As God opened another day with brilliant orange, the end of Dark Territory was officially signaled on Tuesday morning.
What follows is a layman's partial report about the offensive players of the freshman class that just arrived for the Tiger football team. I say "partial" report in that only the skill players were well visualized running drills during the time observed on Tuesday. The Big Boys were hidden well back across the field and were more difficult to see. Even so, we were able to get glimpses of The Big Boys as far as height and size even though we were not able to get close enough to follow their drills very well.
As usual, I relied on my trusty posse of Homeboys to help me spot and evaluate the guys. And while each of us looks for different things when we evaluate players, certain attributes were seen by all observers.
Now, please understand up front that this report is not meant to predict with any certainty what type of player each of the new freshmen will be. You can not make those types of pronouncements until you actually see them strap on the pads and play under live conditions. Perhaps I shall be able to add that type of report at a later date after watching the players perform in actual game-type situations. For Freshman Day Practices, I and my posse concentrate on what type of athlete a kid is. How big? How fast? Does he look in shape or is he a "project"? These are the type of questions that even the layman can answer. At least we like to think so.
This year's report will roughly follow the pattern of previous years' reports. That is, I shall rate the athletic ability of the kids as I saw it. In keeping with tradition, I shall be handing out my annual "Rip Van Winkle" (RVW) awards again this year. For those who don't recall, RVW awards go to players who were considered "sleepers" during recruiting and who I believe will wake up and make a lot of noise. That is, these are players that did not receive great "Guru" rankings or press during the recruiting season but look to be great athletes and hopefully great players.
Certain players do not qualify for RVW awards and these players include those from whom much is already expected. In other words, kids like Grant or Proctor or Fry or Miller are automatically disqualified as potential RVW winners in that they came to school with great press clippings and were considered "signing day superstars". Instead, RVW awards go to the guys the Gurus overlooked - and missed.
Past RVW winners include Kevin Youngblood who flew in below many Gurus' radars given the talent on his high school team, Cedric Johnson who some felt was too heavy to be a contributor, John Leake who was all but unknown by the local Gurus when he signed, Chip Myrick who was not unknown but did not receive great props, and last year's class of defensive tackles including Jetton, Fountain and Tate. None of these kids had the major "Can't miss" props coming to school yet each is or will be a major contributor to the program.
So are there any RVW winners in this class? Yes. We have seen at least one and will discuss him below.
Therefore, without further ado, let us break down the positions as we saw them starting with the offense.
Did not really have an opportunity to watch these kids in a lot of specific drills. Instead, only got to see them from a distance in some of the stretching and warm-up exercises. None of them seemed like fatties from our vantage point. Dustin Fry is a Biggun who could probably line up now if he had to. Although large, he seemed to move his feet well during some of the "quick-step" type drills and seemed to be in pretty good shape - as you would expect from a wrestler. Nathan Bennett is one large youngun who also seemed to have pretty good wheels for his size. I have never seen him block anyone but believe that with a year of redshirt, he could develop into a very large player who appears to be able to move pretty well. Tim DeBeer is tall and looks to have a pretty good frame. I did not watch him closely in drills. Brad Lee appeared to be in good shape, have a very good frame and good athletic ability. My understanding is that Roman Fry may move to defense. Whether that is accurate or not, I did not really observe him that closely. All in all, this is a good looking class with big kids who have great frames and good wheels. There are no real lardboys in the crowd and it looks like these kids could all be contributors for us someday. I shall have to see them play before I can say for sure, but Bennett and Lee are in the running for RVW awards in my book. Dustin Fry and Bennett look as though they could line up and play now. All in all, there are plenty of good frames on top of good wheels in this group and this looks to be the nucleus of a big and relatively quick line in the future.
Two players here, Stuckey and Proctor. Stuckey is not a big fellow but he moves with catlike quickness and throws a tight spiral with surprising zip. I really don't know what our offense of the future will be; however, he looks to have the tools to be a dangerous run/throw threat (like Woody) if that is the way we go in the future. If not, look for him possibly to make a move to DB given his athletic ability. Even so, with the zip he puts on a football, don't consider that kind of move a done deal. He is not without tools to say the least. Proctor also throws the ball very well. Looks to have pretty good mechanics and delivers a nice tight spiral. Like Stuckey, he put most of the balls right in the receivers' hands on some quick slants they were running. Where Stuckey hummed the ball in at a very high speed, Proctor seemed more to lay it right in the breadbasket. Tight spirals thrown with authority. But he was not putting the "knock you down" cannon on them that Stuckey was. Proctor throws a very catchable ball. Also, seemed to have good feet and movement though not all of the dazzle that Stuckey has. Bottom line: Barring injury, both of these kids should have a couple of years to practice and be brought along at which time either could probably run this offense just fine if they learn and develop properly. Each has good tools.
Only Merriweather was there as we await and anticipate Coleman joining in the near future. Reggie is not a real tall fellow but he is solidly built and because of his height (listed at 5'9") runs pretty low to the ground. Seems to be a strong kid at 195 and has good cuts and quickness. Looks to be one of those kids who is hard to get a good clean shot on and who likely bounces off some hits if you don't wrap up. Given our current position at tailback, he is all but a lock to redshirt but certainly looks like a good kid to have in the program. Bottom line: If Coleman lives up to his press, we look to have a couple of good tailbacks for the future.
Two real good looking kids here, Grant and McCloud. Both have good height, with McCloud being a little taller. Grant is a good sized kid and has a pretty big frame and big arms for a wide receiver. He moves very well, caught the ball well and out front with his hands. He did not let any balls get near his body. Also, he has those big "catcher's mitt" hands where he just snapped the ball as it came to him instead of waiting for it to settle into his hands. In some ways, he has an aggressive style of catching the ball that reminds me a little bit of Rod Gardner "attacking the ball" with his hands. In fact, with his size, he even physically looks a little bit like Gardner. While not as tall as Youngblood or Hamilton, he looks to be a bigger kid in general and may end up with that punishing Rod Gardner type body. In other words, the hype on him appears to be all true. On the other hand, McCloud came from a small school and did not get all the attention that some other recruits from larger schools received. Because of this and based on what I saw yesterday, he is the first recipient of a Rip Van Winkle award in this class. A little taller than Grant, a little bit skinnier, he has a great frame and good feets. He is quick, cuts well and accelerates well. He did not attack the ball in the air with his hands as aggressively as Grant does (few young ones do, it seems) and he even let the occasional ball "gator-arm" him or get into his body. Even so, he has soft hands, catches almost every thing, moves very well and is a big target. The Florida schools made a mistake letting us steal this kid away. While we would love to red-shirt both of our receivers this year, I look for them to both be noise-makers in the future. Grant should live up to his hype from what I have seen. And McCloud will make some hype of his own during his career here. McCloud is a lock RVW award winner and I believe we will be very pleased with this kid before his career is over.
That is a quicky view of the offense. Defense to follow later