On the way to the scrimmage yesterday I was blaring the feel good Boston song "Foreplay/Longtime." Its been such a long time since I have seen college football. The summer days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer, and that means one thing is upon us.......College Football. Join me after the jump as I break down the scrimmage.
Grant Hedrick started the scrimmage with what appeared to be the 2nd unit of offense and the 2nd unit of defense. Among the notable players on the second string offense was left tackle Faraji Wright, center Spencer Gerke (both of which have starting experience) and Jay Ajayi. On the second string defense it was seen that Jeremy Ioane was in the second string secondary with Darian Thompson, Bryan Douglas, and Ebo Makinde. Thrown in a mixture of starters on the Defensive Line and Blake Renad, Corey Bell, and Beau Martin at the linebacker and nickel respectively. Why would I be concerned with our 2nd string offense or defense? Because I am concerned about some of those people that are not on the first string units.
The first string unit was comprised of Charles Leno, Joe Kellogg, Matt Paradis, Michael Ames, and Jake Broyles along the offensive line. Wide receivers were Kirby Moore Aaron Burks. Dan Paul and DJ Harper at running back with Joe Southwick at quarterback. My observations over the course of the scrimmage would guess that this is the group that we will see against Michigan State. However, Matt Miller did not dress and was not anywhere to be seen.
The first string defense consisted of Demarcus Lawrence, Beau Martin, what looked like Jeff Worthy, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe on the defensive line. Dextrell Simmons, Tommy Smith, and J.C. Percy at line backers. Secondary was Jamar Taylor, Jerrell Gavins, Hazen Moss and Lee Hightower. There may be some who are howling at the fact that Ioane was not with the ones. To those people I say that Moss did just fine in the scrimmage, and keep in mind Hazen Moss was our special teams guru the last few years and he knows the game very well. Also, he is a senior with more experience.
I make these observations because many of the people that are on obnug could not be at the scrimmage. Now, on to the plays of the scrimmage.
I came away with some very good impressions of our young players. First off was Jay Ajayi. He was every bit advertised and looks like the best of our young running backs and should get time this year in our rotation. Our true freshman in Jack Fields and Devan Demas should be red-shirted. They looked good but I don't expect our coaching staff to keep more mouths to feed in the rotation of Harper, Wright, and Ajayi.
In our wide receivers set I mentioned Matt Miller was absent from the scrimmage. I have not heard about any injury so I assume he was being held out for precautionary reasons. Mitch Burroughs looked solid and Aaron Burks had some nice grabs. This may be the year that Burks becomes more of an important role in things. Geraldo Boldewijn played with the third sting unit, and looked lost most of the time...... I am not sure if he will ever fully develop into the receiver that we need him to be. A very difficult decision lies ahead for the coaching staff in regards to Shane Williams-Rhodes. The very small yet athletic receiver made some great plays in the slot and also for the reserve kick return unit. He scored on swing pass from Nick Patti but it was negated by a somersault into the end zone. This may be the toughest decision for the coaches. We have an athletic slot receiver in Dallas Burroughs who did not red shirt and factored into the Bronco offense as a true freshman last year. Even going against the second team defense Williams-Rhodes looked very fast. This will be a tough one. Hayden Plinke made a great catch and run for 75 yards from Jimmy Laughrea. We did not see a large quantity of passes going to our tight ends and I would chalk that up to keeping the playbook vanilla.
I think the name of the game this year for our defense will be speed. We have some very quick and aggressive defensive ends this year. Demarcus Lawrence was making plays and flushing the quarterback out on a few occasions yesterday. I think we will have a good 2 deep rotation again this year, perhaps not as feared and definitely not as experienced, but we will have fresh legs that can rush the pass and make plays. Our linebackers looked good, I expect Percy and Smith to have the lead for the strong side linebacker and middle line backer, but I do expect Blake Renaud to get more time this year at middle position and while Smith can take the strong side to give Percy a series off, or vice versa. Dextrell Simmons was with the first unit and made a really good open field tackle of DJ Harper. Simmons should get the lead on the nickel position with Corey Bell and Jonathan Brown both making great defensive plays with the second units.
Our secondary played pretty well. There was a pass play that was thrown just a hair out of bounds, yet I noticed Jerrell Gavins' position was great. He was able to ride the receiver out of the play even though the ball was slightly uncatch-able.That is a good thing to see a corner back do.Chancellor James looked very good and Darian Thompson also made plays. Nothing bad to report. I did notice that during the two minute drill that Taylor was moved to the slot defender and both Ebo Makinde and Bryan Douglas were playing the wide side corner back position. Also of note, Jeremy Ioane did get a a series or two with the first unit, but he had more time with the second unit, slice it however you want.
Our kicking game went well, as I recall, only one field goal was missed. Remember, its one thing to kick in practice, another thing to kick in the game. However the kicking game looked better in this year's scrimmage was better than last years scrimmage.
A few things of note, we seemed to get out of the scrimmage without relatively any injury. Jimmy Laughrea did go down with an injury but did not look serious. We should be in pretty good shape with our running backs. DJ Harper looks great and made some good grabs out of the backfield on check down plays. I think our playbook will be a little more aggressive than last year. Once again it was a scrimmage, but I did like a few of the wrinkles I noticed as a Robert Prince based offense.
Lastly, for those of you who did not attend the scrimmage, I think it is very clear who the starting quarterback will be. Was Joe Southwick perfect? No. Did he make two bad decisions? Yes. One play on the interception in the end zone, and another on the intentional grounding play. Other than that, Southwick was heads and shoulders above the other quarterbacks. I hate to burst the bubble of the the Nick Patti fans, but he will most likely redshirt this year. Hedrick will probably be the back up even though his play yesterday was not eye popping. We did not see any wildcat or extreme offensive sets. The reason for that is there was at least one representative from Michigan State at that scrimmage. They would be stupid not to send anyone.
All in all, we had three notable Bronco's not suit for the scrimmage: Matt Miller, Michael Atkinson, and Brenel Myers. None of those guys appeared to be injured but maybe there is something going on that I don't know about. We have 11 days till the MSU game. That leaves, realistically about 8 practices to get things figured out.