Oklahoma had their spring game this last weekend and Allen Kenney of blatant homerism had some interesting notes up on it. Ironically, his thoughts are more objective and less homerish than what you sometimes get from pay sites where people have financial incentive to give you news you like paying for.
I didn’t catch the game but if and when I find it on youtube I’ll probably watch it carefully and offer up a detailed post like last year…and this year I’ll have finally learned my lesson about not assuming that Mike Stoops will stick to even the most fundamental of techniques deployed in that public scrimmage in the following season.
What I have picked up on is that Cody Ford seems to be the new tackle on this team with Bobby Evans sliding over to LT. The Sooner OL looks like it will be very solid from left to right but it also looks kinda short. Evans was listed at 6-4 a year ago and Ford was listed at 6-3 up until they decided he was their second best tackle and then he magically grew an inch and became 6-4. I don’t know how much this matters and they will probably be more of a running team (and they are already fairly run-centric) anyways but it’s something to watch when they play teams with length and speed on the edge.
It sure sounds like Boo Radley will end up starting at nickel next year, which is interesting because he’s only a freshman (although he’s been playing at Bishop Gorman and IMG the last few years which are basically semi-pro teams). That should help them though with their annual struggles to keep their best pass-rushers in alignments where they can rush the passer without being terribly predictable. Seriously, this has been a running thing for like 4 years now ever since they moved Eric Striker to the nickel LB position. It’s been hilarious to observe, I’m kinda sad it might be over.
Oklahoma also cleaned up in recruiting this weekend getting verbals from a bunch of well regarded prospects AND from grad transfer DL Jay Hayes from Notre Dame. Hayes started for ND last year as a strong side end in their Under-ish front and was originally recruited to Notre Dame by….new Oklahoma defensive analyst/amateur vampire hunter Bob Diaco.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of influence Diaco has on the defense this season and whether he gets called in to take over if Mike stumbles out of the gate.
As for Hayes, my man Jamie Uyeyama of Irish Sports Daily seems to think his best fit is as a true 3-4 DE. He’s basically in a contract year here playing to show his worth in the NFL so this move seems to suggest more than anything else that OU will probably stick primarily with the 3-4 again this coming season even if they play a lot of 3-4 nickel. As far as talent goes, Hayes is a pretty sturdy run defender that doesn’t offer that much in terms of pass-rush.
For the spring game I’ll be curious to see what else OU has on the DL and how the secondary looks, particularly at safety.
Lots of flotsam and jetsam floating about regarding the Wildcats’ plans for 2018 and beyond. Let’s start with the new coordinators, early word out of spring has DC Blake Seiler trying to bring a little disguise to the traditionally static K-State defense while OC Andre Coleman is making more significant changes.
TE Dayton Valentine is apparently done with football and although the Wildcats have some back-ups there that have played a lot, word is that Coleman envisions this offense being tweaked to get faster both in terms of personnel and tempo. This strikes me as something other than strategic wisdom.
Look around, Coleman, you ARE still in Kansas and you’re not surrounded by <4.7 athletes but by burly midwesterners who may be able to base block B12 DEs but aren’t going to run by B12 LBs. They also want to play with more tempo…which just sounds like a disaster for a team that has gained a major edge from shortening games and pounding opponents.
We’ll see how much actually changes on offense but in my estimation the best chance for K-State to win the B12 in 2018 is to keep on keeping on and hope that Alex Delton either stays healthy or that Skylar Thompson is ready to be a worthy spot starter in games that Delton misses.
Word trickling out on defense suggests my made-up depth chart which had AJ Parker and Duke Shelley at CB with Sam Sizelove at Mike, Elijah Sullivan at Sam, and Elijah Walker at nickel is pretty close, but nickel is unsettled. That’s becoming a very tricky spot for K-State to man, as I’ve noted multiple times in recent years, largely because it’s basically a CB/S hybrid position. The dude there needs to be able to carry verticals and play like a corner on one snap and then play the edge with some physicality the next.
We’ll see what they come up with. Then there’s always the question of Snyder’s succession. The impression that I get is that he’s going to hang around until they push him out so watch to see if the powers that be in Manhattan look to make a power move next fall/winter if things don’t come together for this team. If the Wildcats win nine games or so? Maybe everything is prolonged further.
One thing that’s tricky to suss out about Iowa State for this coming year is how much of their success late in the year basically consisted of Kyle Kempt throwing the ball at Allen Lazard and then the one big coup of Paul Rhoad’s recruiting career making something happen.
Kyle Kempt is back, as are some promising receivers like the 6-6 Hakeem Butler and speedy Deshaunte Jones who was promising in 2016 and injured in 2017 (ditto RB/WR Kene Nwangwu). But the trump card of “throw it at Lazard” is gone and you get the sense from Matt Campbell’s challenges issued to his OL that the Cyclones know that they need star RB David Montgomery to be their trump card in 2018 in order to continue to build on the program’s success.
It was obvious in 2016 that this coaching staff knew how to get the most out of their roster and you could see Iowa State playing with good fundamentals and tactics on D while taking some good shots on O. In 2017 they started to put some of it together while leading the breakthrough on dime defense in the league.
They’re losing some good players on defense from a year ago but returning enough guys, including some of the more promising talents like LB Marcel Spears, Jr, DE JaQuan Bailey, and NT Ray Lima that it seems likely that they’ll improve if anything in year three.
Beyond their schematic breakthrough, 2017 made clear that Iowa State was building a culture that was going to make more of the talent on campus and truly maximize the roster both in terms of development as individuals and deployment in creative schemes.
In my estimation, the big story for this team’s spring is the OL and TE positions. They’ve got a lot of young Campbell players stepping up into major roles there and if they can start to get his run game going with their inside zone and zone/fold plays going for Montgomery then they’ll be scoring some points next fall and taking advantage of what is a near-lock to be one of the league’s better defenses.
Power rankings as of now?
- Kansas State
- Iowa State
- Oklahoma State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech
I don’t like knocking the Frogs down and may change my mind but they’re losing a lot of important pieces and I don’t think a program built around development is going to chug along with another 9-10 win season with so many young players stepping into major roles. West Virginia has a lot of things that could break negatively for them on defense, but they also have Will Grier and Davis Stills.
Oklahoma State never slips too far although they have a lot on their plates to master right now. Iowa State seems to me like a team that could make another leap and surprise people, Kansas State is due to be good but I have concerns about Snyder’s investment level and some of these offensive changes. Oklahoma is everyone’s favorite and I understand why but I have real doubts that I’ll be checking into with this spring game. Texas is likely to have the best defense in the league and the offense could be both twice as good as last year (though that’s still not amazing) and they could win the league simply by virtue of toughness and depth (didn’t have the latter last year).
Kansas is going to be terrible again, they’re basically already looking for their next head coach. Tech seems to have a lot of hope invested in Jett Duffy not being indicted at some point before the fall. Baylor could breakthrough but they’re probably another year away.