The 3 C's for the spRing game:
Watching what is essentially a meaningless show for the fans is not the best way to evaluate the team. We are exceedingly vanilla (although, on offense, almost nothing changes once the real games start), and the defensive coaches flat out lie to us. Chizik's first spring game was highlighted by shifting in the secondary and a variety of 8 man fronts. Basically, a bunch of stuff we never saw again. Muschamp's MO is variety, which we will almost certainly not see. From a scheme standpoint, we'll learn nothing on defense, and nothing we don't already know on offense.
What you can glean, though, is player performance. It's not easy, but it's possible. There are a few traps you can fall into. I know it's tough to scare up interest being a basketball school (and by the way, is it just me who can't understand a damn thing Trips Right writes? The Stanford post might as well have been written in Chinese) and all, but the game is tomorrow so I made a list of them anyway.
A poster decided to make himself eligible for Overheard by positing that Chiles is a capable passer now because he completed one pass in a highlight video. This is not how football works. This is not how sports work. In football, more than any other sport, context is the key. Was a long pass completed because it was a great throw? Because the WR made a great play? Because the CB failed? Football is often compared to a chess game, but it's really closer to poker. It's a simple game to learn and follow, but there are a lot of moving parts under the hood, making it a tough game to master.
Barking Carnival readers are a cut above making this entire article moot, but just for fun I'll continue.
Seventy five percent of long running plays are cutbacks behind offside pursuit. Meaning, a big running play can often be credited to the defense, instead of the running back. Sportscenter will show a glib "recap" of the game, including calling the runner "dawg" and praising his "mad skillz." What they should be doing is highlighting a great block or the weakside LB overrunning the play. For instance, nobody gives Martellus Bennett credit for A&M's two victories over us, but he played as bgi a role as anyone else. In 2005-07 he completely eliminated Huff, Griffin and Griffin, leaving one guy to stop the option. Thankfully we had great special teams in '05, otherwise we'd be looking at three straight losses to them and no MNC.
Point is, try to see the big picture. The ball carrier gets the credit but there are 9-10 other guys doing just as much work.
Anybody on the team can make a big play. At places like this, even the backups have talent. In my practice report I mentioned an amazing play made by Phillip Payne. He put a great move on the corner, followed half a second later by making an amazing catch off the grass. If that was the only play you saw, you'd leave thinking we had a superstar. What you would've missed the rest of the practice was a guy who couldn't separate and had trouble holding onto the ball. Not exactly a recipe for success for a WR.
The key, then, is not who makes a play, it's who makes the plays. You'd much rather have a guy who makes 10 small plays over the guy who makes 1 big one. This means, if a RB breaks one off, clap and cheer, but don't go overboard. Granted, this line of thinking has sapped almost all the fun out of the spring game, making it a miserable experience because I can't get excited about our annual kick return.
My Archie Bunker apathy aside, the point remains. Nearly everybody on our first and second teams are capable of making a big play here and there. That's why they're here. But that's not what wins football games. You still need a bridge between the explosives, like Brian Carter's 3rd down catch in the Rose Bowl between the 4th down stop and Vince's TD. Nobody remembers those plays but they are just as important. Watch for the guy who is always in the right place, always open, always blocking the right guy, etc. Those are your spring stars.
I don't know what other schools do, but we manage to squeeze in an awful lot of walkons. Later in the game, when we're playing guys not good enough to see the field at Baylor, anything that happens is moot. It's just fun for walkons at that point. They can go to a party that night and tell some sorority chick they play football while the rest of us try not to doze off or focus on co-eds in the stands.
OK, I don't get the point of walkons. I really don't. Unless it's Marcus Griffin or somebody, what is the use of a 5'6 110 pound CB? There, I said it.
Sidenote: Walkon kickers and punters are welcome.
Anyhow, it's important to weight the results of any given play by the variables we've been able to define. For instance, in 2005 we knew our OL was really, really good. So any DL that stood out was worth watching. This year there are fewer things we know for sure.
We are talented in a lot of places, but young, meaning inconsistency. Make a good play against Trey Allen, and we don't know if you are good or he messed up. Usually you can tell if you pay attention, but it's hard to focus on 22 guys at any one given time. Since I have an incredible grasp of player evaluation am extraordinarily willing to talk out of my ass I will give my opinion of who is good enough to define as "known:"
Colt McCoy - Good, scrambles too much regardless of pressure, pretty accurate.
Muck and Norton - Rock solid vs. the run. Questionable in coverage, though, so take any pass results with a grain of salt, I'd say. I don't know who is going to play instead of Kindle, but it's worth watching.
Roy Miller and Brian Orakpo - We know these two are a handful.
Jordan Shipley - Best WR on the team right now.
Teh Quan - Short, slow, great hands. With the talent we have at corner, we should be able to lock him down pretty well. If he gets anything, repeatedly, over 10 yards, it's worrisome. We should be able to handle guys like him now.
Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner - They aren't great, but they serve as good measuring sticks. If you can't beat them, it raises questions. If you can, you are probably above average. If Hall starts at center and Tanner plays next to him, it will be an excellent test for the young DTs. I'm going to watch this matchup closely.
And that's it. Everyone else is either too young or not good enough to warrant excitement if someone beats them. Yeah, Deion Beasley is really good, but he still messed up from time to time. If Brock Fitzhenry gets one on Beasley, I will break out the "Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet" line from Pulp Fiction. In fact, if you are looking for sign ideas as a fun project for you and your kids, I suggest that.