Post NAU observations

Okay, everyone loved the 45-point outing against NAU, but I, like everyone else, feel that we really didn't learn much about the Wildcats from a blowout win against a IAA team. Although there have been no real answers, I do feel like I have a better feel for this team.

Position by position breakdown:

Quarterback: You can't take a whole lot from a win over a team that is inferior at about every position. Tuitama had a lot of time to throw and make decisions, so that part of his game is still up in the air.

What I did like is that with the odd exception, Tuitama made good decisions. He did not throw into bad coverage, he did not check down to the safe receiver when others were open. He made good, smart decisions and found mismatches. I did not like the streak of seven straight incompletions midway through the first quarter and there were times he held the ball a long time because the NAU pass rush was non-existent. I also felt he looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket. The few times there was pressure he didn't panic. He'd either step up in the pocket or sidestep the rush. He never panicked or quickly dumped off to the short receiver when other options were available.

Running backs: This was the most interesting position of the night. Although Chris Jennings got the start, he only got one carry and his night was basically done early in the second half. The game essentially became an audition for Nicholas Grigsby and Xavier Smith.

Both runners were impressive, but I really liked what I saw from Smith. He showed an instinct and feel for the game he had not previously shown in limited action. Although he's a north-south runner, he did a very nice finding openings, even when they weren't where the play was expected to be. His ability to change directions is very promising.

Promise is exactly what Grigsby showed. Of the three Wildcat runners, Grigsby appears to have the best homerun ability. He has speed, shiftiness and appears to have that extra gear that great runners possess. I thought that Grigsby was the recipient of some of Sonny Dykes' more creative play calling, including a couple of quick pitches. Although he has not maximized his potential, he does look worthy of the praise that Stoops and Co. heaped upon him since signing day.

Wide Receivers: Although this group has yet to prove it against a quality team, I am very excited about their potential. Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner will be factors before it is all said and done, while it was very good to see the Cats get Anthony Johnson involved.

The real story may have been Mike Thomas. "Money Mike" was not only a top receiver, but was used on a number of running plays. Mike Stoops indicated that Thomas will see many more carries as a normal part of the new spread offense.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski looked very good, catching three balls including a touchdown, but he's just scratching the surface. The Cats have yet to make him a focal point of the game planning as he attempts to further learn the offense and the staff tries to further learn exactly what his abilities are.

Offensive Line: I have to admit, I am still a bit worries about the line. While they protected very well on pass plays, they never blew the NAU defensive line off the line of scrimmage on run plays. This will never be the most physical line, but they should have been able to get a yard on two runs while deep in the redzone.

Collin Baxter got his first start at left guard, while Daniel Borg appears to be the super sub, being able to spell players at a variety of positions.

Defensive Line: The group did great against the run, but their three sacks is still not enough for me. They should have been able to dominate the NAU line, but were merely good at rushing the passer.

In an interesting twist, Louis Holmes was occasionally used as a pass rushing linebacker, a few times lining up over center.

Defensive Backs:
The pass coverage was very good and their ability to tackle after the catch was fantastic. There were very few yards after catch available for the Lumberjack receivers.

Corey Hall got the start at nickel back and had the hit of the night, but Devin Ross also saw a lot of time. The Wildcat coaches wanted to get his speed and coverage ability on the field, as well as getting him some good work without pulling either cornerback.


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