As we still have no idea if UNC is even going to actually field a team on Saturday, why don't we kick off the game week discussion with the depth chart released Monday by LSU.
Obviously there are a few things that will immediately catch people's eyes, but I find it interesting the distinction between the receiver positions. It seems Russell Shepard will "technically" be the starter across from Toliver, while Randle will be Toliver's top backup. Though, I think we all know those three guys are going to be on the field together a lot.
Do you guys make anything or us? How about grouping Boone as a Z rather than an X? Also, I'm glad Wright and Boone really seized the opportunity to play early this year. Two freshmen were going to have to be in the 2 or 3 deep, but it's nice to know they've been working their asses off an dreally earning the time, not just getting it by default.
I also think they messed up the Y receiver, I'm just assuming Randle is the starter there. Because if the tight ends are also the Y receivers, we're in trouble. No real surprises on offense, so let's just deal with that first. The line looks as we expected, as do the receivers, and tight ends. Only three things stand out.
ONE. Jefferson is the starting QB. OK, Humanoids? It is not a shared position, it is not a QB controversy. Lee is the backup, Jefferson is the starter. Can we put this silly debate over who is the QB to bed?
TWO. Running back by committee. No surprise, as LSU hasn't had just one guy in the backfield since... I don't know. Faulk? Ridley and Murphy are both starters, which means that Miles likely will feel comfortable putting out whoever is the hot hand.
THREE. Hulk Smash! Official Poseur's Favorite Tiger, James Stampley, is the fullback starter. There are many things to like about Stamp. He's a former walk-on who has earned not just a scholarship, but a starting position. He has the reputation as the team's hardest hitter. His LSU SportsNet profile lists in his bio that he has broken his own facemask 16 times. And his helmet once. Stampley is a guy who was given nothing but has instead made the most of his talent to get on the field. Stampley is gonna kill someone before he graduates. Don't make him angry, you wouldn't like him when he is angry.
It might mean that Sheppard "starts" in the 2-WR alignments, but we know all 3 are going to play a lot. I take it as a signal that Sheppard's "position" isn't going to be as just a typical receiver. If I had to guess, the standard 4-wide look will feature Toliver and Randle outside and Shepard/Peterson in the slots.
And I sincerely hope that the number of freshmen in this two-deep kills the ridiculously overstated "Miles hates freshmen" meme, but I doubt it will.
Yeah, there are no major shockers on offense. The line "competitions" were won by who we expected. Lots of returners there and the weight that was lost (ahem, Lyle Hitt) was mostly dead weight. In most cases, losing a guy like Brandon LaFell would be a huge loss, but when you have guys as talented as Randle and Shep waiting in the wings, it doesn't sting as much. Dickson looked like he would be a huge loss after his sophomore year, but his role slowly dwindled.
I see no reason why there shouldn't be vast improvements offensively. The line is bigger, stronger and more talented. JJ has another year of experience under his belt. And the receiving core is just as talented, if not more, particularly with the explosive match-up nightmare at TE. There aren't many schools in the country that will trot three former 5-star receivers out, and we do. Our third string RB was a top 100 player. There's talent everywhere... but do they put that together into a cohesive, effective offensive attack?
That's the big question. Because the one guy returning who makes us all nervous is Gary Crowton. I've been incredibly critical of Crowton and even called for him to be fired (nothing personal, Gary). But last year's offense was a total failure, and OC's at schools which rank in the bottom quartile of scoring offense tend to get canned. However, I do feel bad for Crowton. If the offense stinks again, it's his fault. If it improves, Gonzalez will probably get the credit. That's not entirely fair.
The receiver position is stacked. The running backs look pretty good. The tight end position looks like an upgrade. Jefferson is now a veteran starter, not some wide-eyed kid. So, really, it all comes down to this: can our offensive line block anyone? No pressure, guys. It's just that the entire season hinges on you. Unrelated, but seeing Chris Faulk in the two-deep at left tackle makes me giddy with anticipation of what he can do for the next four years.
