2019 Training Camp IV - Saturday's Practice
There's basically one bad outcome for this camp, in my view: the defense dominating the offense. We know where these units stood at the end of last season: offense, middle of the road. Defense, one of the worst (if not the worst) in Power Five football.
In fact, let's put some numbers to that using the S&P+. The offense finished 70th nationally out of 130 teams. The defense finished 115th out of 130 teams, with Oregon State being the only P5 conference team to finish lower in the defense category. So yeah, middle of the road and one of the worst.
On a team that brings everyone back, let's just randomly say that you want a 32 spot improvement. You pass one-quarter of the 130 teams because you returned almost everyone. That would be the offense moving up to 38th and the defense moving up to 83rd. Doesn't have to be those exact numbers, but that's the gist.
If that's the case, in no way should the defense be dominating the offense two days into camp. Yes, it's early, but this is certainly not the #38 offense against the #83 defense. Sure, maybe the defense has made a massive improvement and they'll leap from the second-worst offense in P5 football to one of the top 20 defenses. But if that's not the case (and I don't think that's the case), then we have some offensive issues. Especially when you consider that the defense got the better of the offense this spring. The defense dominating is not a good thing.
Now, it's early. WAYYY early. And these are bump drills where the quarterback can't be touched and the running backs are down if you just lay a hand on them. Dre Brown had one run that probably goes for 35 yards but ended after four because someone reached out and swiped at his shirt (a tackle he would have easily broken).
They also get shoulder pads for the first time tomorrow, which always seems to help the OL/DL battles for some reason. Once they go to full pads next week, maybe the offense gets on a roll. It's August 3rd and the first game isn't until August 31st.
Still, I don't really want to see the defense dominating the offense. Interception after interception after interception is a net negative. I want to see a defense that is "showing signs" and an offense that looks dominant at times. I haven't seen it yet.
But I'll keep looking.
+ One of the bigger issues, I think (I hope) is that the offensive line was missing a tackle each day. Not for injury reasons - Vederian Lowe had a summer school final to take yesterday and Palcho had a summer school final today. Yesterday Jordyn Slaughter filled in for Lowe and today Jake Cerny filled in for Palcho. There was.. a dropoff.
That's not really an insult to Cerny or Slaughter. It's tough to be The New Guy on a line that has so many starts next to each other. There are going to be communication errors. It's best to get them out of the way now instead of after one of the inevitable ankle injuries during the season. The point: without a starting tackle each day, I think the line struggled a bit.
Hopefully that changes tomorrow. If Palcho and Lowe are both back in the lineup and the shoulder pads are on, maybe we'll see an untouched run or two (like we saw all of last season). Fingers crossed.
+ Lovie seems focused on the middle linebackers. When they went to individual drills today (position breakouts), that's who Lovie was working with. First stringer was Dele Harding, backup was freshman Tarique Barnes (innnteresting), third string was walkon Alec McEachern (who was my spring "hey this walkon might play" guy).
That means Shammond Cooper was working at outside linebacker, which seems right. His best asset is his speed (still needs to add bulk), so maybe WLB or even SLB is the spot for him. (Or maybe he's a MLB tomorrow and I'm just writing about one practice.)
It will be interesting to see how the linebacker rotation works out. I think four spots are nailed down with a fifth mostly nailed down. Dele Harding is the MLB and Jake Hansen is the WLB and then there's a battle between Milo Eifler and Delano Ware for SLB (both will play a lot). Pretty sure sophomore Khalan Tolson will be Hansen's backup at WLB, but it could be one of the freshmen (is this where Cooper fits in?). And then the MLB backup, at least for today, was Tarique Barnes. Perhaps Cooper enters that race as well.
+ Kicking battle seemed to go to Caleb Griffin today. James McCourt, who was solid yesterday, had something every golfer fears: the Big Right Miss. It's always lurking. We'll call him Icarito.
That battle goes right up until the final week, I'm guessing.
+ Still no Stanley Green or Kievan Myers at camp. I asked Lovie afterwards and here as transcript of my recording:
RR: "I haven't seen Stanley Green out here - can you give an update on him?"
LS: "He's not with the football team yet. Hopefully he'll be coming back with us soon."
RR: "Same with Kievan Myers?"
LS: "Everybody who's not here has got something that caused them not to be. Eventually they'll be right back out here."
Read of that what you will.
+ If right guard is still a position battle (and I think it is - Petitbon is the likely winner but I don't think it's over yet), and if they're still shuffling players on the defensive line, then I think the only part of the team that has a finalized two-deep is the back seven of the defense. Wide receiver will be a crazy battle all through camp, quarterback will be a battle, we know the running backs but not the order... it's pretty much just the back seven. I think it will be:
WLB: Hansen | Tolson/Cooper
MLB: Harding | Barnes
SLB: Ware -OR- Eifler
CB: Hobbs | N. Walker
FS: Adams | Joseph
SS: S. Brown | S. Green
CB: Martin | Beason
Depending on when Stanley Green returns from being "not with the football team", I guess Sydney Brown's backup is still an open battle (probably Michael Marchese in that case?), but other than that, I think we know which numbers we'll see on the field in the back seven.
+ Tomorrow is the first day where they can put shoulder pads on. So hopefully we see practice, ahem, pick up a little bit.