So that area needed adjusting before work began…but not a lot afterwards as rising star Chris Jones and Nelson Adams settled in as spring first-teamers. Only when C.Jones had to miss a few days with a wrenched thumb did the lineup change and that only briefly. Depth was impacted further when redshirt Trent Simpson got hurt mid-camp though this only altered the bottom of the spring chart. Inserting the returning seniors atop their tackle positions tells what this side will look like come August.
The offensive line also began camp short-handed but only by one as OG Justin Malone was held out almost entirely to protect that still-recovering major foot injury. Since Malone is something of a known quantity it did not impact practices as much as might be expected, and certainly benefitted true sophomore Jamaal Clayborn. With senior Ben Beckwith staying at right guard up to the last week Clayborn got to take practically all first-team snaps at left guard and accelerate his development.
The big shake-up came at the end of week-three when senior OC Dillon Day went down with a left arm injury. He missed the second scrimmage and spring game as well as three other practices. Up to then, former guard Archie Muniz had run second center with a still-unidentified walk-on as the third. When Day was sidelined things changed most interestingly and maybe tellingly too.
Muniz did not move up to first center, instead Beckwith moved over to do most number-one offense snapping. And while Devon Desper stepped up at right guard he would also take some center snaps as well, which was his projected position coming out of high school. Observers at scrimmages and spring game had to notice a lot of high hikes from all backup centers and though they got a little lower and more accurate by the finale Coach Dan Mullen bluntly said Day must stay healthy this coming season. The positive however is that at least come preseason the base rotation of two centers and three guards is a little clearer to everyone. And of course guards and centers are expected to be interchangeable in games if injuries pop up.
Those looking for major moves in the offensive and defensive skill positions had to be bored this spring. Other than trying to track shifting combinations of wide receivers there wasn't a lot to note. This also brings the cautionary note: do not read the following charting as an indicator of who will and won't play at receiver(s). Or even who would start games for that matter. As the 2014 offense takes shape the base is a three-wides approach with constant rotations so everyone has a role. Actually it is a four-man rotation since the ‘fast' tight ends are included, more often than not in one slot.
Linebackers, safeties, and corners remained reasonably settled all spring. The one fresh twist came in the last week-and-half when Mississippi State showed the nickel set and it wasn't an extra safety entering. Instead second-team cornerback Will Redmond became the fifth defensive back and certainly looked comfortable as a ‘safety'. This is not new for a Dog defense of course; two years ago it was corner Corey Broomfield playing nickel since the corners were taken by Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. But Coleman brings more muscle to this position with no lack of speed. Plus, the move of 2013 corner Justin Cox to first team spring safety makes for a most flexible nickel set that should be able to handle passing plays or surprise runs with equal efficiency.
As to team health going into summer, Day's injury was the headliner but there seems no concerns he will be ready to go in 2014. #2 MLB Richie Brown took a real shot the day before spring game and missed it but the ringing will cease soon. Reserve MLB and special teams regular LB Christian Holmes was hurt the last week, missing the game with an arm in sling. LB Ferlando Bohnanna has all summer to decide if he wants to try playing a senior season as he copes with 2013 concussion effects.
Two other uncertain situations involve former jucos. Spring enrollee OL Jocquell Johnson struggled for a couple of weeks to progress at left guard, then missed the last two weeks with an unidentified health issue. Of course a redshirt might benefit the juco, if guard depth appears up to the 2014 need. The status of senior WR Jeremy Chappelle is curious as he did not report to practice or scrimmage for the last two-plus weeks, though no one thought to ask following the spring game where the former transfer was. That also reflected how impressive freshman CB-turned-WR Gabe Myles was as a slot receiver, too.
Mullen and staff ‘banked' one of the 15 allotted practice dates for use this week to follow-up on spring game and camp results, as well as issue instructions for how the Bulldogs are to finish their semester and prepare for the short summer. This taken care of the coaches can focus more on spring recruiting, arranging underclassman camps, and come May even take some breaks. Mullen will be making the regional rounds too on the May meetings of alumni and fans.
OBSERVED END OF SPRING DEPTH CHART (*injured or contact limited) LEFT TACKLE: Blaine Clausell, Cole Carter, Justin Senior
LEFT GUARD: Jamaal Clayborn, Kent Flowers, *Jocquell Johnson
CENTER: *Dillon Day, Ben Beckwith, Archie Muniz, Devon Desper, #68 walk-on
RIGHT GUARD: Ben Beckwith, Devon Desper, Jake Thomas, Rodney Lacy, *Justin Malone
RIGHT TACKLE: Damien Robinson, Rufus Warren, Jake Thomas
SLOT TIGHT END: Malcolm Johnson, Brandon Hill, Gus Walley, B.J. Hammond
TIGHT END: Artimas Samuel, Lawrence Brown, B.J. Hammond
RUNNING BACK: Josh Robinson, Nick Griffin, Ashton Shumpert, Brandon Holloway, Trey Braswell, Van Lee.
BLOCKING BACK: Ashton Shumpert
QUARTERBACK: Dak Prescott, Damian Williams, Nick Fitzgerald, Josiah Phillips
WIDE RECEIVERS: Robert Johnson, Fred Brown, Joe Morrow.
SLOT RECEIVERS: Jameon Lewis, Gabe Myles, *Jeremy Chappelle
WIDE RECEIVERS: De'Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross, Shelby Christy, Kareem Vance
LEFT END: Ryan Brown, Torrey Dale, #90 walk-on
LEFT TACKLE: Nelson Adams, Nick James, Jordan Washington, *P.J. Jones
RIGHT TACKLE: Chris Jones, Curtis Virges, *Trent Simpson, *Kaleb Eulls
RIGHT END: Preston Smith, A.J. Jefferson, John Harris
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Matthew Wells, Zach Jackson, Quadry Antoine
MIDDLE LINEBACKER: Benardrick McKinney, Richie Brown, Kelan Chairs, *Christian Holmes
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Beniquez Brown, Dezmond Harris, Deandre Ward, *Ferlando Bohanna
SAFETY: Justin Cox, Deontay Evans, Brandon Wells
SAFETY: Kendrick Market, Kivon Coman, Tyrell Miller, *Jay Hughes
LEFT CORNERBACK: Taveze Calhoun, Will Redmond, Tolando Cleveland
RIGHT CORNERBACK: Jamerson Love, Cedric Jiles, Jahmere Irvin-Sills, Brandon Davis
PUNTER: Devon Bell, Cortland Daws
PLACEKICKER: Evan Sobiesk, Westin Graves
PUNT RETURN: Jameon Lewis, Brandon Holloway, Will Redmond, Cedric Jiles, Gabe Myles
KICKOFF RETURN PAIRS: Jameon Lewis/Robert Johnson, Will Redmond/Justin Cox, Josh Robinson/Fred Brown