my No. 1 concern on the offensive depth chart.
Defensive End – Starting at the end position, I am pretty surprised that Matt Milner is listed as the starter considering just how much practice he has missed. I am even more surprised that Justin Dixon is ahead of John Lattimore as the back-up. I know things will be situational for the position – with the guys getting reps based on the offensive strengths of the opponents. I really expected it to be Lattimore – Milner – Dixon…surprising. On the other side, it is a little surprising that Lee Pegues is listed as an “OR” with Chrishon Rose. Lee has been the model DE for DC Brian Mitchell from a coach talk perspective so I am not sure what the “OR” is about. Perhaps motivation for Lee or a reward for Chrishon’s improvements…either way, not really a big surprise with the names there or their order.
Nose Tackle – Absolutely expected. With Terry Williams in limbo right now – though back to work and on the roster – we all pretty much knew that it would be Michael Brooks and Terrell Stanley. Brooks needs to be an ironman till Terry returns and Terrell needs to pick it up big-time to be able to spell Michael.
Outside Linebacker – Really no surprises here. On the one side, Derrell Johnson and Chris Baker – that was expected – and on the other Maurice Falls followed by Montese Overton with an “OR” along side he and Gabe Woullard, the JUCO transfer. Given the fact that other JUCOs who just showed up this fall were on the DC, I half expected to see Gabe listed as an “OR” with Maurice, but the DC is what is expected. I will say that it is very tough not to see Jake Geary on this depth chart. I expect him to be a starter or a solid No. 2 by end of season if he is healthy.
Inside Linebacker – This is exactly what was expected, with Jeremy Groves ahead of Ty Holmes and Kyle Tudor and Daniel Drake as “OR” at the other Mike position. What is a little surprising is that they only listed two-deep at the position, where I expected to see Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams listed somewhere after very, very good camp spring camps for both.
Boundary Corner – We are learning a ton from this DC about what is going on at this position. First, it clarifies that expected starter, Leonard Paulk, is not as “close” to returning as we all probably expected. Second, it shows that the staff sees a big gap between Leonard and his expected back-ups at the position. And, third, it might indicate that Jacobi Jenkins is simply very good and you want to put your best on the field. That Jacobi is flipped over to the Boundary also might indicate that Field Corner Adonis Armstrong is also much better than expected. Put your best on the field, so the move to Boundary makes sense for Jacobi, who is more physical than Adonis. Seeing Rocco Scarfone and Joshua Hawkins listed as “OR” at the position does not instill big confidence in me. This is a position that we should all watch closely and cross fingers that Leonard recovers quickly and that Jacobi stays healthy, not much behind them.
Field Corner – With Jacobi’s move as a stop gap at Boundary, depth at Field Corner just thinned a bit. Fortunately Adonis was in the battle from the jump and Kristopher Sykes is no newbie. The FC position is more secure than its counterpart, but still thinner than it should be. Given the circumstances, this DC is not surprising.
Strong Safety – Lamar Ivey and Chip Thompson listed as “OR” makes sense. I think that Lamar is going to be given the first opportunity, but Brian Mitchell has said all along that Chip is a guy who you want in the game. As Chip gains the system command needed, I think you see him working more and more into the lineup. Lamar is talented and physical, too, but may not be as consistent as an experienced vet like Chip. No surprises here.
Free Safety – Seeing Damon Magazu atop the DC is expected but I was surprised to see that Desi Brown is now challenging Justin Venable as primary back-up. Perhaps a testament to Desi’s growth and understanding, but I fully expected to see Justin as the solid No. 2. Not overly concerning as the position is the strongest and most reliable in the secondary. Should be well covered here.
Placekicker – No surprise here. Warren Harvey is already kicking like a veteran and Connor Torruella – a freshman – is a good prospect who hopefully will not be needed this season.
Holder – Again, no surprises. Trent Tignor is an excellent and experienced holder while Bodie is also a very good fall back.
Punter – I am not surprised to see Trent ahead of JUCO transfer – and scholarship – kicker Brent Rowlands. Trent has worked very hard and has earned his shot. Brent is a fine punter and may eventually take the job, but to have two in a position that we were not very good at last year is a relief. Phil McNaughton at No. 3 is also no surprise. Punter depth looks pretty darn good right now.
Deep Snapper – Again, no surprises here. Charlie Coggins is a very good snapper and C.J. was considered one of the best in the country in high school. Well covered here and the DC is appropriate.
Punt Returns – I am surprised but happy to see Justin Hardy as the top Punt Returner. Surprised because he is such a huge part of the offense but happy because he is good and this underscores the staff’s commitment to making strides in the return game. Derrick at No. 2 has some experience and gives the team depth.
Kick-off Returns – A whole lot of “OR” listings there but honestly, not sure what was expected here. On the surface, you have to think that Lance Ray will be a fixture on KO Returns given his track record in the SEC, but beyond Lance…hard to say who has the goods. Derrick has some experience and if Vintavious is the threat we are hearing that also makes sense as does the fast and physical Hunter who can parlay KO Return action into more carries at RB perhaps.
So there you have my take on the depth chart. To recap, my biggest concerns on the offense: Right Tackle; and on the defense: Boundary Corner with Nose Guard depth a second concern. On special teams, the biggest concerns are not the guys listed on the DC, but rather the guys who make up the coverage units…where we were awful in 2011.
Would love to have your thoughts on the DC my Pirate friends.
Game week is here! I am jacked.