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Spring Game Observations

Postby JasonB » Sat Apr 13, 2019 11:53 am

Yes, this is going to be one of my famously long posts. TL;DR for you guys. I hope the rest of you enjoy.

Overall observations:

- Tons of recruits and coaches. Reminded me of the amount that showed up during the spring the first year of CM. Really good to see.
- The entire team looks like... a football team. We are much improved overall from last Spring. I think we are taking a massive step forward next season.
- The "game" was broken into 3 sessions. Session 1 was 1st and 2nd teams on offense and defense alternating against each other. Offense started from their own 20. After a break, Session 2 was two full field possessions. Then Session 3 was red zone, start on the 20. No punting or kickoffs, but they did do field goals and extra points.
- Very hard hitting at times, this wasn't a soft flag football practice. They laid into each other. There was even a targeting incident that was noticed by the refs, and would have been called in a game, but not flagged.
- For the first half of session 1, the defense absolutely dominated. They punished the offense, stuffed the run, were always around the QB. Then, suddenly the offense took over. Between the second half of session 1 through session 2, they scored on 5 of 6 possessions, and then scored on each of the redzone sessions. The defense had started to rotate in some 3's, but they still had ones on some of those possessions. Really interesting to see the transition of success once they got going.
- We know the DL starters are dictated by effort, but Neals-Biggurs-Newman-Coxe were your starters. Scott didn't play. Hailey, Moore, Nelson at LB. Westfall and Guy-Robinson started at corner (Sutton and Hayes didn't play). Backup LBs were Williams, Rispress, and Phillips.
- OL starters: Morris, Ali, Howerton, Dennis, Thomas. Second string: KD Smith, Webb, McLaurin, Flores, Bryant. Mason came in for Webb after Webb got hurt in the second series.
- Rounding out the offense, Brown at QB, Roberson, Proche, and Sanders at WR. Granson at TE. As expected. Thedford is the blocking TE. Upshaw and Green split second team at QB, alternating possessions. Page, Galliard, Bell are your second team WR. No surprises really.
- During the scrimmage, it started 1s v 1s. Offense would alternate ones and twos at OL with each possession along with the QB. Upshaw and Green alternated at QB with the second unit. WR were more randomly subbed in. Defense the DL was almost random on who went in. They would also randomly send out 1s and 2s and even 3s at LB and secondary. So it wasn't as structured a rotation as the offense.

Some Play By Play Highlights:
- Second play from scrimmage, Denbow comes up from 20 yards out and pops a guy for a short gain. Excellent tackle.
- Brown had Roberson streaking open early on a fly, but really, really badly underthrew the ball. Denbow made the int and returned it 30 yards.
- A little later, Roberson was better covered on a fly, but Brown threw a perfect pass... dropped by Roberson. On the next play, Brown really badly underthrew an out pattern, and it was picked off by Clemons.
- Rock had a nice breakup on a pass over the middle.
- Bryant didn't get flagged but had to reach out and rab hold and hang on for dear life to keep Coxe from getting a sack early.
- Gary had a great rush up the middle for a sack against the second team line.
And then things changed...
- Out of nowhere, Roberson is thrown an 8 yard hitch, easily turns around the second team corner, and toasts the entire defense 50 yards to the endzone. Upshaw threw the pass, but this was pure speed against backups.
- After nothing coming on the ground for the first several drives, Pierce rumbles 30 yards against the first team D. After this point, the offense starts being able to run and pass.
- Brown really badly underthrew a pass to the flat when he tried to flick it out and didn't move his feet. It was awful, but on the next play he threw a nice bullit to Sanders for a nice gine and then hit Granson wide open for a 30 yard TD after a blown coverage. From that point on, Brown was much better.
- Tamerick Williams had a really nice run straight up the middle 50 yards for a TD. Against the second string D, but he showed both good strength and speed on the play.
- Ndukwe (I think) bull rushed Morris straight back into the QB and then got the sack. Nice rush, weak blocking.
- Brown had a really nice escape flushed out right and then threw back across the middle to an open Grayson. One of those "don't do it" plays, but he made it.
- Moore had several fantastic plays, blew up a pass to the flat, had a sack and a couple other sacks that weren't sacks just because of the no contact on the QB rule.
- Pugh and Ndukwe had a really nice rush to force Brown to throw incomplete and finally stop a run of scoring by the offense.
- After the break, they play 1s versus 1s. KD Smith moves to starter at LG. Starting DL is Wiley and Ndukwe at DE and Biggurs and Brown at DT.
- Really nice rollout by Brown to Granson on the sideline. They didn't block Wiley on the opposite side and he almost got there but Brown got it off in time. 20 yard gaine.
- Offense was driving, but then Moore splits the guard and tackle on a delayed blitz for a big loss.
- Robledo hits a 50 yard field goal.
- Now 2's versus 2's with Green at QB.
- Nice 20 yard pass to Redding after Green escaped from pressure.
- Brown gets a sack after Green held the ball way, way too long.
- Green nice TD to Sanders, bullet pass. Morris barely got enough on Coxe to stop the speed rush from killing Green, but in reality I think it would have been a sack if it were live.
- To start the redzone session, ones versus twos
- First play is a nice 18 yard run by Jones. Then, later an actual run up the middle in short yardage for a TD. We couldn't really do that much last year!
- twos versus threes with Upshaw at QB
- Morris whiffed on Ndukwe, it should have been a sack but it isn't given and Upshaw completes the TD pass to I think Galliard.
- Final possession, twos versus twos with Oehrlein at QB. TD pass to Bell, but that was just a big reciever abusing a walk-on in a jump ball situation.

