Grading the Wildcats

Fall camp starts in less than a week. Except for glimpses here and there, I haven't really seen the progress the team has made in the off-season. We'll have a lot better idea on how this team will be until after fall practice starts, but here is how the team shapes up coming out of spring camp.

QUARTERBACK
Production C  Depth: B+ Potential: B

There is a ton of potential here. Kris Heavner showed flashes of brilliance last year, while Nic Costa, Ryan O'Hara and Richard Kovalcheck were all top-20 recruits. Now the group has to live up to the hype. As a unit they have far more picks than touchdown passes and they have just two collegiate wins.

RUNNING BACK
Production A-  Depth: C Potential: A

Mike Bell is as good as there is in the Pac-10, but after that there are a ton of questions. Chris Henry has the size and power coaches crave. Gilbert Harris has made the switch from fullback to halfback. Chris Harris returns from a year off, but has never carried the ball in a college game. The Cats moved Gainus Scott and Brent Bolden to defense and they did not add a running back in the class.

WIDE RECEIVER
Production B-  Depth: A Potential: B+

A whole lot of potential in this unit. Biren Ealy has shown flashes, while Ricky Williams has become a reliable receiver. Michael Jefferson had a very nice spring and all eyes will be on the El Paso native as he tries to live up to the hype he had coming out of high school. Anthony Johnson is a big, physical receiver who has a load of upside, while Ryan Eidson and Syndric Steptoe are speedy, but small. Bobby McCoy and Gerold Rodriguez should contend for playing time as true freshmen.

TIGHT END
Production B  Depth: B Potential: A

Steve Fleming could be a huge weapon in the new offense. Charles McRae is a good blocker, while Ryan Kilpatrick is a skilled athlete. Newcomers Travis Bell, Justin Walsh and Brad Wood could all fight for a back-up spot.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Production C  Depth: B Potential: B

The line has been hampered by injuries, but is as deep and as healthy as it has been in years. Brandon Phillips, Chris Johnson and Keoki Fraser give the group three seniors who have been in the program a combined 16 years. The young players all have great size and have played quite a bit. The team also brings in five true freshmen along with a redshirt freshman to add depth.

DEFENSIVE END

Production B-  Depth: B Potential: B+

Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan have been productive players. Andre Torrey is coming off a great spring. Lionel Dotson was a prized signee a year ago, while Jonathan Turner is a late jewel in the 2004 class. There is a lot of potential here, but the unit needs to really perform after amassing just 8.5 sacks a year ago.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Production C-  Depth: D Potential: C+

This unit has been thin for years and 2004 will be no different. Carlos Williams and Paul Phillip return, but neither are the massive run stoppers the team desires. Brad Brittain provided experienced depth, but after that the unit is young. Yaniv Barnett and Chris Kolone will be pressed into service and after that all you have is walk-ons.

LINEBACKER

Production C  Depth: B Potential: B+

This is a unit full of new faces. Pat Howard and Kirk Johnson are seniors, but after that you have all underclassmen and newcomers. JC transfer Randy Sims did not play much in the spring, but impressed when he did see the field and could start. Young Dane Krogstad, John McKinney, Akin Akinnyi and James Alford will battle with converted fullback Sean Jones to challenge the seniors for playing time.

CORNER BACK

Production I  Depth: C Potential: B

Only seniors Zeonte Sherman and Luis Nunez have played D-I football. JC transfers Kiel McDonald and Dramayne McElroy should battle with redshirt frosh Wilrey Fontenot for the starting corner spots. True freshmen B.J.Dennard and Antoine Cason will also be in the mix.

SAFETY

Production B  Depth: B Potential: A

Lamon Means and Darrell Brooks have been standout performers for an otherwise lackluster defense the past two seasons. Tony Wingate is back in the mix after a great spring and Marcus Hollingsworth has shown great ability. Michael Klyce and Dominic Patrick may not be needed, but could still push for time.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Production F  Depth: C  Potential: B

Nick Folk has never made a collegiate field goal. Danny Baugher has been wildly inconsistent over the past two years, but has a huge leg. Ben DalMolin's return to the program is a blessing. True freshman Jason Bondzio and a pair of walk-ons provide kicking depth. Coordinator Joe Robinson has a huge task ahead of him, but has been a terrific special teams coach at all his prior stops.


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