The open practices have wrapped up and the Hoos move into two-a-days. Unfortunately for us, they are closed to the media. But we can follow up to our preview from last week with our grades from the open sessions. And to make it more interesting we are including our grades from last year for comparison. So enjoy and we will go more in depth as the month goes along.
Quarterback-- 2010: B; This year: B-/C+
Do I think that any of the quarterbacks on the roster can be better than Verica was last year? Yes. Are any of them better right now? No. Five practices down and there is a case for and against every one on the roster. You think it would be Metheny or Rocco, then Watford has a good day, then Strauss has a better day. At least last year, we knew who the #1 guy was going to be and had weeks to prepare. Maybe London is holding his cards close to his chest. If he picks one next week, look for the grade to be closer to B, if not, it could be a long year under center.
Running Back/ Full Back -- 2010: C-; This year: B+
The running back competition last year looked like the QB competition this year, so we had them low during the preseason as well. This year, while individually there might not be one that stands out over the others, as a group they should be effective moving the ball. Jones and Parks will be running outside, Shepard and Richardson as change of pace backs, and Millien as the fullback/short yardage back. A little downgrade due to the lack of touchdown production from this group last year, but it seems they will get plenty of opportunities this year.
Wide Receiver/ Tight End -- 2010: A-; This year A-
This grade included Tim Smith and Joe Torchia last year. Oops. This year there seems like plenty of depth with Burd and Smith back, Terrell and Jennings filling key roles, and 2 solid, not overly flashy, tight ends that can stretch the D and score touchdowns. If we thought that highly of the group last year, there is no reason why they should be any lower.
Offensive Line -- 2010: B+; This year: A
You return 4 of 5 starters. You have already nailed down your 2nd team. And you even have players slated for 3rd team. All very good signs, not just for this group, but for the QBs and the RBs. Cautiously optimistic that Moses is okay even though he has been in a boot for the past two days, but better now than later.
Defensive Line -- 2010: C+/B-; This year: B
Kinda knew something was up last year due to the switch to the 4-3. This year should be better, but the Hoos will have to find a way to the quarterback from this group to be a factor this year. We know Cam,Will Hill, and the other DTs have been good in practice, but it might still be a year away from an ‘A’ group.
Linebackers -- 2010: B-; This year: B
They will play better as a group and will understand their roles a lot better than last year. But this will depend on what kind of production we get from Greer and Taliaferro. This group has a lot of pieces and, just like the line, seems like they are about a year away from being very well put together.
Secondary -- 2010: C; This year: B+
The defense will rely heavily on Chase towards the beginning of the season. The safeties are 4th years with plenty of experience, and the 1st years filling in the other holes, including Rijo Walker and Pablo Alvarez, should be an immediate improvement over last year. Again, if the Cavs can get backfield pressure without sacrificing the deep ball, this could be a very, very great mix of youth and experience.
Punter/ Kicker -- 2010: B+; This year: B-
Howell is extremely locked in as the punter and Hinkebein can handle the kickoffs with ease. But it seems every year Randolph and Hinkebein practice well on field goals, and then it doesn’t translate on the field. They could be OK, but we will wait to see what happens this year.
Punt/ Kick Returners -- 2010: B-; This year: B-
I WANT to rank them higher. Last year this was supposed to be Tim Smith’s job, but London held him out and then the injury. This year, he is going young and is looking like he is going with his speedy first year. I think that the early easy schedule will help in the development of players like Terrell, Nicholson, Phelps, and Jennings.