After taking some time to look over my spring football notes, I'm ready to have a little fun. Most of the time, I try to just report what I see, but in today's piece, I'll be giving some opinions and handing out some awards.
Quarterback-Every time you think Dustin Grutza is ready to go quietly into the sideline as a back-up, he puts together a performance like he did last Saturday completing 16 of 22 passes for 109 yards. And most importantly for me, Dustin had no turnovers. I think many of his teammates really believe in him and respect the toughness he brings to the position, but will that be enough to keep the starting job in late August? Unlike others, I want to see Ben Mauk prove he's healthy before I go predicting Grutza will be on the sideline with a ball cap. After seeing the quarterbacks struggle with executing the offense this spring, I think it will be tough for freshmen Chazz Anderson and Zach Collaros to win the job.
back-I can say something positive about all five of the returnees. Glatthaar brings toughness and
Receiver-Every time people get hung up
on the star ratings for recruits, I think about the fact that Dominick Goodman
came pretty damn close to playing basketball at the
Tight End-Ben Guidugli made the most of his spring audition, but when summer practice starts, veterans Connor Barwin and Kazeem Alli are expected to return and compete for playing time. Plus, Earnest Jackson creates some match-up problems for that position. Marcus Waugh is a tough, great kid, but I'm not sure the staff knows what to do with him. I didn't see him get much playing time in the spring game.
Offensive Line-Until we see a group consistently get the job done, this group is a concern. The good news is there are some options. Jeff Linkenbach and Digger Bujnoch have experience at tackle and Khalil El-Amin looks healthy again. Ken Rodriquez had fallen out of sight by the old staff, but he's in the mix at guard along with Jeremy Bolton and Mario Duenas. Jon Tobin could also compete for a starting job after sitting out the spring. Trevor Canfield returns to one guard spot and will be tough to unseat with his size, toughness and experience. I think all the others are competing for that left guard spot. Chris Jurek seemed to be the leader at center after spring practice, but he will be challenged in August once again. Could Frank Becker make a push as a true freshman?
line-There is depth and experience in this group. Trevor Anderson and Terrill Byrd have
only gotten better, and they've been durable. The D-line loses Tony Carvitti, but Adam Hoppel is probably better suited for this defense anyway. Incumbent defensive end Anthony Hoke
will need to fight off a charge from Angelo Craig to keep his starting job. Ricardo Matthews, Chris Harrison, Jon Newton, Lamonte Nelms and Donnell McKenzie will also play. I can't ever remember a deeper or better
defensive line at
Linebackers-Anthony Williams was 2nd on the team in tackles (66) as a sophomore. Now as he heads into his senior season, he's a back-up to returning starters Leo Morgan and Corey Smith. Ryan Manalac will also see plenty of action either outside or inside, and Delbert Ferguson looks ready to contribute too. Andre "Popeye" Revels and Torry "I Come To Eat Everyday" Cornett are physical players pushing each other in the middle. I don't know who will be starting, but there's plenty of talent and depth here. I think we could even see Manalac in the middle, especially in passing situations.
Cornerback-Mike Mickens is a known commodity with great speed, and DeAngelo Smith is a heady player with exceptional hands. When Marshawn Gilyard returns, the Bearcats will have three excellent cover guys. Brad Jones is a notch or two behind the others but should continue to improve as he gets more experience.
Kicker-Jake Rogers looked really good all spring. Brandon Yingling also has a great leg, but missing most of spring practice hurt his cause. The biggest concern I have about this position is its lack of college game experience. Kickers can have a fragile psyche so I think it's important for whoever wins the job to get off to a good start.
Punter-I think Kevin Huber is ready. He's slowly gotten some experience, and he'll continue to have some shanks, but if they just keep putting him out there, he'll do very well.
Long Snapper-This will be an interesting battle to watch. Mike Windt will get some stiff competition from walk-ons Tom DeTemple of Moeller and Alex Apyan.
Biggest Offensive Surprise: Marcus Barnett. Barnett didn't academically qualify until after Camp Higher Ground last season so I didn't get the chance to see him. He's fast and very athletic.
Runner-Up: John Goebel. After being moved to safety last year and beginning the spring at receiver, the kid named after a beer returns to his best position. He'll make plays as a running back.
Biggest Defensive Surprise: Cedric Tolbert. Tolbert came to UC with a pretty good reputation. His freshman season he had to adjust to the college game and find a position. Last year, he was recovering from surgery and never seemed to hit his stride. He played well this spring and will be tough to unseat.
Runner-Up: Angelo Craig. I've been watching this kid for a few years now wondering when he would become a force. He's really close to being one.
Is it August yet?