Fall camp notes around the B12

I thought I’d accumulate some notes accumulating around the league from fall camps and give some commentary.

Big questions for most teams include:

-Can they overstress a defense with two dominant features?

-Do they have effective leadership at QB?

-Can their defense attack opponents or are they going to have to turtle up and pray that injuries don’t crush them?

Baylor

The most interesting thing I’ve heard from Baylor’s camp so far, beyond the inevitable exodus of players from the previous regime or the massive initial classes that are realizing there isn’t much room on the depth chart for them, is that they’re experimenting with MLB Clay Johnston at DE.

I’ve noted repeatedly that DE is the crucial position in this defense and in modern four-down teams that have to face spread offenses. The Bears don’t have any DEs to scare anyone so they have to experiment with their bigger, better LBs at that spot. Phil Bennett actually used Clay Johnston as an OLB in their “big dime” package back in 2016 and he played well there. He’s one of the only guys that the staff has to work with who has the necessary size and athleticism to be a disruptor in the box.

Baylor looks decent on questions 1 & 2 if Jalen Hurd proves to be anything close to what some of the articles about him have said he’ll be. Charlie Brewer can be an effective leader at QB as well if they can keep him healthy with their OL. The D looks like they’ll be in turtle mode though.

TCU

In that vein, while L.J. Collier has gotten more ink you should probably expect Ty Summers to play a fair amount of DE for TCU this coming year. Patterson noted recently that against “read-option” teams the Frogs are much better off having guys that can attack the mesh and run than a bigger DL on the field. Summers is a much better approximate of Mat Boesen (or even upgrade) than L.J. Collier.

The Frogs will probably be able to get after opponents some with Banogu and some other talents back on defense, especially if Summers can own that opposite DE spot, which he probably can. Their questions are mostly about leadership/infrastructure on offense. They have lots of weapons to overstress defenses but can they wield them with a young QB and OL?

Kansas State

Snyder’s crew elected Alex Delton “primary” team captain along with fourth-year starting OL Dalton Risner. Old Bill hasn’t been eager to tip his hand about who the man behind center will be but last year’s performances, their relative skill sets, and most reports out of practice have seemed to indicate that it’ll indeed be Delton.

His hangup has always been the passing game, where he’s improved, while his running and leadership of the offense have never really been in question and have grown stronger with timeAnother big story was Snyder’s contract extension, at this point I think they’re just going to wait for him to stumble and try to push him out or else keep chugging along. It’s not obvious that the admin should be in any rush to push him out, what’s there to lose? A chance at Jim Leavitt? Big deal, the odds that he’s going to improve on what Snyder has done are pretty minimal. Worried about losing recruiting momentum? There’s rarely any to speak of anyways.

Meanwhile, as long as they keep Snyder going they can also allow his young assistants to show their wares and potentially provide some infrastructure for a future hire to work with since the next guy at K-State probably doesn’t want to try and reinvent the wheel completely from what has worked under Bill.

The only other story is that Dalvin Warmack has been getting some action in a hybrid role and there’s hope that he’ll finally become the kind of Darren Sproles water bug that K-State has often relied on in the past.

So K-State has lots of weapons, particularly with the two-man games they can create with Delton + Alex Barnes or Delton + perimeter game to Warmack. Leadership shouldn’t be an issue either, their issues are similar to Baylor’s in that they have a D that looks like it may have to spend significant time in turtle mode.

Oklahoma

Word around Norman has been kinda quiet other than big picture convos like “will Kyler Murray be all in on football?” Or, “are the Sooners underrated?”

There is word that Dashaun White has looked good at LB, no surprise there since he looked good in HS, and that this is allowing them to experiment with playing Jon-Michael Terry at Jack OLB. I’m pretty agnostic both on OU getting OLB play that can match what Obo Okoronkwo or OU getting good ILB play this coming year.

I think this coming season for OU opponents will largely come down to “can you block Neville Gallimore and Amani Bledsoe?” If yes, you’re going to have a good day. If not, you’re going to need to get creative.

Obviously I’m on the side of having real doubts about the leadership on the OU offense (and greater team) due to the departure of Baker Mayfield along with center Erik Wren, LT Orlando Brown, and then Dmitri Flowers and Mark Andrews. Their D isn’t prone to “turtle mode” even if they can’t attack opponents so they may be more of a “boom or bust” unit, obviously I’ve stated that I think “bust” is going to be common.

West Virginia

Finally we have this little interesting note buried on the WVU defense that suggests they could use a 4-2-5 alignment more this season.

I’m guessing that means playing an OLB outside in a 9-technique and maybe bumping the DL from time to time. The Mountaineers have always been a team that tends to shift into a traditional, eight-man front style look anyways on standard downs so getting into a 4-2-5 look more regularly and earlier in the play isn’t a big departure from their normal deal. Sounds like they’re just trying to either make use of this 240 pound walk-on Sam Shea Campbell on the edge or else try and get their DL in position to attack half a man rather than working heads up across from OL.

West Virginia has lots of good receivers, leadership with an experienced OL and Will Grier, they’ll probably be at least pretty good in the run game, it’s the D again that’s the question. It sounds like Tony Gibson knows it’s on him and is going to experiment to find some lineups that can get stops, whether they have the horses up front or not is far from obvious. Best bet is to split the difference between what we saw last year (a bad front) and reports out of camp (we’re good now!).

Across the league, there hasn’t been anything from fall camp yet to move the needle in terms of my expectations for the coming year.

22 Comments

  1. System Poster

    My optimism on Tech’s season has taken a big hit with word out of camp that Duffey hasn’t been able to take hold of the starting job, and the staff is leaning towards true freshman Bowman. But I assume that doesn’t move your needle much because your expectations for Tech were already pretty low.