I wonder what we can read out of PJ getting the start over Hebert. DUI aside, it seems that broken leg and the long recovery time afterward helped PJ close the gap. Glad to see Blackwell at RG. As you've pointed out Billy, when he's on the field, good things happen.
On D, is anyone else a little surprised how far Jai Eugene has fallen? And I wonder if Lamin Barrow will really see much time at Will back or is it just a technicality/ immediate Sheppard substitution.
Actually P.J. started the bowl game. I think by the end of the season he was learning the calls and getting the snaps down enough for the coaches to trust him. I'm really excited to see what kind of push the new interior can get, especially if Marvin Austin is out for Saturday. Left tackle is the only spot I'm worried about.
I think the Jai Eugene-to-safety move was a lot like Ron Brooks last year (and remember, he was the projected starter at strong safety until Brandon Taylor moved over in August) -- a chance to give a veteran a chance at seeing the field more, and just developing some different personnel grouping to see how they look. Experimentation, I guess you could say. Or, it might have just been about giving Loston some extra motivation in practice.
I think the same goes for linebacker. Just like we saw some different combinations of Sheppard, Perry Riley, Harry Coleman and Jacob Cutrera last year, you'll probably see some different groupings of Sheppard, Barrow, Francois, Minter and Baker once he returns.
Don't forget Muncie at LB. The kid has snuck up the depth chart as a true freshman and all the reports are pretty glowing as far as his mental understanding of the game.
Recruitniks knew Muncie had a world of potential, though being one of the lower ranked kid's in our class. The kid can really run and really play. Would not surprise me in the slightest to see him on the field in some key situations this season.
Well, the defense is where the fun starts for breaking down the depth chart, so let's just close the book on the offense. A lot of the line seems like addition by subtraction. T-Bob was a glaring wekaness last year, Ciron was awful (though to be fair, it might have been injuries), and the less said about Hitt, the better. Heck, Alex Russian is the #2 long snapper. Miles will trot out a line with a 300-pounder at every position, which suits his power running game instincts just fine. But let's get to the fun stuff.
This is a defensive depth chart that absolutely kills the "Miles hates underclassmen" meme. Three freshmen are listed as STARTERS (Sam Montgomery, Lamin Barrow, and the platoon of Craig Loston and Eric Reid). Fourteen freshmen appear on the defensive two-deep depth chart, plus an additional four sophomores. The new generation is here.
However, for such a young defense, there's lots of experience. We only officially return four starters, but that's not counting Drake Nevis as a returning starter. The only position that looks like it could be an adventure due to "too much youth" is linebacker. After Sheppard and Stefoin Francois, a junior starter, there is nothing but freshmen. However, this is the position I have the greatest faith in Chavis, so I'm surprisingly not worried about six freshmen among the eight players in the two-deep at linebacker. I probably should be (though it would look better if Baker was not hurt).
I think it could take a few weeks/games for our LB play to be at it's potential, but Chavis has a strong track record of defense's improving as the season wears on. I think by season's end, it could be one of the stronger units on the team with all the young talent there just greening away.
That's one dangerously talented secondary back there as well. Loston has emerged over the past couple of weeks in the scrimmages. Brandon Taylor was very good last year and should be improved. Peterson is, well Peterson. And Claiborne gets such rave reviews you can't help but be excited. Couple that with young playmakers like Mathieu and Reid in the two deep and we are absolutely STACKED.
It should be a D built to stop the spread. Will they be able to handle the power running attack of Alabama?
Good question. This is a defense built to stop the spread. It's designed for speed and the secondary looks scary good. I'm not sure what is wrong with Jai Eugene, but I'm hoping it's just that the coaches can't keep Craig Loston on the bench. The corners are very good, and we have one of the best in the nation in Peterson. The safeties also look real good. I almost can't wait for the Arkansas game, to see how Ryan Mallett performs against our secondary. Strength against strength. It should be great (of course, a lot can change by Thanksgiving).