Individual Player Evaluations:

- I was really excited to see Robledo back. I thought he was gone and graduated. He was perfect on extra points and he nailed the 50 yard field goal. He will be a weapon for us next year at kicker... when was the last time we said that?

- Wiley looks like the real deal. Size, speed, athleticism. They didn't play him a ton, but I like what I see. Wiley, Scott, Ndukwe, Neals, and Coxe give us a legit DE rotation that will cause problems for other teams. Lots of depth of solid players at DT as well, even if there isn't a true standout dominant force (but they all made plays at time). It makes it easy to evaluate the OL since they are playing against a quality DL.

- Overall, I thought the OL struggled early, but then were a major reason the offense picked things up later, both in the run and pass game. A lot of actual runs up the middle, which was nice to see. Howerton and Ali are solid players, I wouldn't describe either as "dominant". But they are solid. And I think Dennis has actually moved into that "solid" category. Even the second team OL held their own for the most part.

- at RT, I thought Thomas did well. Again, solid player. Kobe Bryant struggled. He really got beat for speed a few times. There is a clear difference between the two. I think we would struggle if Bryant has to play a lot. Hopefully the next few months with Kaz help him out.

- At LT, I paid very close attention. I think KD Smith is our starting LT next year, and I think he will actually be very good. In pass protection, when he locks into someone, they are done and don't move. I was surprised because I didn't see him beat for speed, and didn't see him flail out on a block in desperation. He handled it well. I absolutely love his drive in run blocking. He has a streak to him. He is the first lineman I have seen us play with who can physically dominate in a long time. He easily controlled his side when he played with the twos, and then continued to play well with the ones. He made two mistakes from what I saw. One was on the rollout play, he was probably supposed to at least chip Wiley, but he let him run free. The second was on the delayed blitz from Moore. He needed to come off of the end he was blocking and take Moore because of the inside angle. But he let him go free. Those types of nuances might be why he started with the second team last night? But he played much better than Morris. Morris is okay, he didn't struggle as much as Bryant did. But he did get pushed back and lost some guys for speed. Bryant won't be a disaster if he ends up starting, but I think KD Smith can be a plus player out there.

- At QB, I thought Brown settled down and did much better as the game went a long. He has enough arm strength to get the ball where it needs to go as long as he steps into it. That said, I don't think we saw any of our top QBs play last night. Buchele was in attendance and will clearly be first string. And for the backup... I know there have been some rumors about the strength of Gipson's arm. I watched during warmups, and it was night and day compared to the others. He has some consistency to work on with technique, but it really pops. Obviously, it is impossible to make a call without seeing him in live action, but I think Brown is going to struggle holding him off in the fall for the backup role.

- Tammerick Williams is going to be good enough to play at RB. With only two players back, I know folks are worried about depth and if we are going to need to depend on the frosh in the fall. But Williams showed well. In fact, I'll say he is the most complete back (size plus speed) we have seen since the Nebraska kid who had to leave. We will be fine if he plays.

- Moore was awesome. Better than last year. He is a plus player on defense and will be drafted.