    • ianaboyd

      Right, the word that would have persuaded me to reconsider was Duffey looking great. I don’t think Kingsbury can build a B12-winning unit without a QB that can approach the kinds of things Johnny did for the Aggie run game. Mahomes was an absolute magician and they still couldn’t win more than like, six games? The D will be better than it was for Mahomes but the O might be much worse.

      I like Bowman a lot I just don’t see him being an upgrade over senior Shimonek or a guy that can really move the dial enough.

      • System Poster

        I don’t even think he needs a Johnny-level rusher; he just needs somebody that can competently execute the read option so that the offense doesn’t bog down in the red zone. His 2015 Tech offense, like his 2012 A&M offense, was 1st in rushing S&P (and first in overall S&P) with Pat rushing for only 450 yards. What that offense had was a couple of playmakers in Jakeem Grant and DeAndre Washington, a solid, veteran offensive line, and very good but not great quarterback play. Sure, Pat showed flashes throughout the season of what he was evolving into, but most of the time he played like a talented but very inexperienced sophomore.

        • ianaboyd

          Oh yeah, but Washington made that run game work with Johnny-like quicks. The point is you need that between the tackles threat to keep teams from overloading the perimeter and deep zones.

  2. Travis

    I think Baylor will use Johnston at DE situationally. The defense needs good DEs, but it also needs a stud LB who can read and react. Johnson was on his way to that last year. I think he’ll be a damned-good MIKE.

    Baylor has nothing proven at DE, but several intriguing options. They took a LB last year, sophomore 6-1 220 lb Deonte Williams (same size as Johnston) and moved him to DE early in the season, and he looked pretty good until he got injured. Then there is Senior 6-3 220lb Xavier Jones who had 2 TFL and 1.5 sacks in 3 games before breaking his leg. And true sophomore BJ Thompson who you were very high on as a recruit but still needs to put on weight.

    All to say no proven options, but I think Baylor has more options at DE than at MIKE LB and it’d be better for the team for Johnston to own that position, primarily.

    • ianaboyd

      DE is the more crucial spot than Mike LB. Will LB is important but Johnston doesn’t figure there, teams attack the edge in the spread and throw lots of blocks and options at the DE so that’s where you have to win in order to set the table for the rest of your defense.

      If all those other guys are showing well at DE then why would they move Johnston there on third down? That suggests that the best case scenario is that those guys are solid on run downs but they aren’t bringing the kind of pass rush Baylor needs to get after opponents.

      • Travis

        No that’s exactly right. The comment was made in the effect of “we are trying to find our 4 best pass rushers for pass rushing situations and so we’re trying him out down there.”

          • Travis

            Fair enough. Just pointing out that 3 of the 4 guys on 2 deep are essentially new options for this year. Lockhart a transfer from A&M, Williams and Jones back from season-ending injuries. Will they be any good? No clue.

            I was just trying to point out that Baylor has more options at DE than they do at MIKE. Johnston might be better at DE, but it might make the team marginally worse. Moving positions is always about tradeoffs, never in a vacuum.

  3. Josh

    Ian, I’ll default to your knowledge in regards to the importance of the weak side DE rusher in Snow’s system. But unless Baylor’s safeties learn to tackle and take proper angles, the point is moot.

    • ianaboyd

      Right, but it’s really hard to play safety and take good angles to the ball that result in tackles if the DEs provide inconsistent table setting at the point of attack to funnel the ball to the right places.

  4. Clayton Davis

    For the Sooners, I am guessing that the emergence of Kenneth Mann will make a bigger difference than DaShaun White, especially early in the season. I am hearing a lot more about Mann than White overall. Murray, too, has looked good in camp, apparently.

  5. Will

    I saw the same note on WVU breaking out the 4-2-5. In addition to finding playing room for Campbell (who is reportedly just a bigger Justin Arndt, which is an awesome thing to exist), they have a couple athletic DEs that could probably stand up on a play or two as needed (Ezekial Rose returned a kick last year and Gibson said the younger Stills brother “weighs 290 but runs like he’s 240). They also have lots of guys (4, counting Bigelow, Robinson, older Stills and maybe Pooler) they think they can plug in on the inside too.

    Meanwhile, they are paper thin at LB right now. So I think it makes a lot of sense in terms of getting your best 11 on the field. Assuming they can teach the new alignment without play in the 3-3-5 base suffering.

    • ianaboyd

      This Shea Campbell seems like a key piece. If he’s really as good and mobile as Justin Arndt while at 240 and that expression doesn’t just mean “he’s a walk-on who plays hard” then that’s huge.

      • Will

        Hard to say. They are both WV natives so it can be hard to sit through the noise.

        He’s a former safety that’s added 31 pounds since coming to campus. The articles suggest he was never fast enough to play safety and too small to play at LB. No clear indication as to whether he has maintained his speed and agility while bulking up. He’ll be on special teams a lot this year but I’m not really sure how much that speaks to his athleticism.

        If I see a more thorough scouting report, I’ll pass it along.

        • ianaboyd

          I did some reading on my own, kinda sounds like a guy who’s worthy of playing that the media is excited about because he’s a local.

          Not a 4.6 athlete they’re gonna unleash in a featured hybrid role ala Bobby Carpenter.

          • Will

            That’s my takeaway too. The only indication that there might be more there is that Gibson makes the comparison himself. Arndt came completely out of nowhere, maybe Campbell can too.

            But even if he’s a backup/special teams guy, it’s a win to get that out of a local walk-on. Holgo and Gibson have gotten a good amount of value out of West Virginia walk ons the last few years, mostly on defense.

          • ianaboyd

            Appreciate that, as well as you reading the blog!

            I’m hoping to have something in the coming month or so for anyone that loves to read up on B12 history and content.

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