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Spring Game Observations

Postby JasonB » Fri Apr 14, 2023 10:45 pm

I was able to make it out tonight and wanted to share some thoughts. I spent most of my time watching the OL and DL, so most of my observations will focus on that area...

Just as a general note, the actual scrimmage was 1's vs 3's on both sides of the ball. As you would expect, the 1's completely dominated each matchup. All of that said...

- Starting OL is White - Ervin - Hickman - Sparks - Bryant.
- Starting DL is Smith/Paul - Levelston - Miller - Roberts.
- In warmups, DE vs OT were the true projected starters in the fall going against each other, and you can see that both sides are really strong.
- White and Bryant both look the part at tackle. White is a massive upgrade at RT from last year. HIs presence is going to be a big improvement in the line.
- Robinson and Williams back them up. I think Robinson is the best backup tackle we have had in years, and I think he is actually better than Condon. Williams has the frame and moves really well, but as you would expect from a freshman he needs additional time in the weight room. The potential is clearly there, and I think he could play if required, but It will be interesting to see by the time the team gets to Fall if he puts on enough muscle to be the backup RT, or if they use Robinson as a backup on both sides.
- At DE, Roberts is a beast. He is the biggest player we have had on the edge in a while, but he can still move. He is going to really set the edge well. He is certainly an upgrade on the line.
- Abiara also looked good playing as his backup, and beat Robinson inside on one of the drills. Certainly good potential there. I think when Jaylen Jones comes back, it is going to be a real battle between the two to backup Roberts.
- At the pass rushing DE position (Bandit), Smith and Paul are the two major players, but Smith really popped tonight. He won against White once in warmups, and then was absolutely all over the place during the scrimmage. He was certainly one of the defensive stars of the evening. He has added weight but hasn't lost his twitch or explosiveness. He still needs to add a little more weight but I think by the time we get to the fall, he is going to be a problem for the other team.
- On the Interior OL, you can see where we are a little challenged with some players not arriving yet and Osborne sitting out.
- In warmups, Ervin really struggled the most of the starters to hold his blocks, and was pushed deep into the backfield.
- Miller didn't get around Hickman, but he was able to push him back several yards, quickly. Hickman isn't an all-star, but he is adequate at center in the AAC. Watching Miller push him back in warmups was impressive. My immediate reaction is that he is as good as Williams from Stanford was at holding his ground in the middle, but he has significantly more strength than Williams did in terms of driving linemen back into the backfield. It is definitely an element that was missing last season.
- Of all the interior linemen, I thought Sparks held his own the best, both in warmups and in the scrimmage. He doesn't do anything that "flashes", and he isn't going to drive people off the line. But he holds his blocks and he is quick enough to seal.
- My overall impression of the OL is that I think we are in good shape for a 2 deep at tackle. Even the three deep at tackle (E Smith and Larson) has some potential if they add 30 more pounds. Inside, I think we are clearly hoping for Osborne - Clark - Parr as starters. Hickman and Sparks are not awful if they start, but they aren't going to dominate, and are going to struggle in some matchups. They are probably a little below average starters in the AAC, but very good backups. Behind them, the depth goes downhill pretty quickly. If I am the staff, I am for sure bringing in an additional OG transfer in order to get to 6 solid interior linemen. If I think Osborne might miss the season, I would bring in two. When you look at the team as a whole, the OL is the only element that could potentially hold the team back, so I would make sure it doesn't derail what should be a conference championship.
- My overall impression of the DL is "wow". Big difference from last year. Miller is as advertised at the Nose, and Wright looked good from what I saw tonight. Frazier played both tackle and end with the 3s and I thought he looked pretty good as well. The fact that Sanjo, who I thought came along at the end of last season, was playing with the 4th string is really impressive. The three technique is going to be Levelston and Chatman, which is going to be great. Letting Chatman play in the 3 teq instead of the nose is going to be a big step up for his effectiveness. We have good players and depth on the edge as well. Samuels and Jones will add even more ability on the edge.

Other observations:
- We have two really good QBs. Jennings looks absolutely fantastic. He looks like he added weight/muscle), has a cannon, and has immediate acceleration when he runs.
- Tons of depth at RB, where even Epton and Gardner look good.
- Our secondary is going to be an issue for teams this year. We have never had a secondary like this since the death penalty. Massey looks like he did pre-injury. Massive burst of speed, had a pick, and laid out a WR on the sideline. McGil is 100% the player we were hoping for. I happened to be keyed on him when we swung the ball out to Jaxxon Lavender in the flat. He read what was happened, and then absolutely flew out there and swung him around making the tackle. Really impressive speed. Crossley, Moses, Woods, Megginson, Sanders... they are all good players.
- Chatman played two plays on offense, and on one of them caught a low throw and then it took literally the entire defense to tackle him. He is going to have an impact on offense.

