To this point in spring training, the Rebel passing game has been spotty.
Part of that can be attributed to a whole flock of new quarterbacks running a brand new offense.
But a big part of it can be described in one word - inexperience.
As you are well aware, all four of the main wide receivers and a senior tight end from a year ago have graduated.
Needless to say, WR Coch Matt Lubick and TE Coach Hugh Freeze have their work cut out for them.
Among the wide receiver candidates, only junior Carlos Suggs and sophomore Mike (Burnell) Wallace have any experience at all, and even theirs is limited.
It's not quite as dire at tight end, where senior Lawrence Lilly and junior Robert Hough have a lot of experience and converted QB Robert Lane has some, but they are also learning the ropes of a new offense, something that will take some time.
So as not to make too many excuses for any of them, we are just going to list some notes we took during the Saturday scrimmage a week ago.
* Junior Carlos Suggs - still battling to make his hands more reliable. Routes are good, getting off press coverage very good, speed OK. Time for him to step up and seems determined to do so. Appears stronger than in the past. One of the groups more physical blockers, which is his biggest asset at this juncture.
* Senior Keith Houston - a journeyman player with some game experience. Played some tight end last year. Big body for a WR and possesses surprisingly adequate hands. Should be a physical blocker, but is learning nuances of WR play. One of the more effective special teams players, Houston has a chance to contribute some at WR, especially in the run game with his physical blocking.
* Sophomore Mike Wallace - Has added some needed pounds since last season and appears better at getting off press coverage. Speed and good hands are his main attributes, but he has to get more physical and continue to learn sight adjustments based on coverages. Just a matter of time for him.
* Freshman Marshay Green - Perhaps the most exciting player on the team due to his quickness and ability to make would-be tacklers miss. Miles to go in the learning process, but certainly a threat to be a playmaker next year. A few more pounds to his frame would also be a good idea and is a goal of his.
* Redshirt freshman J.D. Lawhorn - Excellent hands, good route-runner, good size, adequate blocker and good moves with the ball in his hands. Working on getting more separation from DBs in routes. Reminds me of a young Cory Peterson, but maybe not quite as polished yet. Give him time.
* RS frosh Michael Hicks - Like Suggs and Houston, big body to work with. Physical player. Probably more speed than the other two, probably a little better hands. Like the other yonger guys, learning and experience are in his path to playing time. Once again, time is his ally.
* RS frosh Tyson Andrus - Moved over from secondary. Nice size, very good athlete. Good hands. Should be a keeper at WR, but is learning from scratch this spring.
From our viewpoint, the raw material is OK. There is some potential and a great deal of hope, but Lubick will have to march them at double time between now and September. Their inexperience, as a unit, is staggering.
Tight end is showing a lot of promise for several reasons.
One, Lilly has finally decided he doesn't want to take a back seat to anyone. He's more motivated and had a productive offseason, which is showing in his play. Nobody has ever doubted his ability. Now he seems to be getting the maximum out of it.
Two, Lane is a playmaker. The coaches could put him anywhere and he'd figure out a way to make a play. He simply has a knack for the game of football. He's learning the ropes of effective blocking, but you can expect him to be solid there. He's just that kind of competitor, no matter his position.
Three, Hough has put on a few pounds, which will help him become more physical. He's also sure-handed and has the kind of speed at TE that can help stretch a defense. LBs find it difficult to keep up with him. He's also a special teams ace. Experience is also on his side. Robert is not a world beater, but he's a definite asset to the team and the position.
JUCO transfer Jason Hawkins is still struggling from the hangover of a bout of mono during the offseason. He's lost 20 needed pounds and is not as strong as he was in the past, but he's got time to get all of that fixed. At this point, he's just trying to learn the offense and contribute where he can, but if all goes well in the next few months he could make a contribution next year.
Overview: The lack of experience at wide receiver is almost frightening, but the positions are not devoid of talent. Getting that talent to a comfort zone in terms of knowing what to do is their immediate task. At TE, the coaches are excited with what they have seen to this point. It is imperative they continue to progress.
Tomorrow: Part V will be a good news piece - the running backs.
Grid observations, Part IV
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