Key Matchups, Predictions: Orange-Gray Game

It's a new deal with the Spring Football Finale on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, and be ready for some funky uniform combinations that will be in play with the Orange squad (really white jerseys), the Gray team, the quarterbacks in a third entirely different combination, and running backs Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland, who will play for both teams, in yet another combination.

Head coach Mike Gundy has said he has enjoyed watching the linebackers throughout the spring and believes fans should focus on them Saturday. There are literally nine linebackers that can really run around and attack the offense.

You can bet that will be one of our key matchups for the spring game, which is really about having fun and giving the fans a good look at the team for next season.

My contention is Cowboy fans will get a better look at the players than they have had the past several years as the first offense will go against the first defense and the second offense against the second defense. It won't be watered down and fans will see units that have been working together. The fans will see the quarterbacks with both offenses and against both defenses.

As for the matchups, here goes.

Orange Defensive Front vs. Gray Offensive Line
The second team up front on defense and offense and the depth of the defense should show up here. Up front, Christian Littlehead (one technique or nose) and Davidell Collins (three technique) are inside with new defensive ends Nigel Nicholas and Tyler Johnson. Littlehead and Nicholas are two linemen who started some or a lot last season.

Behind those four are three very solid linebackers with star linebacker Lyndell Johnson, who may be the surprise player of the spring. Johnson had pick-six interceptions in back to back scrimmages. Ryan Simmons is in the middle and the heat seeking missile Nico Ornelas is the weakside backer. That is a second team defenseive front? Wow!

The Gray offensive line has some power too. Jake Jenkins is solid at center with veteran Daniel Koenig at tackle and promising redshirt freshman Devin Davis (6-6, 295) at the other tackle. Defense wins this one with loads of speed and good power up front. Watch Ornelas as he is fun.
Edge: Orange Defensive Front

Gray Defensive Front vs. Orange Offensive Line
We've already written about Nigel Nicholas, Davidell Collins and Christian Littlehead on the Gray defense. So who starts? Inside at tackle are Anthony Rogers (nose) and junior college transfer Calvin Barnett. Barnett has had a really good spring and moved into the starting role the second week of spring practice.

The ends are Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson. Both are really good with Robinson becoming a premier play-making defensive end. His pass rush is really strong.

All three returning starting linebackers are playing for the Gray with Shaun Lewis (star), Caleb Lavey (middle) and another heat seeker in Alex Elkins (weakside). Add Jonathan Rush (not full speed yet) on the Orange offensive line and it is more of a fair fight.

But new center Evan Epstein, guards Lane Taylor and Brandon Webb, and tackles Parker Graham and Michael Bowie will have their hands full. That is a darned good offensive line, but the speed and power on defense is good enough to cause them problems. The key is run blocking and run production. If it is good then the offense has a good day. If it isn't, then it is a long day on offense.
Edge: Gray Defensive Front

Orange Wide Receivers vs. Gray Cornerbacks
New outside receivers Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore and Isaiah Anderson have plenty of speed and talent. But the Gray corners of All-Big 12 performer Brodrick Brown and Fiesta Bowl Defensive Player of the Game Justin Gilbert are really good.

Brown and Gilbert will be the best corner pair in the Big 12 and one of the best in the nation. The Orange team will make a few plays, but they will also be denied a few times, and if the throws aren't really accurate then we might find out how well the offense plays defense.
Edge: Gray Cornerbacks

Spring Football Finale Prediction
Gray 23
Orange 20
It will be close because the matchups are close and both defenses would appear to have a slight edge over both offenses. Quinn Sharp is kicking and punting for the Orange, but Reichenstein (punter) and Stonebraker (kicker) are both solid. Gray defense may be responsible for a score and that is likely the difference. Close game, good spring, very few injuries means that everybody is a winner.

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