Originally Posted by CoverTwo
Most Positive outcome from the Spring:
For me its the play of the defensive backs. While this group is lacking in numbers (and quite possibly talent), from what I can gather and from what I saw in the Spring Game I think this group played better than expected. Rico McWilliams looks like he is starting to round back into form pre-ACL, and has pretty much locked down one starting corner spot. Jamari Smith from all accounts made some strides now that he has finally settled into one position. Still needs some polish and game experience but I think he has the instincts and athletic ability to help this year possibly as a nickel. Brison Williams, physically, looks like a different player and has shown enough to the coaches that he will be relied on at Corner and his usual Boundary Safety spot. He actually looks like a defensive back now. He was getting a little heavy. I'm also encouraged with the return of TJ Gurley. I think this guy is the wildcard of the group. If he can stay healthy, I don't see how the coaching staff can keep him off the field, and it would allow the coaches to be flexible with Brison. From what I saw during the Spring Game, Kadetrix Marcus is playing as fast as I've ever seen him play. Probably due to experience. I don't think he has lived up to his 4 star billing so far but maybe this is the year he gets it going. We also saw Chris Moody get into the rotation some. I think he is an interesting prospect too. Seems like he has been here forever but he is only a RS Sophomore. I still think he is going to be a good one when its said and done. Can't really say too much about Chaz Elder. He has been solid ever since he got here. I think he is poised to be an All-Conference player. It will be interesting to see how Ali Groves does when he returns back from injury. Coaches think he has the ability but he hasn't been able to stay healthy since he has been here. Also curious to see what they do with Jasper Sasser long term. IMO, I think he is candidate to end up at WR before its all said and done given what we are losing after this year. Good athlete.
Add in the talented freshman group of Wesley Green, DJ Smith, Chris Lammons, Al Harris, and Darrin Smalls .. I think our defensive backfield is in good hands for a while. The more that I think about it, the less I am concerned about this year. If Williams (at Corner), Elder, Marcus/Gurley, and McWilliams are our starting backfield, I think we are in good hands. Then rotate in Jamari Smith and the freshmen at the nickel and for depth purposes and we could be working with something.
Most Concerning outcome from the Spring:
While its easy to point out Special Teams (particularly the punt unit), I'm going to go in another direction and I'm going to say Defensive Ends. I don't know how else to put it other than saying we are in trouble right now. We have ZERO pass rushers at the position. I'm rooting for Darius English just like everyone else but I'm just not seeing it right now especially from a guy that logged a good amount of snaps last year. Of course the weight is an issue that is being worked out but until he gains enough weight to be an every down player (if his body will even allow it), I don't think we can trust him. I think Gerald Dixon is going to be solid but I don't envision him being a player that other teams have to game plan for. After those guys its really a who's who. Are Cedric Cooper and Mason Harris going to get big enough? Given that they are both RS Jr's, probably not. Gerald Turner has pretty much disappeared. In theory, he would fit the new BOB Linebacker we have when we go to the 3-4 sets but I haven't heard anything about him practicing there. David Johnson has some big potential but is he going to grow into a DT? If he can control his weight, I think he is one of our better players at DE. Will Devin Washington's healthy even let him play? He has missed so much practice time.
Onto of that, Dante Sawyer who would've been in the rotation Day 1 didn't qualify. Things have gone quiet with Dexter Wideman, but it doesn't seem like many think he will make it in. Last I heard, Jhaustin Thomas has to take an online course to qualify (how often has that worked out for USC). Luckily, USC got a steal with Blake McClain but, IMO, he is in the same mold as David Johnson. He might grow into an interior lineman.
So for a 4-2-5 team that has made a living rushing 4 and dropping 7 .. this is not a good situation to be in right now. There is a lot of "what ifs" and unknowns with this group. It also begs the question, given our success with defensive lineman, why are we in this position to begin with?
Prediction: Breakout Player of 2014:
Not many people have talked about it on the board but Pharoh Cooper had a big, big Spring. He is really coming along as a receiver and you can tell from looking at him that the weight room has been good to him. He is built like a brick house right now. Ideally, he is what your want your slot receiver to look like. His hands have been improving since he got here and it looks like he is past the learning stage of playing receiver in Coach Spurrier's offense and now playing on instincts. Its going to be hard to replace Bruce at the Z receiver, we all know that, but even Bruce was an unknown at one point when he was playing Wildcat QB. Pharoh seems to be following in the same path and in truth, could be an upgrade down the line. I'm willing to bet that Pharoh catches 30 balls minimum this year and will be our leading receiver the following 2 years. I don't expect him to play much Wildcat QB anymore now that he is dedicated to WR full time.
Player with the most to prove this season:
This one is easy, IMO. It's Dylan Thompson. I'm going to be honest, I'm worried about this guy. The reason being is that if you look at what has been our formula for winning the past 5 seasons, its been defense / big play on offense / and limiting turnovers. As much as us as a fanbase and even Coach Spurrier got onto Connor Shaw for running too much and holding onto the football, he didn't turn it over and give our defense short fields. Actually looking back on it, I think an argument could be made that the teams that Connor QB'ed might've been better suited for Dylan and that this year's team needs a Connor. Those teams the past couple of seasons had stellar defenses that could bail the offense out if it turned it over at midfield. I don't see that this year so I'm worried about the turnover margin.
If there is one thing Dylan has to do well above anything, its make smart decisions and do not turn the ball over. We know the guy is a gunslinger and we love that part about him (see ECU / UAB / Clemson 2012) .. He is going to hang in the pocket longer and make some throws that Connor couldn't or wouldn't risk making. He is also going to face more blitzes than I think Connor saw. I think its going to take a concentrated effort from Dylan and the offensive coaching staff to make sure we aren't in situations like 3rd & 12+ where Dylan has to make a throw into the teeth of a defense. If Coach Spurrier can balance his passing attack just enough to where we are playing ahead of the chains, I think Dylan can have some success. But if he starts facing a bunch of 3rd and longs against the defenses in this league, he is meat. Kind of how like things went with Mitchell and Smelley.
Its also worth noting that he is a 50% career passer. That can not be his completion % this year. He can't have those mechanical faults that have showed up (against Missouri for example) last year. He also has to protect himself when he scrambles or runs the QB draw. Given the inexperience behind him, we are in big trouble if he goes down. Finally, the one thing that absolutely frightens me about Dylan is that he isn't a spot starter or relief player. He is the guy and all the criticism, right or wrong, will be directed at him first. He is the guy that defensive coordinators are going to be scheming for every week. They are going to know his weaknesses. And on top of that, he is playing in some big time football environments this year. For a guy that Coach Spurrier admitted doesn't have a lot of live reps under his belt, its a cause for concern. Good things have got to happen and happen EARLY not only in the season but in the individual games or he is probably going to struggle. The last thing we need this year is a Quarterback carousel to start up again.
So while I'm being overly critical, I do think Dylan is going to have a good season. I think he makes the offense more explosive than Connor did. I think Coach Spurrier is going to have an easier time calling plays than he did with Connor. I think the players on the rest of the offense are going to feed off the opportunities that Dylan gives him by throwing it and giving them a chance to make a play. I'm just really cautious about what happened pre-Garcia/Shaw. Basically, the underlying point is, the offensive line better keep his jersey clean.