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David Ash has been solid all camp but is finishing on a high note. His accuracy is approaching "Colt on third & long" levels and he's gotten better on timing the deep ball which is something Major has preached all fall camp. Equally as important, Ash is making pre and post-snap decisions much faster than he did in spring. He also tucks and runs when it's there. If you don't remember, Ash can scoot down the field pretty well and should have more open lanes in the new offense. The name of the game is to count numbers at the line of scrimmage and then deliver to the correct playmaker QUICKLY and continue to so with tempo. This offense will resemble Oklahoma State more so than Boise State and that helps David Ash.
Case has had an acceptable camp and moved back into second on the depth (deservedly so) but will still be the second fiddle all season unless Ash goes down. Tyrone Swoopes' hamstring played a huge role here.
Tyrone really struggled this camp after he pulled his hammy. The injury definitely threw him off his rhythm and it's a crying shame because he looked special early on. Additonally, he might have lost his privilege for his own package of plays at least to start the season. He did show a lot of promise, but just too slow making reads after the bad wheel.
Johnathan Gray has shown his ability to take that first cut and get upfield in a hurry very well and is still running first team. If there's a knock, he needs to break more tackles at initial contact but that will come with more time in the weight room. He's up to about 210. Still, if we can create some push he will be deadly in the open field because he has great vision and acceleration. When he gets to the point strength wise where he can run through arm tackles he's likely an all-American.
Speaking of vision, Malcolm Brown has the best vision out of the group and like Ced Benson and Jamaal Charles, always ends every run falling forward. I really like him in the screen game too as his patience and vision really shines when he gets some room to work. They've worked tirelessly to coordinate the timing of the running backs and the Oline in the screen game and it's paying off. Hodges Mitchell will be impressed. Finally an answer to OU's overload blitz? Yes, Major's been paying attention.
Joe Bergeron is a bruiser and looks like he is in better shape. Has the best hands of the bunch and will SHOCK people in the passing game in this scheme. Not the best at picking holes, but in the open field he'll wear you out. Kudos to Major for finding a way to get Big Joe in space.
Now if these cats can just stay healthy...
M.J. McFarland has been given every opportunity to keep the job but has had the dropsies and has struggled with accountability. He was dealt a bad hand with the knee injury and needs to refocus his energy on getting well and fighting for the top spot. He's tailor-made for this offense as an assassin between the hashes as defenses are spread out by the scheme so root for him to get back to normal.
Because of all this, and a good camp by Swaim, Geoff Swaim has earned the number 1 spot until MJ gets it together. He's a much better blocker and should keep the defense honest in the passing game although he's not the vertical threat. The problem for MJ is that words are wind and as DKR said, potential means you haven't done anything yet. MJ is full of potential. Could four years of wandering the desert at the TE position finally be over or are we still seeing mirages of Jermichael Finley, Bo Scaife, and David Thomas?
WR (AKA THE MASH UNIT)
Here's to hoping we get two of the three injured players out of Bryant Jackson, Kendall Sanders, and Marcus Johnson back before the Ole Miss game because they all had outstanding camps in their own roles.
Marcus Johnson was moving the chains on third down and is finally getting his routes down. The kid just got open and never dropped a ball. That's the different between 1st & 10 and 4th & 5.
Kendall has been our best deep threat home run guy even if Mike Davis played that role in the past. Sanders will be missed for his ability to stretch the field vertically and make you miss in the short game. No one else on the team has his skillset from that standpoint. The good news is that he should be back for BYU after suffering the high ankle sprain.
Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley missed a lot of contact drills but showed they will be ready to go these last few practices. The coaches really handled their situations well and should be praised for that. With veterans like these guys, it's not dissimilar to holding out vets in NFL preseason to keep them fresh for when the season kicks off, except that Mike D and Jax were actually hurt. But missing that time won't hold them back.
Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver made the case for early PT after suffering their injuries but after the last few practices it looks like Oliver may redshirt while Warrick looks to be the next star wide receiver at UT. Coaches are flat shocked by how good Warrick is, for what it's worth. Think Brandon Collins before he ever stepped in that McDonald's in Brenham...
Daje Johnson gets his own line because he was lights out all camp. His attitude still needs some work, but it is much better in terms of maturity. Really explosive, versatile athlete. Any game he doesnt have at least 100 all purpose yards is the fault of the coordinator because he's a Just Add Water type of player. Get him touches and he'll produce. Elite speed, good hands, great quickness out of breaks, and freakish balance. If the kid pulled a calf muscle at the 20 he'd figure out a way to hop and skip into the end zone. When healthy, you must wrap up or he's out the door.
Desmond Harrison flashed some of his unique ability today. He's just a naturally gifted big man, with great lateral quicks, raw strength, and quick feet. He stalemated everyone today but Jackson Jeffcoat (JJ made him look absolutely silly with a comical sequence of pass rush moves and counters) but Harrison is still rusty and picking up the schemes. Still, big dudes with that type of wing span and feet don't grow on trees. He reminds me a little of Johnathan Scott with more athleticism in a bigger body. Searels hasn't thrown his hat once since Big Dez arrived and that's not a coicidence.
