Well, last year at this time I know I was writing about being ultra thin on experience and even numbers at linebacker and safety. I had major concerns about the offensive line and wrote in one story that the offense didn't look anything like it had the previous season and wasn't close to what it was even in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri and that night it took a long time in getting started.
If you remember correctly, the offensive story of the spring of the "orange glasses" variety came after former quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden watched practice and talked about the rocket launcher arm of Daxx Garman. I didn't jump on that band wagon then either and, in fact, kept up the thought that J.W. Walsh was the best man for the job even though that may not have been what the "vocal minority" fans wanted the hear.
Now I have a theme for this spring that you can bank on, defense.
"It really is (challenging for the offense). There is a lot of experience there and we have a lot of speed on defense," head coach Mike Gundy said of the daily challenge for the offense in team drills.
"We have a crew of linebackers that can really run and it always makes it difficult when you have a defense that has some speed and experience and it makes our offense better. We have some really good battles on the edge in press coverage with our wideouts and corners. It's not easy.
"Areas we need to improve in are we need to become a better pass protection team and throw the ball better down field in third-down situations. We have improved in the last couple of practices."
Gundy sees it and relishes it when you have it because the old belief that defense wins championships is true. Now, you'd better have a pretty good offense too, but defense is something really good to hang your hat on and it also will help that offense comes of age in a hurry too.
Just as we projected in our spring position-by-position preview, the defense is loaded. Okay, so there was a vacuum of starters at defensive tackle with James Castleman and Ofa Hautau moving on, but the group of Vili Leveni, Motekiai Maile, Vincent Taylor, Ben Hughes, and Eric Davis have been fine and are getting better.
At defensive end behind starters Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean are veterans Trace Clark and talented and eager newcomers like Jarrell Owens, Jordan Brailford, Trey Carter, and Cole Walterscheid, who are all athletic and quick.
The message is quickness and it helps force the offense to get better. The linebackers are back in numbers, still many are young, but again, they are all athletic and quick. Good corners can really keep an offense in check and with Kevin Peterson, Ramon Richards, and Ashton Lampkin all in rotation along with experienced backup Darius Curry the corners are stout and really giving the wide receivers problems.
"Our corners right now are on point," wide receiver Brandon Sheperd said in agreeing with us. "They give us some really good looks day in and day out. To the point where it frustrates them to go out at us and it frustrates us to go at them. We tell them what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong and vice versa, so it's kind of helping each other out."
The defense is sick good and as Gundy said, that will keep the offense getting better at a great rate.
"I feel like our defense is pretty strong. Our offense is strong as well though," Lampkin expressed. "Don't get me wrong, everybody is strong. We're strong on offense, special teams and all of that. We're just trying to build right now. We'll just continue to build on what we have, what we're going to get coming in here in the fall. Just keep on grinding. All we can do is keep on grinding and just have a great season."
All of it adds up for this team to have a starting point even better than where the program was in the opening week of 2014 against Florida State in AT&T Stadium.