We caught our first glimpse of Team 149 yesterday at the Bowl on a perfect Saturday for football.
Overall, the defense seemed to be slightly ahead of the offense which is to be expected this time of year. The defensive line was the most impressive unit even without Oso and Nickerson participating. The defensive tackle position is stacked with depth returning Patterson, Raine and Goodyear with starting experience and sizable options in Gulley, Bruno and Ugbaja. Young ends such as McDonough, Tyler and #44 (not on spring roster) could factor into the lineup this season.
Vaughn and #15 were playing at linebacker with the first unit and had above average performances but will still need to improve in shedding blocks and aiding in pass coverage. Connor, Shaffer and #7 saw extended playing time at linebacker and made nice plays against the second offense.
It doesn’t seem likely that there will be any major shakeups in the secondary with many familiar names such as Owens, Hickey, Oldacre, Ellis, and Benn in the mix. #21 had a solid outing in the secondary picking off a ball from Grooms and returning it for a touchdown. Kosmalski was very active at safety breaking up passes and running down ball carriers. Russ, Barnes, Gonzalez, and Holloway all caught our eye throughout the contest as well. The secondary played fast and physical for the most part but struggled with penalties and blown coverages. Grooms had his way with the secondary on one series throwing for a deep pass and then an easy touchdown that left defenders scratching their heads.
The constants along the starting offensive line seemed to be Amegadjie at left tackle, Gargiulo at center and Shuller at right tackle. Durand, Anderson, Nauert and Sullivan shuffled in and out at the guard positions. The decision to move Gargiulo to center is a gamble to shore up the interior of the line that plagued last season. The defensive line made life difficult for the offensive line, yet we were pleased to see far fewer mental mistakes leading to unblocked defenders. The offensive linemen will need to dedicate themselves in the weight room this offseason to create a nastier front that can bully defenders.
Grooms had an up and down performance with a stalled drive and pick-six early on before settling down to roast the secondary on a later drive. His running abilities were neutralized due to both the game’s format and the familiarity of defenders. The performances of the backup quarterbacks were not confidence inspiring, although it was difficult to judge the preparedness given poor blocking from the second offensive line, dropped passes and miscommunications. O’Connor was not spotted in the contest or along the sideline.
Saffold and McKenzie were the highlights of the backfield displaying serious speed and playmaking abilities. Opposing linebackers will really struggle to cover these backs when swinging out for passes along the edges.
The wide receivers were inconsistent on the day with sloppy route running and dropped passes. Although Tipton was not spotted in action, with the amount of talent returning at this position, we had hoped for a more seamless transition following the losses of Carrington and Rouse. The great potential was evident at times with Grooms connecting with Pantelis on a deep pass and Nenad hauling in a touchdown. #19 had the catch of the day holding onto a tough grab. Hawes and Foster will be huge factors for the offense at tight end and H-back.
Bosman is still far ahead of the competition in both the kicking and punting departments. He had a very low, line drive field goal that somehow made it through the uprights but otherwise had solid punts and clean PATs.