Spring Football Camp Review -- Offense

Before previewing the upcoming season, I want to revisit spring camp. This article is the first of a two-part review of the Rutgers football team as it finished spring camp. This review is intended as a companion piece to my spring preview series. I will review developments in camp, revisit issues raised in my spring camp previews, and present my vision of the two-deep roster. Since I previewed the offense first, I will similarly review it first.

SPRING FOOTBALL CAMP REVIEW – OFFENSE


Spring camp ended over a month ago.  Summer camp is about two months away.  It's been a quiet spring, except for some disciplinary action and a few recruit commitments.  I'm not expecting a lot of early verbal commitments.  I anticipate the better candidates interested in Rutgers to adopt a wait-and-see attitude before committing, if committing, in December.  Since it's a dead period, I want to revisit spring camp.  This article is the first of a two-part review of the Rutgers football team as it finished spring camp.  This review is intended as a companion piece to my spring preview series.  I will review developments in camp, revisit issues raised in my spring camp previews, and present my vision of the two-deep roster.  Since I previewed the offense first, I will similarly review it first. 

The view of spring ball from my vantage point 2,500 miles away was nearly as good as the view from New Jersey.  Stalag Schiano was closed to the public, with the exception of a few big donors and the Touchdown Club, which enjoyed one open practice.  Press coverage was limited to a handful of newspaper articles between the spring camp press conference and the Spring Game.  Results of two scrimmages were not reported.  The Spring Game essentially offered the only insight into spring camp.  I got to review a recording of the Spring Game.  I've had to base my observations and conclusions upon this single source, with the inevitable caveats.  The original text from the preview is presented in bold italics. 

Last season, Head Coach Greg Schiano replaced two offensive assistant coaches who left Rutgers for greener pastures.  Schiano retained the services of former Dallas Cowboys WR Coach John McNulty to fill the hole left by the departure of WR Darrell Hazell for Ohio State.  Schiano also hired former Western Illinois OLine Coach Rod Holder to succeed former OLine Coach Mario Cristobal, who returned to his alma mater – Miami.  While the WRs progressed under McNulty's supervision, Holder was unable to build upon the foundation that Cristobal had laid.  Worse, Holder damaged the morale of the unit, which played uninspired.  An OLine that was beginning to dominate games reverted to its soft, pliant ways of the past.  As went the OLine, so went the offense.  Right down the tubes. 

Although Rutgers ranked #6 (out of 117 Division IA teams) in passing offense (up from #45) and #40 in total offense (up from #69), the scoring offense was not commensurate at a ranking of #66 in scoring offense (down from #55) because the rushing offense ranked #113 (down from #69) and the Scarlet Knights ranked #116 in TOs (down from #93).  Rushing yardage decreased 40% to 83 yard per game (from 139).  Rushing attempts averaged a paltry 2.5 yards per carry, 25% less than the yield 3.3 yards per carry in 2003.  The OLine yielded only 20 sacks, improving upon the impressive 2002 total of 23.  The completion rate increased from 59% to 65%, ideally where it belongs for the west coast offense.  Passing yardage jumped 35% to 311 yards per game (from 230).  However, the QB threw 19 INTs for the second consecutive year. 

The offense regressed last year.  The running attack sputtered and denied balance to the offense.  Though the passing game put up prolific statistics, it was not enough to carry a one-dimensional offense.  Further, the passing game couldn't stretch the field vertically, allowing opponents to crowd the line of scrimmage and defend a short field.  Turnovers repeatedly sabotaged possessions.  The offensive staff witnessed more turnover this winter as Schiano dismissed Holder and replaced him with former Delaware OLine Coach Kyle Flood.  Schiano also reassigned former RB Coach Darren Rizzi to LB Coach and hired former Illinois WR Coach Robert Jackson to replace Rizzi.   

The offense retuned all of its key skill position players, excluding those missing with injuries.  But the OLine, so disappointing last year, is in transition with a new coach and three new starters.  Injuries further depleted the ranks of the replacement OL candidates.  The primary focus of spring camp was going to be the rehabilitation of the running game, with a secondary emphasis upon reducing QB turnovers.  The results of the first two scrimmages are not public knowledge.  Therefore, I am forced to base my conclusions solely upon the Spring Game.  Unfortunately, injuries decimated the roster and prevented any kind of matchup between the 1st and 2nd team.  A total of 26 players missed the Spring Game, including 20 from the two-deep.  Worse still, Schiano unevenly divided his roster unequally among the White and Scarlet teams.  The White comprised 13 first team players versus only 3 for the Scarlet (each of whom were OL that played both ways).  Furthermore, all six walk-on starters were assigned to the Scarlet team (a seventh, an OL, played both ways).  So, the Spring Game was essentially a varsity versus scout team scrimmage.  It was not an even test from which to draw many conclusions. 

The Spring Game closely approximated a full game for the entire offensive unit.  The combined snaps for both teams slightly exaggerate those of a single team in a typical game.  The offenses scored only 24 points – disappointing but an improvement over the 2004 Spring Game (17 points).  The RBs gained 122 yards on 26 carries for a healthy average of 4.7 yards per carry.  The QBs completed only 23 of 43 passes (53%), which is unsatisfactory for a system that requires at least a 60% completion rate.  The net passing yardage, less sacks, was 228 yards.  Again, unacceptable for an offense that emphasized the pass at a ratio of over 2-to-1.  The offenses combined for 360 total yards, of which the "varsity" accounted for 281 yards. 


BIG PICTURE ISSUES

  • Holder wrecked the OLine in one year.  Flood inherits a unit lacking depth, experience, and attitude.  Flood must imprint his stamp on the unit and restore a smash-mouth mind-set.  The OLine is absolutely a work in progress.  And Flood has a lot of work to do between now and September to mold an OLine that can open holes for the running game and provide balance to the offense.  Injuries to his young replacements compromised his efforts in spring camp.  The left side of the OLine looks very shaky and there is little depth, excluding the inexperienced guys who missed camp. 