And one more takeaway... remember how we all wanted ISM, Richard Moore, and McBryde to be the superstar LB, and they just didn't completely live up to our massive expectations? Alex Kilgore is THAT GUY. We haven't had a LB with size who can move like that since the death penalty. Pony Pride and I were talking about it and the closest we could come up with was Bordano, but even his was a bigger MLB who thrived in the middle of the field and didn't really fly around. Kilgore reads plays well, and he can MOVE. He is going to play a LOT next season.

Conclusion: Give me another OG, NT, LB, and TE from the portal to add depth. This team should make a hell of a run next year as long as the OL comes through. That OL right now is the only thing that might prevent us from dominating conference next season.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby AusTxPony » Fri Apr 14, 2023 11:49 pm

Always great to have your take on the team, Jason, thanks.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby tristatecoog » Sat Apr 15, 2023 8:26 am

Great analysis. I sat in front of Hyrin White’s family. They were all decked out in Pony gear and beaming to get to see their kid live. Big 5-0 played at Missou from DeSoto. Was injured last year but was a multi-game starter in 2021. Grad transfer studying engineering.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby DC-Pony » Sat Apr 15, 2023 9:01 am

JB, thanks very much for this.

It is great how far our talent and depth of talent has come. It has taken a while, but this team just seems night-and-day above teams from the 90s and 00s. Having the depth is so terrific, so that we have the on-team competition, guys can get breathers, and so that we’re not one injury away from a unit imploding.

I’m really taken by your assessment of Kilgore. It aligns with other things I’ve heard and read. But his ceiling and readiness both sound like the best I’ve heard to date. That’s terrific.

Our defense seems like it is poised to be a real strength. That will be huge.

I’m ready for the season already!
Last edited by DC-Pony on Mon Apr 17, 2023 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby Arkpony » Sat Apr 15, 2023 9:31 am

What a breath of fresh air if we actually have a defensive secondary and good, fast lineman.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby JasonB » Sun Apr 16, 2023 12:00 pm

It is interesting to see the shift in the overall roster.

In the past, you had to really try and project who might be ready by the fall, and hope that holes were going to plug up by incoming freshman or players developing.

For the first time since the death penalty, this is is a proper roster where we have starters, we have depth in the second string, and then we have developmental players in the third string.

- QB - Stone, Jennings, and then Luster developing is great.
- RB is loaded
- At H Back, I think Chatman will be the first choice, and probably Ervin the second choice assuming we bring in more linemen. I would like a 3rd option at that position, I'm not sure we have it.
- As discussed above, I think we have the right setup at tackle. At center, Clark and then Hickman should be a good combination, although I am not sure we have a 3rd stringer. At guard, Osborne and Parr might be okay first, then Sparks, and then after that is developing player. We need one more OG for sure from the portal, two if Osborne is a question.
- At TE, I think we are good with Maryland, then Matthews-Harris, and then frosh.
- At WR, I am not sure that we have a dominant number 1. But the depth is really good. Daniels - Bailey - Jaxson in the slot is fantastic. At the other two positions, Kerley, Knox, Dixon, Goffney, Smith, Brinson give you six quality receivers that I think you can get by with even without a dominant number 1.
- At Bandit (pass rushing DE), Smith, Paul, Samuels is a great setup. Flowers is good enough for third string if Samuels can't come back to the team.
- At the strong DE, Roberts is very good, and then Abiara and Jones and then Wimberly comes in to provide additional depth in the fall.
- NG - Miller is the starter, then Wright and then Sanjo and Frazier. With Wright's injury history, I would prefer another player here.
- DT (3 tech) - Levelston, Chatman. I think we have developmental players with Jacksonand then Allen coming in. If you pick up another NG, then Frazier slides over here, which is a better fit and gives you the third string depth you need.
- LB - The 3 deep right now is Walker/Burns, Kilgore/Adimora, and then Goree/Farrar/Mayazona. I think the 3rd string really need more development, and also when you add LB, you get better on special teams. I'd like to bring in one more LB to battle with Burns and Kilgore for the second starting spot.
- CB and S we are loaded.

So I think we are 1 H_Back, 1/2 OG, 1 NG, 1 LB, and maybe 1 DE (depends on Samuels) from what I would consider to be a perfect roster in terms of a 3 deep. OG and LB are the only starting-level gaps that we have, but even at LB I would say that I could project Kilgore starting there in the fall and we would be perfectly fine.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby horsemanx » Mon Apr 17, 2023 11:59 am

JasonB wrote:Just as a general note, the actual scrimmage was 1's vs 3's on both sides of the ball. As you would expect, the 1's completely dominated each matchup. All of that said...

Thank you for your observations!

Any reason the 2s didn't play? It seems like they could have used the experience as well.
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Re: Spring Game Observations

Postby JasonB » Mon Apr 17, 2023 6:11 pm

horsemanx wrote:
JasonB wrote:Just as a general note, the actual scrimmage was 1's vs 3's on both sides of the ball. As you would expect, the 1's completely dominated each matchup. All of that said...

Thank you for your observations!

Any reason the 2s didn't play? It seems like they could have used the experience as well.

I was hoping they would have 2s versus 2s, but they basically would sub in the 2s for the 1s and then the 4s for the 3s.
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