First of all, take what you see and hear this spring with an extra large grain of salt. There are certainly some surprises on the depth chart released Tuesday afternoon, but Coach Patterson has often used the depth chart as a motivational technique, and some of the rankings may be just that. Here are some quick thoughts, with more in depth analysis coming later this week.
- Shawn Robinson as backup QB. Personally, my belief is that you don’t burn Robinson’s redshirt to backup Kenny Hill, barring injury. So to see Robinson listed as the number two out of camp gives me mixed feelings. For one, it’s obvious that the Frogs are going to give the early-enrollee every chance to succeed - he took twice as many snaps from center as any other passer on the roster Saturday - but it’s also an indictment on the current crop. I am disappointed that junior Grayson Muehlstein hasn’t seized the ranks of no. 2 at this point - he’s been in the program and the system for three years, and I expected him to be further along. All that being said, unless Shawn takes some significant leaps forward, I expect him to have the letters “RS” next to his name come fall. At least early on.
- If you have four kickers, you have none. The or or or in the place kicking category is a horrifying sight for Frog fans who still have nightmares of the clanked kicks of a season ago. The expectation going into the year was that Jonathan Song would own the job, but he didn’t attempt a kick Saturday, and may still be banged up. In fact, no listed place kicker attempted a kick during the spring game, as the only XP attempt came from Cole Bunce, the kickoff specialist. Fall is a long way away, and I expect Song to be the guy. If not him, Michigan transfer Andrew David could steal the job away from incumbents Ryan Graf and Brandon Hatfield. All that being said, unless someone stands up and stands out, Frog fans will be incredibly nervous come September.
- Surprise non-starters abound. KaVontae Turpin missed most of spring due to some academic issues and Austin Schlottman missed time due to injury, and as such, both are currently listed in backup roles. I have no doubt both will be starters when games start for real. Also notable is Jeff Gladney over Julius Lewis, L.J. Collier over Chris Bradley, and Shaun Nixon reclaiming a starting spot at wide receiver. First time starters for the Frogs include Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen at defensive end, Lucas Niang on the o-line, and Ross Blacklock at DT.
- Depth abounds at defensive line and wide receiver. The wide receiving corp may have been the most disappointing unit a year ago, as the immensely talented group underperformed as a whole, leading the country in drops. While Patterson has said they’ve improved this spring, nothing that happened in the spring game gave fans much confidence that they would reliable come September. That being said, the unit goes three deep at four positions with players that have at the very least shown flashes of brilliance. And that’s before the insertion of three of the top prospects in the state in Jalen Reagor, Omar Manning, and Kenedy Snell, who join the program this summer. On the defensive side of the ball, last year’s signing class should have a major impact, as redshirt freshmen Isaiah Chambers, Ross Blacklock, and Brandon Bowen all make the two deep. If each live up to their significant potential, that group has a chance to make things really tough for opposing QBs.
- The secondary is the most experienced unit on the team. With 80 starts between them, cornerbacks Ranthony Texada and Jeff Gladney along with safeties Ridwan Issahku, Niko Small, and Nick Orr, make up an experienced defensive backfield. Add in potential starter Julius Lewis, and suddenly the Frogs are at 88 total starts from their DBs. The good news is that they are well versed in the 4-2-5, and should have the requisite knowledge to allow GP to mix things up and be more aggressive in 2017. The bad news is, the group as a whole accounted for only seven interceptions, 31 pass breakups, and 8.5 tackles for loss. Will they be more aggressive with another season under their belt? Will that lead to more turnovers and better overall play? Will the Frogs finally stop the deep ball? We are a long way from finding out, but there are some encouraging signs.
The full depth chart is below, leave your thoughts in the comments!