I posted a few spring practice notes about halfway through the practice season. It is time to follow up with how things finished and a look ahead to the season. Would you rather read some real analysis from guys who know 6 times as much as I do? Then read this studly breakdown of the spring.
Of the position battles I had discussed the only resolution is at LT. Adams looks like the man. Consensus is he'll be somewhere between serviceable and average with great potential for his final year in 2011. If he gets injured or is otherwise, ahem, unavailable... Miller will likely be serviceable. The rest of the starters at OL still look very solid.
We heard about all the throwing to the TE continuously this spring and that was manifest in the televised scrimmage. One cynical observer pointed out that with Carter the younger out we don't have a reliable 3rd WR so perhaps all the TE love is simply temporary. I'm not that cynical.
The DL will be a fire breathing bringer of death. Oh, yes. Even better than last year's. And that unit was near 2002-level. There's just not much more to say about that. Opposing quarterbacks beware. The LB crew will also be ridiculous.
The concern in the backfield has not abated. The two starting safeties, Hines and Johnson, look solid at best with Hines maybe ready to break out. Top CB Chekwa, who has been out, has shown flashes of brilliance but has not been consistent to date. 2nd CB Torrence looks serviceable at best. 3rd CB Howard has been out. Nickel back Moeller is a stud but we won't know until the fall whether he'll ever play again (head injury). And after that group it gets worse obviously.
The kicking game is also a big concern with neither a punter or field goal kicker established.
The offense is a little harder to suss. Some, like the folks at my external link above are very optimistic. Nobody is predicting 40ppg but it sure looks like they could win games for us. A very competent and deep stable of backs, a scary running quarterback who throws pretty well. A early-draft-entry guy and plenty of role players at WR and a solid line. I think 35ppg is not out of the question but I say that before the injuries start.
Will be a familiar sight this season
The Season to Come
People have been having fun ranking the most difficult opponents on the schedule. Here's my list:
- @Iowa - the Hawks lost a lot at OL which could be trouble, especially against our death-bringers. But I love their coach and their chances to make a run at the Big 10.
- Miami - they're still mad about 2002 even though you'd think they have bigger problems to worry about. That early in the season who knows what we'll get from either team which is why I didn't put them at the top of my list. Miami has lots of reasons for optimism this year including a productive, veteran quarterback and the usual embarrassment of athletes. Either USC or Miami is second to us in draft picks produced in the last decade if I recall, so they still do have players.
- @Wisconsin - this road night game also could end up being the toughest but Wisky has a lot to replace -- not to mention prove that Bielema is not a one-year-wonder. I'll have to see it before I believe it with these guys
- Mich - am I dissing State Penn here? This is a feast/famine pick as there are plenty of signs that the chickens will continue to stink it up. But if they do get it together and save RichRod's job, they'll be ready to exact some revenge for not having beaten us in 2500 years.
Heyward comes back to be mean to collegians for one more season
What will happen?
Last year I predicted a loss to USC and another stumble. Not bad. This year, it's all set up in our favor. In fact, since the 2006 team laid an egg against Florida, fans have been circling 2010 as the likely next year we make a run.
Of course, we used to think Penn St and meat chicken at home was a dream schedule but now we find Iowa and Wisky (both road games) are the top challengers. Nonetheless we have a great shot to run the table and likely face, gulp, Alabama who is loaded and has a wonderful coach. But I don't see it. I think we lose one and not likely one of the big ones. Perhaps Purdue again, Penn St. or maybe we'll have some early chemistry problems in the secondary and Miami will get their revenge.
No matter what the outlook, I hate predicting perfection. It's such a setup for disappointment. But I'll give you this. I predict the weenies will be worse than last year so how bad is life, really? I mean, they're talking about starting Denard Robinson at QB up there!
There you go. 11-1 and another trip to the Rose Bowl. Will USC retake the Pac-10 and finally get beat by a Big 10 team? Or will Cal or ASU fill the void left by the Ducks' criminal tendencies? Come back and make fun of how wrong I will turn out to be when it's all over!