My Spring Game Thoughts

TLS49

The Sycamore Level
I watched a good portion of the spring game, here are some thoughts starting with offense:

1. Chuck Dowdell doesn't run the ball as much:

-Is this a good thing? Could be, he took off after 1-2 seconds nearly every play last year and ended up with a few 1-2 yard gains that could have been 8-10 had he waited 1-2 seconds longer for the play to develop. Unfortunately, he displayed a much less than stellar arm in the game. Chuck was quite literally throwing the ball into the air in the same high arcs that saw so many of his passes intercepted last year. If he stays this summer, expect Dierdrick to have a packet of arm exercises and ball drills waiting on him because he can not play another year the way he played last year/this spring.

2. The offense is far more conservative:

-Again, is this a good thing? I think it is. The team has two great running backs in Antoine Brown and Darrius Gates. Of the two I believe Brown to be superior, Gates had surgery last year and still gets tackled a bit too easily. Both are extremely small however and we sometimes forget that the Gateway overall is a stronger conference than the MAC and Sunbelt (my opinion of course) so expect these two to hit the weights hard this summer to be ready.

3. The offensive line is not an offensive line:

-As expected. 8 guys does not an offensive line make, and true enough, the line was one of the weaker links on Saturday. I saw some guys milling around on the sidelines though (incumbent Freshman no doubt) and they looked alright. None that I saw looked ready to be the day-1 starters they will doubtless need to be, but that is what God gave us weight rooms and camp for.

4. Our wide receivers are pretty awesome:

-Ryan Patrick, Verlain Betofe, and Jeremy Gray are good solid players. Although they lack size, they all have great speed (even Betofe, the possession reciever of the group, pulled away for a big 50 yard gainer. Woulda been a TD but Josh Jones missed the final block.) I expect that should Dierdrick decide to air it out we could be well entertained on Saturdays this fall.

5. Tight End situation = questionable:

-I saw what I didn't need to see on saturday, and that was Joe Wingis on the sidelines hurt again. He's been hurt since the beginning of camp last year. Josh Jones caught a nice deflection (chalk it up to luck) and maybe another pass, but missed a few as well. Jones will be solid as a TE but I have doubts as to the toughness of Wingis. I hear he has either a chronic sports hernia or major back problems, both of which are nagging injuries that can take years to heal fully. Here's hoping there are some good recruits coming in to camp this Fall.


And now Defense:

5. It wasn't TERRIBLE:

-I feel the need to address this outright. The defense was not terrible. The defensive line? Yea...pretty bad (6 yards a carry avg.) but the linebackers I thought did a MUCH better job of keeping the gains at 6 yards instead of 10-20 as seen in previous years. Jayden Everett and Quinton Scott will be a great duo in the fall, I hope they play as well as I know they can, especially Everett, who got permission to come back for this year due to injury. He's got the size and speed to go pro, now all he has to do is back it up.

6. DB's will be an issue again:

-Most of last year's starters didn't play, but the ones that did let too many big plays go. It might be a speed issue above anything else and I hope that is addressed this summer. Recently however, its been hard to get the Sycamores to stay for summer workouts (I think last year they had 30/80 present and only 15 of those 30 showing up every day.)

7. Defensive line = :(

-Dan Millington and Kevin Wilson return, other than that...not much to be excited about just yet. There is some size but as I said earlier 6 yards a carry does not win games, nor even make them close for that matter. Who knows what the kids coming in this Fall will be like but I expect most of them to play if not start.

And special teams:

8. Kicking

-Corey Varnadore was 2/3 that I saw. Unfortunately he missed a 40 yarder pretty badly. Power was not the issue, but accuracy has plagued this kid since he got here. He hit his 20-30 yard range convincingly though so its a major plus.

9. Punting

-Gabe Mullane came back which is fantastic. This kid punted for U of L and I expect him to be a great punter here. Fantastic to have him on the field.

This is just a bit of what I saw at the Spring Game. The team had energy though which is nice to see, hopefully they can make something of themselves.

I will say this though, Trent Miles does not have 5 years to build this program. If they are not over .500 within 3 years his players will fall into the exact same rut that West's players did. West did not lose due to lack of talent, he lost because his players never believed they could win. Words don't convince, "W's" do. If Miles does not win, and start winning quickly, he may find himself in the same hole that West did. I'd venture a guess that around that time there will be an official envelope with the Gateway Football conference seal on it asking for ISU to remove itself sitting in Prettyman's mailbox. We are the only black mark on the conference right now. Change has to happen, and it has to happen fast.

I stick to my predictions:

0-12 or 1-11 with the 1 win being SEMO.

No losses above 30 points however (UNI over us 35-20, SIU over us 30-17) showing INCREDIBLE improvement and an awesome start to Miles' career.
 
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