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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.