BY: David Miller
Hello all you RedWolves fan. I hope that everyone is doing well and have enjoyed the first 2 weekends of college football as much as I have. At this point I had no doubts we would be 2-0 and ranked in the top 25 but that did not happen, however there are a lot of positives to take from the first 2 weekends. In this week’s blog I will give my personal thoughts (not endorsed by anyone else) on each position group.
Defensive Line – (A-) this by far has been the most improved group in my opinion. Opponents have not been able to line up and run the ball straight down our throats this year. We are not getting pushed 3 yards off the ball routinely like last year. While the defensive line might not be getting as much pressure as we would like they have freed up the linebackers to make plays. Chambers (before injury), Khari Lain and Heath are thanking them right now. I see this group only getting better as the year goes.
Linebackers – (A-) this group has played great so far, we had a star in the making before the injury to Chambers (who we wish a speedy recovery.) This group has been all over the place making plays. They are forcing runs outside, covering their gaps fairly well and making tackles. With Xavier Woodson coming back from suspension and barring no more injuries I see this group exceeding pre-season expectations. PS they need to thank the defensive line.
Cornerbacks/Safety – (B) This group has played well in spurts. They struggled with open field tackling against a more superior USC team. USC was running through arm tackles and simply over matched these guys with their speed and athleticism. The Missouri game was much improved, they made several open field tackles on bubble screens, had several pass break ups and also fortunate enough to come away with some nice interceptions. These guys have played well in my opinion given the fact that they have been without/and lost 2 key contributors in Blaise Taylor and Bo Sentimore. Chris Humes, Cody Brown and J. Hart are really going to have to step up the rest of the year.
Offensive Line – (C+) while it looks like we have improved in the trenches, the jury is still out. We have played two top 25 teams and we have not matched up very well. We have given up our fair share of sacks. Our quarterbacks are also having trouble finding time to throw the ball. We have had moments of great run blocking i.e. Touchdown Drive at USC, 1st half against Mizzou. We have had more success than last year on obvious running downs. We also gashed USC and Missouri on certain drives running between the tackles. There is a lot to look forward to here. I think as we move forward and the competition becomes more even I think we definitely start seeing a big improvement.
Running Backs – (B) These guys are good, although they don’t have a lot of yards yet (contribute to the defenses we played) they have played well. They have all had glimpses of greatness. Michael Gordon has run the ball well especially between the tackles, Silky has also contributed in the normal ways he does. The biggest surprise to some is the emergence of Warren “Magic” Wand. He is quick, shifty and can lay a lick. Yes, he is going to make some mistakes as a freshman but he has tremendous upside. I see Gordon surpassing the 1000 yard mark again and Wand/Silky having close to 1000 yards between them when it’s all said and done. The biggest challenge for this group is the lack of passing game right now. Teams are loading the box daring us to throw it. This has hurt the RB’s abilities to get things done. Until we can throw the ball teams are going to key on our run game.
Tightends – (B) These guys are hard to grade, simply because they get lost in the shuffle. I think they all are doing a great job and Griz has caught the ball when thrown to him. As a fan, you ask yourself “Why doesn’t Griz get the rock more?” Well, my father and I saw firsthand against Mizzou that teams are double teaming him, jamming him and making sure the ball doesn’t go to him. His stats do not accurately paint the picture. Just having him on the field creates mismatches for teams and allows other’s around him to make plays.
Wide Receivers – (A-) I would say an A plus, but Trosin seems like he has had some trouble seeing the ball. He is normally pretty sure handed, but certainly has been a bit unlucky so far this year. McKissic and Houston have both shown that if you throw the ball close to them they will make you look good. It is great having those play makers. Teams are covering up Paschal and he hasn’t had his chance to shine yet. The receivers are another tough group to grade right now as their grade depends on the QB getting the ball to them. (Let’s just say that in all reality the WR’s have been an A++++++ with better QB play)
Quarterbacks – (D+) I know this grade seems harsh and I know we have played some tough teams, but right now it has been bad. We simply cannot make the routine throws right now. We have been out of sync with the receivers. We made it a point this year to try and stretch the field vertically but this has not been accomplished due to the fact that we can’t throw the ball down the field. Fredi just seems out of rhythm back there. Numerous times against USC and at least 4 or 5 times against Mizzou he was shooting a fade away jumper with his passes. Right now his passes seem very flat, with not a lot of touch on them. I know we have played tough teams, but that is not an excuse in my opinion. Before everyone calls me out as a Fredi hater, I am not. I think he is an amazing athlete with tons of talent. He played great last year as a first year starter, he creates plays with his ability to run and adlib, but this offense is built around a QB completing 70% of his passes and not 41.3% of passes. Just as Missouri did in the second half, teams are going to line up with 8 in the box just daring us to throw it. When you aren’t able to throw it, you sure can’t run it either. Quarterback play must drastically improve for us to win another conference championship in my opinion.
Special Teams – (A+++++++) we are 2-2 on Fields Goals and 2-2 on PAT’s enough said for now. I know we have a few issues, but we will discuss those later on.
Coaching – (B) From this fans perspective it sure doesn’t seem like we are getting the ball to our playmakers enough, couple that with some questionable playcalls i.e. Option on 4th down at USC, onside kick against Mizzou (didn’t get the ball and lost our starting LB for the year) to make this grade decision.
This week’s test against Missouri State comes at a great time. Gives us a chance to see who we really are, see how we stack up. We should dismantle this MSU team with ease, they have struggled. This game should help give us some confidence going into a tough road game against Toledo.
Overall, I think there are a lot of positives to take from these 2 games. I am very confident in the players and coaches moving forward. If we iron out our QB play and avoid the injury bug I have no doubt we finish out the season great. I can honestly say I think this team could go on a run and make this a magical season.