Which shows the defense's weakness: it is a small unit. Patrick Peterson is listed as playing at more weight than two of our starting linebackers. Only one defensive lineman reaches 300, and I honestly don't believe that listed weight. Our starting ends average 250 pounds. Aside from Kelvin Sheppard, none of our linebackers top 230. I'm extremely worried that Alabama is going to be able to run right over us.
It's definitely small and fast, but Tony Dungy parlayed that into some pretty good success in Indianapolis. They always had undersized DLs and LBs, but succeeded, even against power running teams, by just being active and aggressive. I think we could see a similar approach on Saturday's this fall.
I just go back to my position preview. They're small, but I don't think that alone will be a killer. Anybody have any other thoughts about the d-line?
No real shockers if you kept up with the camp reports. Montgomery earned the starting job by playing out of his mind and working his ass off. He's my top new guy to watch this year. I'm not thrilled with Pep as a starter, but I think he can be solid. I'd love to see Brockers next to Nevis. I thought that would be a demolition derby up front. But I'm happy about the depth. There should be major improvement in this area. I expect to see a lot of Mingo as a situational pass rusher as well, and the thought of Montgomery and he pinning their ears back thrills me.
A bit disappointing that Davenport hasn't made a push yet, but every player develops differently. Hopefully he can catch up.
The more I look over it, where do you guys think we DIDN'T upgrade? I feel like we've improved at nearly every position on the team...
I think the only position that isn't an upgrade over last year is running back. I'll take Charles Scott and Keiland Williams over Richard Murphy and Stevan Ridley. Maybe the linebackers are a downgrade. That's a lot of youth, though last year we had the question mark of Harry Coleman changing position and Jacob Cutrera trying to play over his head (which he did, consistently). Other than that, I'll take the 2010 team over 2009 at every position. And punt returner might be a push. Trindon Holliday was such a home run threat, but Patrick Peterson will probably be more reliable. I won't worry about simply catching the punt.
End of list. Brandon LaFell was probably better than any of our receivers this year, but they all have a higher "upside" (I hate that word) and there is so much more depth this season.
We're a better team.
Scott and Williams would probably do a lot better behind this line, but I think the current group has a little more big-play potential. My question there is what will Richard Murphy's role be. I also think Shepard will give the offense a player similar to Holiday who can actually stay on the field from play-to-play. When Trindon was on the field he basically gave you nothing if he wasn't touching the ball or faking it. He couldn't block or get open as a receiver. Shepard gives you a player who could be a legit full-time wideout, but happens to be too gifted to only get the ball the handful of times a slot receiver will.
With the defensive line, they're definitely going to need some run help. Whether that comes from playing the bigger guys like Ahgayere, Edwards and Brockers rotating in, or cheating KShepp and the safeties in for support. But I also think Montgomery and Adams (and occasionally Mingo) will give LSU its first true bookend group of true pass rushers in years.
I'm anxious to see Adams. He wasn't a recruit that excited most people when he signed. In fact, I think the typical response was, "Why are we taking a JUCO guy when there's so many good young guys out there?" Well, obviously Chavis or whoever liked him, because he surged up the depth chart and from all reports has been super impressive in camp and practices.
I went on record saying if he didn't contribute significantly right away, it was a wasted scholly. Looks like that's exactly what he will do. Nice to steal what was an Auburn signee also... may give him some incentive to kick their ass...
We had lots of good, young guys, but at this point, they are all potential. The virtue of a JUCO guy is that he can come in and contribute right away. We don't need Adams to be a star, we just need him to occupy a blocker so Montgomery can make plays on the other end. We need him to provide just a little bit of size while Lord Mingo bulks up.
My main worry about the running backs is just staying healthy. Especially Richard Murphy and his two new knees. I think RB by committee will help in this regard, but with our recent run of luck you just know somebody's gonna get hurt. Hopefully we'll have plenty of time in weeks 2 and 3 to get some of the new guys some snaps, just in case.
And as no one has mentioned them, I expect Deangelo Peterson to have a great but largely anonymous year, only to become a leading receiver in the bowl game and have everyone wondering where he was all year, as it seems is always the case with our TEs.