If you watched the Vanderbilt Spring Game the other night, you were probably pretty angry weren't you?
Well don't be.
It makes me feel bad, it really does because deep down inside I LOVE Robinette's attitude and the way he plays football. The sad thing is, it isn't really his fault that he isn't the answer. When you take into account his injury history along with the fact that he hasn't really developed the way Vanderbilt thought he would, you've got yourself a very difficult situation on your hands. Obviously Robinette is too gifted athletically to really waste away on the sidelines, but what exactly do you use him for? I think he is still the best bet for a wildcat package where you can make short to intermediate throws to keep a defense honest. But the reality is...he was outperformed big time during the Black and Gold game. Hopefully they find a spot for him soon (and don't worry I will cover the defense as to why PR4 played badly later on).
Johnny McCrary is the odd man out
This also makes me sad, just because I had so many high hopes for the kid and he looked amazing in his first spring game. That being said if I were to advise Mr. McCrary I would tell him to seek another football team. He's been passed by both Freebeck and now Stankavage, he's also got Kyle Shurmur coming in hot on his heels to compete for the starting quarterback spot. In other words, McCrary might want to look at Penn State again since he did so well in Donovan's offense while he was here and since Hackenberg is all but gone after this season. However, should McCrary decide to stick around...
Our receiving core is going to be young and make mistakes
Let's go ahead and point at the elephant in the room here, our receivers just did absolutely awful (at least in my opinion). We had too many drops and too many missed assignments...BUT there were two names that really stood out to me today. The first one was Trent Sherfield, who seemed to always find a way to get open and find grass. While he isn't as big bodied as some of the receivers that the Dores will look at in the future, the fact is he lead the team in catches. The second one? DeAndre Woods. Sure he only had one catch but all game long he was fighting and competing, he is the epitome of the big bodied receiver Coach Mason was talking about even though he was labeled a "tight end". I think he'll become a security blanket for our quarterbacks on the inside or outside. For the most part guys like Kentera and others need to give more effort, otherwise I'd have no qualms about a Duncan, Woods, & Sherfield starting trio Speaking of...
Don't fix what isn't broken
CJ Duncan played running back out of necessity, at least that is my hope early on. Because honestly he was one of our better receivers last year and he outright sucked as a running back the other day. I think Sims could be a good little receiving back for the Dores, but Duncan himself is better as a wide receiver than as someone you're going to try and plod through the middle of the field. 5 of his 9 runs were held 3 yards or less, and that just isn't going to cut it as a running back. Let some of the young bucks have a shot in the fall, but don't make our passing game less effective than it was before. Speaking of poor run games...
Our offensive line can and will be better
We gave up too many sacks and didn't open up enough holes on the front line. That being said a lot of the sacks came from Emmanuel Smith, who in most blocking schemes would be picked up by the back anyway because he's coming from outside the tackle box. That being said I fully expect during the period of not using a football the offensive line with refine some of their blocking assignments and we already know they're subjected to get stronger in the weight room. That being said I fully expect our four true freshman to push the hell out of our current offensive line. I really like this group as a whole, but I'm looking for guys like a Bruno Reagan to push into that starting lineup as he comes in at 330 lbs of angry. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the lineups and who rotated in and out, but I can almost guarantee that we're going to have weekly dog fights in offensive line practice. A lot of them are just raw and they're going to need all the weight room time they can get this offseason to turn fat to muscle and get better as a unit.
Expect Derek Mason's first recruiting class to have a huge impact
I didn't see much of anything out of Lealao, but to be fair he seemed to be lined up on the interior more than anything else. With only himself and Jay Woods listed as over 300 lbs, it would be my guess that they're the front runners to be our nose tackles. Emmanuel Smith looked pretty amazing, as did Tre Herndon, Tre Tarpley, and the rest of our young defensive backs. While Nigel Bowden didn't get a ton of work I expect he'll hold down the defense, but man does Coach Mason have some tough calls to make outside of that. Mitchell didn't do too much of anything, but I don't hold it against him. I think he's still a factor come crunch time in the summer after some good weight room work and some more film study. He is learning a new position so I won't hold it against him. Still between Smith, Tarpley, Herndon, Weatherby, Lealao, Rivers, and some of our other young studs...you can fully expect our first group under Mason is going to get after it.
Shawn Stankavage should be considered as one of the two guys going into camp as the starting quarterback
He didn't throw anything too major down the field, but he was the one who had the best control of the offense and seemed the most poised to me. He is also the only one who didn't turn the ball over, which is a big deal in my opinion. I don't know if you redshirt Freebeck or not, but his 4 for 11 with McCrary's 2 for 7 isn't going to cut it. I don't like starting true freshman quarterbacks unless they come through spring practice (Shurmur did not) so I think he's probably a redshirt as well. If I'm making the call as of right now it's Stankavage whose my guy against Western Kentucky, to me he was the most impressive and he has grown so much in his redshirt season. I don't want to take anything away from Robinette, but he wasn't making throws like Stankavage was and Shawn was proving he could escape the pocket just as easily as Robinette could. I think you let them battle it out in the fall, allowing McCrary to play the third fiddle IF he doesn't transfer and IF he doesn't change positions. If he does either of those I'm not sure you can redshirt Freebeck, as you need at least 3 healthy quarterbacks going into the season. Finally...
Our offense and defense looked much improved over last year.
Yes, we had under 300 yards of offense this past week. Yes we had way too many turnovers. But I saw something with this group that I didn't see under Dorrell (no offense to him of course). They understand the concepts better and all they have to do is execute them better. I think Rivers/Webb/Sims is a deadly trio, with Rivers you've got your downhill thumper back, with Webb you've got a shifty (but still powerful) runner who has good vision and keeps his legs churning, and with Sims you've got a change of pace receiving/outside run back. That's what Kimbrow/Webb/Seymour were suppose to be for us last year. That isn't including George and Crawford (both of whom could contribute right away). I'm really hoping that they keep Rivers as a tailback mostly because I thought he looked pretty good in the spring. The defense was swarming, creating turnovers, and tackling with a purpose. But the most important thing of all...everybody was competing with everybody else for reps.
That was something Mason stated he wanted when he first got here, and that is something we're seeing come to life now. I can't make a bold prediction on where we will finish this year, but I can say as long as we keep improving and growing as a group that we will get better. I can say as long as we sprinkle in the freshman and allow them to push the guys who have been here we will get better. As long as we execute...we will be better.