As coach Barney Cotton sat down to answer questions during today's first press conference of the season, it didn't take long before the first question regarding the depth chart came out, this one pointed towards the naming of Josh Davis as the starting running back for Oklahoma State.
The naming of Davis shouldn't be a surprise if it is to some as the veteran has always been in the mix, as they say almost since his arrival. His work ethic this year though, while probably not much different than other years, it impressed Cotton and company to the point where he took the spot that was almost expected to be taken by Sophomore, David Horne. Davis did it the old fashioned way of course, he earned it. "He came to training camp with a real professional-business-like attitude." Cotton said of Davis. "He reported in great shape and graded out the best."
"From a coaches' standpoint, we felt he deserved the starting spot this first week."
The outcome to the running back position was in question all the way up to today when the final depth chart was released. At times, none of the coaches were willing to give an advantage to any, stating that all were ready and willing to do what it took to see the field. Cotton regarded the competition as just that, stating also that it was the intensity of that competition that made the entire backfield better overall. "That's what has made them all better." Cotton said of the competition. "We expect all three of those guys to play. Josh will get the start, but the competition has made them all better."
For Davis, being named starter is an obvious pleasure, but takes it all in stride. "We have had a lot of great I-backs ever since I have been here." Davis stated. "It's just a group of talent that's a real competitive spot and just to be number one at a school like this as prestigious as this school is, it's a real honor."
The honor might soon wear off for Davis though as he isn't just the number one I-back now, but also is the starter on punt returns and now, has been named the starter at kick returns as well. Josh will no doubt find himself leading the team by a wide-margin in regards to overall minutes played. One has to wonder if it's all just too much. "There's not too many guys that you see around they country play three different positions." Davis stated. "(But) Whatever you can do to help the team, you need to take it serious, go out there and help your team win."
"It's just going to be something where I am going to have to be ready to go."
Davis wasn't the only change in the depth chart as a variety of other positions saw slight shifts in their makeup.
- At QB, Joe Dailey is listed 3rd, the coaches indicating that his knowledge of the system at this time makes him logical to that spot. Dailey could see some snaps in the Oklahoma State game though, that of course depending on how the game goes.
- At WR, the entrance of true freshman, Andy Birkel finds itself behind Ross Pilkington as the second string wideout, the other wideout position staying the same, Jack O'Holleran starting ahead of Mark LeFlore.
- At TE, J.B. Phillips didn't hit the 3-deep, but is expected to suit up for this week's game and his playing this year is still up in the air, totally dependent on how he mentally grasps the game, because physically, he's apparently ready to step in.
- The same can be said for Greg Austin, who will also suit up this weekend for NU at Center, but isn't figured to play just yet.
- Donald DeFrand is listed 3rd at the RCB spot, his groin injury being the primary consideration there. Once he's 100 percent, it's expected that he will climb up to the top spot very quickly.
- Brandon Teamer moved onto the depth chart in dramatic fashion, finding himself listed ahead of the oft-injured, Seppo Evwaraye. Those injuries were no doubt a contributor in the decision, but coach Pelini stated that it was not the only factor. "He's been impressive." he said. "He's still raw and has a lot to learn, but the potential is there."
- Darren DeLone finds himself behind Dan Waldrop for the second spot at right tackle. DeLone is expected to contribute right away, but possibly in pass protection initially.
- David Dyches will be shadowing DeAngelis this season, DeAngelis expected to be the starter come OSU. While that would seem to have been determined, the person slated to do kickoffs have not. That person will most likely be determined in the remaining week before Oklahoma State comes to Lincoln.
- Wali Muhammad is the question mark now, not relating to ability, but health. Nursing a back problem, Muhammad will continue to remain a question. The status of his season could actually be an issue here, Muhammad though still having a redshirt year available to him.
- Other players expected to suit up this weekend will be Tierre Green and Bo Ruud.
Consistent with their methodology and mind-set thus far, the coaches left no indication that there would be any set starters. Even the noteworthy accomplishment of Josh Davis taking the starting spot is looked at as a "this week" situation, that likely to change without notice, at least to the public. "I certainly expect it to be an on-going competition." Barney Cotton said. "I know that David and Cory both think of themselves as starting I-backs and rightfully so."
"I don't have a crystal ball, but this competition should remain fierce throughout the season."
If you had a crystal ball, your questions would more than likely span far beyond just the depth chart, but there's little doubt that you had your ideas on the who, what, when, where and why of it all, regarding what players fit where.
With that issue resolved, at least to a certain extent, the coaches are looking to the future. About 4 days into the future to be exact and we'll bring you their comments about Oklahoma State, the potent-threesome of Fields, Bell and Woods, plus check out the RED ZONE for all kinds of sound bytes from today's press conference with players and coaches alike.
-Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619