After 2 1/2 weeks — the public session, in other words — here is my semi-educated observation on each position group. These all assume the team hit some level of bottom at all positions by the end of the season because, ahem, it was like that.
Without further adieu:
QUARTERBACK: Improved … I think, I think, I think
The installation of Todd Goebbel as QB coach may be head coach Doc Holliday’s best move of the offseason. Goebbel’s knowledge and positive influence should rub off on Chase Litton. Let’s just see how well Litton reads and throws on target.
The Herd will be in better shape if Litton goes down. If Gaines has to go in, look for the Herd to
actually run an offense put a lot of confidence in him and tailor the strategy to fit his talents. Isaiah Green isn’t shabby, either.
RUNNING BACK: Improved.
Trey Rodriguez is the real deal, at least in relation to last year’s committee. Tyler King was impressive before his recent injury, and Keion Davis has been running as if his job depends on it, because it does. Not sure if Anthony Anderson can re-enter the picture, but handicapping a Herd RB rotation is a hazardous exercise.
WIDE RECEIVER: Improved.
So Michael Clark caught a touchdown pass for the Packers recently. Go ahead and name the quarterback on that play.
I like Tyre Brady. I like Marcel Williams a lot. Need to see more out of Darian Owens. Willie Johnson is fast. Hyleck Foster is catching the ball, much unlike his early career. Nick Mathews is slick and should be ready, if not now than later in the season.
And these guys actually separate from defenders, I believe. Can’t get anything but better.
TIGHT END: Was good to begin with.
Will Ryan Yurachek get more than 28 catches this year? That was a travesty. If that figure doubles, I think you’ll like the result.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Inconclusive.
This unit was gassed, decimated and beat up by the time it took the field against Western Kentucky, so things had to improve. The returning quintet — four current starters and A.J. Addison — were healthy and got through the spring and summer in good shape. At times, the first unit has been very good, but that begs, the question: How good is the defensive front?
The second O-line is awfully young, save for Addison. One or two of these redshirt freshmen, in addition to starting RT Tarik Adams, will be called upon to deliver a critical midseason effort.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Somewhat pessimistic.
Maybe I need to look closer this coming week, but nothing jumps out from the front four. If you remember, run defense was brutally bad a year ago.
LINEBACKERS: Much better.
Juwon Young’s September absence will hurt, no two ways about it. If you see the Herd start 1-3 and then go 6-2 in conference play, you may see a correlation.
But Artis Johnson is a fine addition, Chase Hancock may be physically ready to stand out and then there is the wild card … yes, JaQuan Yulee. This unit may be very, very good by mid-October.
You can do worse than C.J. Reavis, Brandon Drayton, Kendall Gant and Malik Gant at the safety positions. Reavis, the veteran, and the youngster Drayton were paired late last week, and they look solid.
At the corners, last year’s top three are back — Rodney Allen, Chris Jackson and Jaylon McClain-Sapp, all a year older. Allen and Jackson are a year wiser, but I’m not sure about McClain-Sapp. He has been penalty-prone (again) this month. Kereon Merrell may be up to speed by midseason, as jucos can be.
Kaare Vedvik could be the FG/punt man, and he has really come on as the former. The Herd has lost two games on failed field goals in the last two years, and needs to steal one this year. So far, this is your man.
SPECIAL TEAMS, IN GENERAL: Better.
With Willie Johnson back for kickoff returns and Trey Rodriguez available in both return disciplines, the Herd could once again win after a morale-boosting long runback. The infusion of athletes will restore coverage, which turned disastrous late in the season.
With that, I’ll spend the next week or so trying to figure out how this team will do. Brace yourselves accordingly.