Spring Football: What To Expect

It all starts Monday and while the gates will be closed to the public until the April 17 Orange-White game there will be progress going on as the Cowboys coaching staff headed by Mike Gundy pull a nearly complete make over on offense and a remodeling job with the personnel on defense. What will Cowboy fans have to look forward to when they kick the tires before next fall on April 17?

We have our prediction on a few things and our depth chart, which varies slightly from the one released by the school. The difference is we are projecting what the two deep will be heading into August and post-spring rather than the depth chart for the start of spring practice on Monday. Our depth chart includes injured players sitting out spring that should be back in the fall.

What to Look For This Spring
1. The offense is a quick learn, but may take longer to master.
Dana Holgorsen asked me last week, "How do you get better at something?" I was very excited to get the answer right by saying that you do it over and over again. That is how this offense works. There are not a lot of plays, a full route tree for all the receivers, reads that have to be made, and lots of formations to run the selected number of plays out of.

"It gets to the point that you are not going to get good at it unless you go out and do it," said Holgorsen."Step one is just to teach them. The whole basis of this offense is getting a firm understanding of what to do. Do that to a point where you are not re-teaching it each week.

"Once we get them settled in at a specific position and teach them the offense then from here on out is just getting good at it," added Holgorsen.

2. The offensive line will be a jigsaw puzzle for a while but that's okay.
It's a new offense but one that Joe Wickline is familiar with. Holgorsen said that Wickline's reputation precedes him.

Holgorsen realizes that Wickline is kind of a "mad scientist" when it comes to putting together his offensive line. He will move guys around a lot and try a myriad of combinations. The goal is to find the best five linemen and put them in their best position. It will take time, but the confidence is it will happen. Check out returning starter Lane Taylor at center on the first day of spring instead of guard.

3. Brandon Weeden is perfect for the first edition of the Holgorsen offense.
While Weeden may have seemed uninterested at times as the third-team quarterback, that is not a problem now. Running Weeden out of the meeting room could be a problem. The 26-year-old got a taste of the fun again in that Thursday night game against Colorado last November, and the smile has not been wiped off of his face since hearing of the hiring of Dana Holgorsen.

Now that Holgorsen has met Weeden, the feeling is mutual. "Having an older kid in Weeden is important and he has kind of taken the bull by the horn and rallied these guys and got them out on the field running through things," said Holgorsen.

4. How tough are the wide receivers?
Everyone may know that from performances late in the season I have been more critical of the wide receivers. In some ways that may have been unfair as a number of young receivers were asked to grow up before their time.

That said, it was the older receivers in the group last season that I found the most frustrating at times. Younger guys like Tracy Moore performed over their head, and some, like Isaiah Anderson, in my mind, didn't get enough opportunity.

There are opportunities for everyone now. While this spread attack is designed to create space, there is still going to be physical situations and just the usual situations of making catches, hanging onto the football. They all add up to one question, how tough are you?

"Every guy feels like he is getting a fresh start or at least a fresh guy looking at him," said associate head coach Joe DeForest of the offense. "Maybe a guy didn't fit as well in the last offense but he is going to fit in this one."

Holgorsen said, "There will be guys step up that we don't expect to step up. It was the same way at Houston and there was competition and at the end of the first spring our top two receiver were both walk-ons that we just kind of found and put them in positions to be successful."

5. Look for Shane Jarka to set the tone.
A lot of discussion on defense revolves around replacing the three starting linebackers, and eventually, Orie Lemon, who will be limited in the spring will ease that some with his veteran presence, his play, and his leadership. Both starting defensive tackles (Derek Burton and Swanson Miller) are graduated and working out Wednesday on Pro Day, so who leads the defensive tackles?

Easy, Shane Jarka is a senior and a tough guy that leads by example but will also speak up. The young pups at defensive tackle are in good hands. Even though he has only been here three years Chris Donaldson can help there too.

6. Lemon is no Lemon
You won't see him out there in scrimmages and physical situations but Orie Lemon will be there. He'll be Glenn Spencer's graduate assistant but will also suit up and will start at middle linebacker next season.

Everyone hated to see Lemon get hurt five days before the opener with Georgia but having him back to quarterback the defense next season is not a silver but a gold lining to the defense.

7. Safety is fine, but Malcolm Murray needs to solidify the corner.
The depth chart looks thin but when you remember that Victor Johnson will return in the fall you realize that the safety position is in good hands. Markelle Martin's play in the Cotton Bowl showed he is going to be a ringleader there for some time. Corner is a different story and juco transfer Malcolm Murray has to be good. This defense needs solid corners.

8. Who is going to return?
DeForest says he will put more work than usual into returns this spring, both punt and kickoff, because he needs to start getting a read on who will be the return specialists. Some freshmen could be factors but he needs to have a core group coming out of spring. Watch Isaiah Anderson, Johnny Thomas, and possibly Daytawion Lowe here.

Go Pokes Depth Chart
QB: #4-Brandon Weeden, #8-Johnny Deaton
F (RB): #24-Kendall Hunter, #36-Jeremy Smith
Outside Receivers
X: #7-Michael Harrison, #83-Hubert Anyiam
Z: #81-Justin Blackmon, #82-Isaiah Anderson
Inside Receivers
H: #87-Tracy Moore, #14-Justin Horton, #30-David Paulsen
Y: #25-Josh Cooper, #18-Charlie Moore
LT: #71-Parker Graham, #75-Nick Martinez
LG: #70-Jonathan Rush, #51-Brandon Webb
C: #64-Casey LaBrue, #74-Grant Garner
RG: #68-Lane Taylor, #65-Anthony Morgan, #56-Patrick Hoog
RT: #73-Levy Adcock, #63-Jordan Taormina

DE: #50-Jamie Blatnick, #99-Richetti Jones, #89 Cooper Bassett
NT: #95-Chris Donaldson, #89-Nigel Nicholas
DT: #46-Shane Jarka, #94-Anthony Rogers
DE: #91 Ugo Chinasa, #92-Darius Hart, #86 Wilson Youman
Star: #22-James Thomas, #29-Joe Mitchell
MLB: #41-Orie Lemon, #59-Tolu Moala or #45 Caleb Lavey
WLB: #42-Justin Gent, #33-LeRon Furr
CB: #19-Brodrick Brown, #18-Devin Hedgepeth
SS: #10-Markelle Martin, #8-Daytawion Lowe
FS: #12-Johnny Thomas, #8-Daytawion Lowe
CB: #1-Malcolm Murray, #16-Andrae May

P: #13-Quinn Sharp
K: #95-Dan Bailey
LS: #69-Marc Yerry, #67-Randall Arbuckle
H: #27-Taylor Sokolosky (injured), #99-Wes Harlan

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