Paul Rhoads gathered the media today to officially kick off the spring football season one day before practice begins. Along with Rhoads filling us full of information about the team we finally got a look at the depth chart for the spring, and maybe more importantly, who won't be a part of it due to injuries. There's a lot going on here so let's get right to it.
Who Isn't Participating
And here are the players not participating in spring drills and those that will be limited. #Cyclones pic.twitter.com/ZpvjgkqAMg— Dylan Montz (@dylanmontz) March 2, 2015
Right off the bat some of the work I prepped for a preview that runs tomorrow is shot. Daniel Burton is out and won't be competing for a guard spot. Mitchell Meyers we knew would be out, and Dondre Daley's absence allows for more reps for the younger receivers; ditto to Robby Garcia's absence being good for the new defensive tackles.
As for our limited participants we again see Luke Knott make the list and we continue to wonder if he should have been playing safety this whole time. His frame isn't built to be a linebacker, but here he is, rehabbing something else. Again.
Quenton Bundrage on the limited participant list makes sense, and Rhoads said he'll participate fully except for heavy contact. Good on Q for getting back. Having Brock Dagel and Ryan Glenn limited isn't the worst thing in the world as Dagel is the clear starter at right tackle, and this gives the coaches a chance to find their seventh, eight, and nine men in the rotation.
The Depth Chart
Here's the depth chart for offense and defense this spring. #Cyclones pic.twitter.com/YqWVNiKpgW— Dylan Montz (@dylanmontz) March 2, 2015
Line by line this has some ups and downs. Let's start with the offense, where things are actually looking pretty rosy.
Tight End: Ben Boesen on top, to no one's surprise. He's more of the blocking type, but let's hope between he and the other three that someone shows some route running and security blanket ability. No one is replacing E.J. Bibbs but getting a handful of catches a game out of this group helps open up the sidelines.
Offensive Line: No surprises at left tackle and left guard with Jake Campos and Oni Omoile holding down that side. JUCO Patrick Scoggins takes over at center and Jamison Lalk goes to right guard in Burton's absence. Dagel is listed at the starter at right tackle, and will be, but if he's truly limited then a lot of snaps will go to Nick Fett and Kory Kodanko, who both have some long levers to hold down the outside.
The key here is finding eight or nine guys going in to fall camp and I think there's a strong shot that happens this spring. Dagel, Scoggins, Lalk, Dagel, and Burton are clearly your top five, but Omoile, Gleen, and Wendell Taiese will find their spots as well. If the staff can come out of spring ball with three tackles and five guard/center players they're comfortable with then a lot of the fall can be focused on the offense itself and not position battles.
Quarterback: No surprises here, but look for Joel Lanning to push Grant Rohach.
Tailback: My man Tyler Brown is holding down the top spot here. Rhoads said Brown had a great off season and he's earned the shot to start atop the depth chart. Brown showed flashes of old Alexander Robinson running late last season and he's currently proven more than either Mike Warren or Martinez Syria. However, a running back by committee approach will likely be had in the spring and going forward.
Wide Receiver: Holy shit, Q on the inside. I can't even begin to tell you how much joy this fills me with. Bundrage's route running ability will separate him from a lot of linebackers and force a safety to be committed to him. The inside spot is routinely the possession spot, so hopefully those hands have sharpened up since we last saw him in meaningful action in 2013.
The outside spots are still held down by D'Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard, which is to no one's surprise. Keep an eye out for Brett Medders to look to find a way on the field, and converted quarterback Darius Lee-Campbell could have a good spring as well as he gets his first reps at the receiver position.
And now... the defense...
Defensive Ends: This actually is not a bad group of guys. Dale Pierson, Trent Taylor, and Darius White all played significant snaps last year and Taylor was bringing pressure more as the season wore on. All three struggled in the run game, but a lot of that had to do with defensive tackles on the inside that could be handled one on one too easily. Gabe Luna's return from a back injury gives this group some depth that should keep them fresh late in games and the season. You don't need the best talent to win, but the talent you do have has to be able to play at a high level on every snap. A rotation helps with that.
Defensive Tackles: Devlyn Cousin and Pierra Aka played a number of snaps last season, and while the group is missing Meyers, they'll welcome JUCOs Terry Ayeni and Demond Tucker to the fold. That's four experienced men in the middle with Vernell Trent joining them as well. Like the defensive ends, this isn't the most talented group, but depth does not hurt.
And the biggest upside to this group on paper? Their size. Cousin and Aka tip the scales at over 300 pounds, and the lightest of the other three tackles is Ayeni at 278 pounds. Assuming health isn't an issue this summer it's conceivable all five tackles are near or over the 300 pound mark heading in to August. The ends could stand to get closer to that 260 pound mark, but the majority carrying over 250 pounds in to spring ball is a stark contrast to the latter days of Dan McCarney. The linebackers, however...
SLB/N: Calling this out separately because WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?! Jarnor Jones being second string going in to spring ball is no surprise, but behind a 6'1" 191 pound redshirt freshman? Sorry Wally, we know the Drake Ferch experiment didn't work a lot last season, so pardon us if we don't buy it again this year.
If I'm a betting man I'd say Jones should have the starting role locked up by the end of the spring.
MIKE: Kane Seely beating out Jordan Harris for the starting MIKE role. This is a flashback to August when Meeks beat out Harris and we convinced ourselves it was a good thing. Now Meeks is gone, Harris redshirted, and Seely would have been beaten like a rented mule last season had he actually been around the play to make contact with anyone.
WILL: Knott, ok. Brian Mills, ok, at least he has size, and Willie Harvey... whatever I guess.
At this point nothing will fix the linebacker depth, but as you'll see tomorrow, I'm a big fan of a Jones-Harris-Seely starting three to bring some size and speed to the linebacker corps.
Cornerbacks: Nigel Tribune, no surprise. Ken Lynn or Sam E. Richardson, no surprise. Lynn had a great end to 2014 and will build on it this year. JUCO Jamal Wiltz is on the left side with Lynn and Richardson but I certainly hope his size and speed will allow him to play on the right side as a spell to Tribune. That's a solid and experienced group of four men right there.
Safeties: Kamari Cotton-Moya needs no introduction. What's noteworthy is Kamari Syrie moving back to the free safety spot to spell Cotton-Moya, and the strong safety spot being held down by Qujuan Floyd. Floyd packs the size needed to play close to the line of scrimmage and he's going to be battling an experienced Darian Cotton to keep his spot on top of the depth chart. This position group is the most talented on the defense, and any competition here is good for the defense.
That's our depth chart breakdown, or put in more simple terms: offense = good, defense = bad. Check back tomorrow to see our burning questions heading in to the start of spring ball.