Overall, the first unit was adequate but still not where they need to be and I chalk that up to just needing more reps in the new offense. If you've been paying attention to the Asset, you should expect Dom Espinosa to start seeing snaps dwindle as Desmond Harrison gets ready to go and the rest of the line gets shuffled. That should help immensely in getting some push in the run game. The good news is that allows Espinosa to get a select amount of snaps in the uptempo game once defenses are worn down. Don't cry for Dom because there are plenty of offensive snaps to go around. This lets us slide Hopkins to center and Hawkins to guard while keeping our best five guys on the field. You have to like the fact that the guy with the most skins on the wall with 38 starts, Mason Walters, might be your weakest link.
The second unit really struggled today and the camp overall Kennedy Estelle and Kent Perkins had good camps which bodes well to the future especially now that Harrison is in the mix. This allows these two to be brought along slowly. Outside those two tackles and a Curtis Riser moment or two this unit was pretty much dominated by the DL.
Gray has had most of the Wildhorn duties with Brown/Bergeron and a Daje Johnson/Kendall Sanders ghost sweep motion in camp. Overstreet is the backup for this set.
As for special packages, Swoopes has run some plays and schemes that David Ash does not run that still makes us think Swoopes may get some early run.
Finally, the full house "Packer" package that IT reported earlier in the week consists of a full-house backfield with Bergeron, Brown, and Gray lined up around David Ash in the Pistol has the camp buzzing. They're doing zone-read, throwing screen passes, and going max protect for long passes out of this set and it's performed well. Don't be surprised to see Daje line up behind Ash in place of Gray to take advantage of Johnson's versatility. Major has something for them.
Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley should be your starters and for good reason. They've been a pretty deadly duo and are in tremendous shape.
Tank Jackson will be first off the bench and he really did well this camp as well.
Ashton Dorsey will provide good depth if the NFL carrot is once again dangled in front of him. Rod Wright has really tried to reach out to the kid but Dorsey has been hit or miss. Hassan Ridgeway flashes at times and can be as good as he wants to be but he's still immature. I think the kid is still only 18 or 19 years old. (I dont expect any younger guys to really play much this year overall but we're plenty deep here.)
Jackson Jeffcoat clearly did everything he could to come in ready to play this season. He's been on a mission since the injury last season and that's all about character and maturity. He has it in spades over the defensive end that graduated last seaon. Jeffcoat was a dominant force almost every play this fall camp. Just a very smart player as his work against Harrison will attest to today. Also, don't sleep on Jeffcoat in zone coverage because he just gets the concepts that Manny is trying to teach. If he's stays healthy he's surefire all-Big 12 if not AA.
Opposite Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed should fill in well for Okafor this season. I'm not saying hes as good yet but he's certainly been a surprise and will be up against most team's second best tackle. He doesn't do anything spectacularly but he does everything pretty well. He's sort of like Kalen Thornton in a bigger frame in that regard.
I will preface all of that by saying you should expect a lot of nickel this season. That's a good thing.
Job 1 is that Jordan Hicks has to stay healthy. He's a very good athlete but more importantly he's a good general on the field.
Peter Jinkens is the only other linebacker who knows his assignments and never takes a play off so I expect him to come out ready to go like the end of last season. Yes, Peter Jinkens is cerebral and he's also an emotional leader. And he's the perfect compliment to Hicks, who is the peanut butter to Jinkens' jelly.
At Mike, Steve Edmond wins the starting role and has improved as a football player physically and mentally. There will be some games where you're damn happy he's on the field. As opposed to last season...
Dalton Santos and Kendall Thompson flashed at times this fall camp, but both missed many key assignments that killed their chances for more snaps. These guys should be players in the future because they're both relatively young especially Santos as a true soph. Tevin Jackson may be first off the bench.
The safety position still worries me because not only did they not create turnovers but they didn't prevent big plays and get guys to the ground. Adrian Colbert is still trying to get the feel of the position down as some sort of answer, but Phillips seemed to regress down the stretch as did Mykelle Thompson, after a solid start to camp for AP. Both showed more willingness to be physical in both phases but the safety position needs to be a rock that produces turnovers. Not so here if this camp was any indication. I think that's why you saw some tinkering with Diggs and Byndom at safety for stretches. Leroy Scott needs some more live reps and brings some much needed physicality to the position.
Cornerback is a different story and thank goodness for it.
The aforementioned Quandre Diggs looks healthy as ever and will thrive at nickel back. The over/under for INT's this season is 5 and I'm buying the over. Diggs is also physical enough to allow us to keep as many corners on the field as possible because he can slide to nickel or even safety and not miss a beat. The theme at the DB position is that Duane Akina has plenty of options.
If things get really dicey, Antwuan Davis looks like the next big thing at DBU. He's currently the third corner off the bench but certainly looks like he belongs.
Kicker - not looking good as of today and the last few workouts. I would say the placekickers kicked about at a 65% accuracy number for camp and that's probably generous.
Punter - Russ has improved his consistency so he should be the starter. When he hits it right it will go at least 55 yards with a lot of hang-time.
As for returners, if Mack goes with a youth movement that includes Daje, Warrick,and Thomas we'll be fine. But don't be surprised if Diggs or Shipley make some appearances when we need a big play.
Thanks to Jesus and IT for the chat. Just like old times.
9 days, fellas. Lace'em up.