I'm not sure...Offense:
First off, I was not amused when Zach Strief went down with his ankle injury. If there has been one or two constants this Spring, its Zach at Left Tackle. Every time we wrote down the offensive line numbers, #63 was at left tackle, wrestling with #66 DE Loren Howard. Then Zach was lying the ground groaning.
I understand that his ankle was sprained, still serious, but he should be able to resume working out in a few weeks. While Zach was lying on the ground he was in obvious pain, but when they got him on the golf cart, he gave a thumbs up to the rest of the O-Line.
So with that here are a few impressions of the Spring Scrimmage:
1. The Offensive Line situation is indeed "fluid." While riding up to Evanston, I sketched out a rough list of O-Line starters:
|#63 Zach Strief
[So 6-7 335]
|#60 Ike Ndukwe
[Jr 6-5 325]
|#64 Matt Ulrich
[Jr 6-2 305]
|#65 Bill Newton
[Jr 6-7 310]
|#79 Rick McDole
[Fr 6-6 320]
Now seriously, this isn't a bad group, but I came up with this without talking to anyone since Ulrich had moved over to Center This is one big, if not experienced Offensive line.Defense
You bring back last year's starter at Left Tackle, Trai Essex [6-4 280] and the injured Joe Tripodi [6-3 280], Scott Crohn [6-0 270] and Vince Clarke [6-5 300] and the Cats start to get a little depth. Jim Devine [6-2 280], while he had some trouble getting the snaps off early in the spring, figures to be the backup center going into Kenosha. Then factor in some of the other guys - Greg Lutzen [6-4 270], and Donnie Baskin [6-2 295] and it appears that NU will have enough bodies to fill a 2 deep, unless someone gets seriously injured.
So back to the Spring Scrimmage: it was like musical chairs with Streif holding down Left Tackle [until he got hurt], and Lutzen working the right guard slot. Ndukwe did play a lot of Left Guard, so did Donnie Baskin. McDole and Newton are both recorded as playing Right Tackle. Unlike last year, we sure couldn't figure out who was first and second team with the exception of Ulrich and Strief. The bottom line is that once everyone gets back in playing form at Kenosha, we'll probably have a decent group of starters, and a couple of guys who could pitch in and play regularly, but I doubt you could ask any of the offensive coaches to name all starting 5 right now.
2. After watching the 2 quarterbacks, I'd expect to see both Brett Basanez and Alexander Webb play a lot this Fall. Brett is the leader and it would be difficult to sit him down unless he's hurt, but if he falters during a game, expect to see Webb in there, and being successful. There's a story going around that Randy Walker really likes Webb but Brett continues to out play him. Basanez was 8 of 17 for 83 yards and a TD, Webb was 10 of 19 for 118 and 2 TDs; I'd say we could have a controversy this Fall.
3. I really wonder why Ray Bogenrief didn't play Tight End earlier. He had 3 catches for 3 yards, but they were all over the middle and hurried. If he had taken another step before getting the ball on a couple of them, he would have broken for more yardage, like he did earlier in the Spring.
4. Jason Wright is "the guy," but Noah Herron is the runner the safeties will learn to fear. Both run with confidence and will run over d-backs. Then there's Derrell Jenkins. Jeff Backes is fast on punt returns, but we say Jenkins slip through a crowd of defenders on one early kick [when they were still getting organized on the puntin team] for a bunch of yards. This guy is like quicksilver.
5. We will have just as many good receivers in 2003 as we had in 2002. Z Rcvr Roger Jordan was 6 for 70 yds - 2 TDs, X Rcvr Mark Philmore was 1 for 26 and a TD, the other Z Rcvr, Ashton Aikens was 4 for 51.
6. The down side? - too many sacks, and the O couldn't move during the 2 minute drill.
1. These guys are flying to the ball. They enjoy playing DC Greg Colby's attacking defense, and they show it. They are going to get burned from time to time because they are so aggressive, but my humble opinion is that NU isn't going to get run over this Fall like we did.Special Teams
2. Your D-Line will consist of Loren Howard [6-4 270] and Barry Cofield [6-4 280] at DE, Louis Castillo [ 6-4 290] and Colby Clark [at DT. Both the DE's had sacks during the scrimmage, Howard had 2.
3. NU is still running out of a 4-3 base defense, but it can change to a 3-4 or a 3-3-5 in an instant. The D changes personnel after almost every play and they will eventually mess up any schemes an OC can throw at them. The do a lot of jumping and charging around. It won't be dull and very predictible in 2003.
4. Jeff Backes is doing a very good job at Right Corner. I'd guess that he's won the spot. He made a couple of hits on receivers that knocked the ball loose.
5. What does get a smile on Walker's face is when you mention that there were 3 really good Linebackers from last year wearing sweat clothes, unable to play. Pat Durr was apparently itching to get in, but wasn't allowed to risk another injury. Ryan Peterson and Eric VanDerHorst are still a little tender and probably won't be ready until Kenosha. Even so, NU is pretty deep at Linebacker, which allows the 3-4 scheme to have a lot of promise. Tim McGarigle had a sack during the scrimmage, and come Fall you'll see a lot of blitzing inside by the backers, and outside by safeties. OLB Braden Jones had 2 sacks during the game.
You'll also see Safeties coming up and playing like a linebacker in that 3-3-5 set.
1. The other position battle will be for place kicker. Slade Larscheid and Joel Howells kicked over 50%. Yeah it should be better, but last year we didn't do that well.And the final question?
2. Brian Huffman will again do the punting, unless he gets killed by the punt defense team. That unit puts up a ferocious rush and Brian barely got some of the punts off in time. The defense was not supposed to block any punts so its hard to say just how good the rush was. The punting team did get better as the scrimmage went along.
Is the NU Defense that good? or is the NU Offense that bad right now?
I'll wait until Kenosha [and probably the first game] before I'll hazard a guess.
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