- IMHO, the Second team WR are at risk of getting replaced pretty quickly in the fall when the frosh com in. Page had a drop and isn't physical. Bell has nice size, but doesn't have the burst. He physically dominates against the walkons playing second team corner, but he doesn't do much against the first team. He looks like an NFL WR, but I don't think his separation and athleticism are quite there. Galliard is okay, but isn't special. They are all going to be pushed hard by the athletes coming in the fall.

- Another player I kept my eye on... Denbow looks the part at safety. He is tall for the position, but he had the big hit early and a pick. Didn't play a lot later. But he at least alleviated my concerns. I think we are okay if he ends up starting.

- As for the backup secondary, we are in trouble. Hayes will start over JGR. But we need another corner and let Davis/Sutton/Keys play third string. Even more than that we need safeties. Kevin Johnson didn't play, but he is really small for the position. We need at least one GT at the position and then someone new to step up in the fall and play. That is the worrisome position on the team.

- And to end on a positive.... Granson really does stand out. He is really good. We are going to have a plus player at TE for the first time in a long time. Not just okay, a plus player. That gives you three on offense in the passing game with Proche and Roberson. Adding Buchele to that mix is really going to be something else. The OL is going to be good enough that with three weapons and a good QB, they will be able to control the line because defenses are going to be forced to back off. Injuries are always going to be something that can get in the way, but barring that, with three NFL receiving options in the passing game (and another potential weapon in Sanders), this should be one of the best offenses in the country next season. IF we can find some quality GTs to plug into the secondary, SMU could take a very significant step forward next season and compete for the conference title.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby One Trick Pony » Sat Apr 13, 2019 2:03 pm

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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby mavsrage311 » Sat Apr 13, 2019 2:11 pm

Thanks, JasonB
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby ALEX LIFESON » Sat Apr 13, 2019 4:18 pm

We will need Williams to produce at running back, because Freeman and Jones are constantly injured. Granson is the real deal at tight end,
he is going to be a matchup nightmare for defenses.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby Donnell88 » Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:38 pm

Great article. Thank you.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby 78pony » Sat Apr 13, 2019 8:34 pm

After all the scholies we’ve given out to our organic TE’s over the past few years, who to date have yielded very poor ROI, we finally get a stud...from Rice. Curious. But definitely great.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby Donnell88 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 4:47 pm

I just checked out Kylen Granson's high-school highlight film on 247sports.com (Rice commits-2015) where he displayed a lot of talent. Recruiters, however, were unimpressed - despite being 6-3, 210 he was graded at number 159 at his position and 492 for Texas high-school seniors (two stars).
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby Mustangsabu » Mon Apr 15, 2019 1:36 pm

Thanks Jason for taking the time!
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby leopold » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:05 pm

As usual, thanks for the write up. Wonderful info for those of us who don't live anywhere near Dallas.

One quick question about Granson: How is he as a blocker?

I understand that this is a Sonny Dykes offense, and that he'll be primarily used as a receiving TE, but one of the biggest problems on the whole team last year was our inconsistent O-line - we need help there, especially when we try to run the ball. What kind of blocker is he? THAT double threat is what would absolutely make him a match-up nightmare.

Thanks again, keep up the good work.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby JasonB » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:09 pm

leopold wrote:As usual, thanks for the write up. Wonderful info for those of us who don't live anywhere near Dallas.

One quick question about Granson: How is he as a blocker?

I understand that this is a Sonny Dykes offense, and that he'll be primarily used as a receiving TE, but one of the biggest problems on the whole team last year was our inconsistent O-line - we need help there, especially when we try to run the ball. What kind of blocker is he? THAT double threat is what would absolutely make him a match-up nightmare.

Thanks again, keep up the good work.

Thank you for the kind words...

I didn't get a look at him blocking. But Thedford is going to be the monster blocking TE. The guy is huge. I would expect Granson to play the majority of the snaps, and when he does teams are going to have to respect the pass with three threats. He is only going to have to be "good enough" on the blocking side, because of how the other team will back off the ball and he will just be asked to help seal the edge. And they are going to have to match him up with a corner or safety instead of a linebacker, so that will make his job easier.

In short yardage, I expect Thedford will come in and take players on directly.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby peruna81 » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:46 am

JasonB...way too long, blah blah blah....

OK, now that we have that out of the way, your content was excellent, and for those of us who couldn't make it to the game, it was a refreshing view from someone that pays attention to individuals and detail.

I can only hope that what you saw translates into wins next fall.

Thanks again for the update.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby ponypatrick » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:22 am

Thanks for the excellent and very thorough report !
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