 

  • Last season, the OLine suffered frequent breakdowns at the point of attack, regardless of location, that blew up plays before they started.  The power running game lacked power.  Rutgers must rediscover its power running game.  However, the progress will be difficult to measure against a defense that has suffered heavy losses at DT.  If the running game struggles against a depleted DLine, that will be a tremendous cause for concern.  The OLine performed terribly in the Spring Game.  With a seven-man rotation play both ways in a two-hour scrimmage, the pace was much faster than that of a typical three-and-a-half hour game with a comparable number of plays.  So, fatigue could have been a factor, especially in the 2nd and 4th Quarters.  But there were 37 breakdowns (blocks beaten, blown up, or missed) on 27 designed running plays.  Some would say that the performance of the OLine was not a big deal because the Spring Game is primarily an exhibition for the fans.  However, Rutgers spots most of its Big East rivals a month of practices in December.  Rutgers must close the gap on its opponents with fewer practices.  The Scarlet Knights don't have the luxury of taking a practice off.  Every practice, every scrimmage counts.  Especially for an OLine whose rushing attack was ranked #113 out of #117 Division IA programs. 

 

  • Despite prolific passing statistics, the passing attack was flawed last season.  The QBs made few big plays and committed too many TOs.  Are the QBs making fewer mistakes and more big plays?  Sr QB Ryan Hart threw two passes in the 1st Quarter that should have been intercepted.  And scrambled once when he had an open receiver and time to make the pass.  Thereafter, Hart settled down and executed the offense, mixing an occasional accurate deep throw with short passes.  He only made one other mistake – stepping up into a sack he saw coming.  Hart threw long passes of 22 (TD) and 41 on hitch-n-go routes; and 22 and 20 yard on deep crossing routes.  

RS So Terrence Shawell made far more mistakes than he made plays.  In fact, he didn't make any big plays.  He didn't complete a pass longer than 16 yards.  Of his 12 incompletions, six were underthrown (one was INT) and two were overthrown.  On six throws, he made bad decisions, throwing to covered receivers while other options existed elsewhere.  The touch football rules for QBs negated Shawell's scrambling ability, forcing him to rely solely on his shaky passing ability. 

  • Schiano has spent four years searching for a feature TB and has yet to find one.  He has played an average of 4.5 players at TB each season.  Schiano's impatient handling has shuttled players through the TB position without allowing them to get comfortable carrying the ball.  There are still plenty of questions at the RB positions.  With two TBs out with injuries, will any TB emerge and allow RS Jr Brian Leonard to play his natural FB position.  This question cannot be answered until summer camp.  Sr Markis Facyson (knee) and So Dimitri Linton (knee) missed spring camp with injuries.  Jr Justise Hairston (ankle) and Leonard (achilles tendon) missed the Spring Game.  RS Sr Clarence Pittman had the lion's share of carries.  Clarence gained 90 yards on 19 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 12 yards.  He scored a TD on a 6-yard run off an inside zone play that saw a nice cutback at the line of scrimmage and another against backside pursuit.  Pittman's longest run from scrimmage was only 12 yards.  He was frequently dodging DL or blown-up OL in the backfield as there were blocking miscues on 15 of his 19 carries.  Clarence nonetheless still produced a lot of solid four-yard gains and only suffered two TFLs (or no gain). 

 

  • Rutgers was not able to stretch the field vertically last year, allowing opponents to compress the Scarlet Knight passing game into the short zone.  Are the receivers in stretching the field vertically?  Are the QBs completing the throws?  Of the 60 designed pass plays called by both offenses, 16 attempts were deep passes (or shorter vertical routes).  Five each were thrown to RS Sr WR Tres Moses and RS Sr WR Chris Baker.  Four were thrown to RS Jr TE Anthony Cali.  RS Fr WR Keith Taylor and walk-on WR Wayne Morse were each targeted once.  The strong-armed Shawell accounted for 10 of the 16 deep pass attempts. Unfortunately, he completed only two for 29 yards.  Both were shorter throws to the TE on vertical routes – a corner and a seam.  Furthermore, there were miscues on each of his eight incompletions, mostly Terrence's fault.  Hart threw fewer deep passes – only six – but completed four for 106 yards and a TD. 

 

  • The TEs were ineffective in blocking the opposing DEs last season on the bread-n-butter Power G (pulling OG and FB leading the TB off-tackle).  How effective is the run blocking by the TEs?  Starting RS Jr Clark Harris (shoulder) and 2nd team Jr Sam Johnson (head) missed the spring game with injuries.  RS So Brad Listorti had three run-blocking miscues.  He missed a backside block on RS Fr WLB Chenry Lewis on an inside zone play that still gained 11 yards.  Brad was beaten at the point of attack by RS Sr DE Piana Lukabu on another inside zone play but Pittman cutback and gained 4 hard yards.  Listorti missed a block on RS Fr DE Jamaal Westerman at the point of attack on a Power G play that Westerman stuffed for a gain of one yard.  Cali, just converted from QB, committed only one miscue (on many fewer rushing attempts).  Anthony was beaten by RS Sr DE Ryan Neill on an iso play that still gained 5 yards.  The offenses gained a combined 32 yards on seven Power G plays, for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. 

 

  • Last season, the running game again existed almost exclusively between the tackles.  Rutgers ran outside even less frequently and less successfully than in 2003.  Limited athleticism on the OLine impeded efforts to seal the edge on outside runs.  Will Flood's unit be able to demonstrate the ability to open seams on the outside in spring camp?  Offensive Coordinator Craig Ver Steeg has added an inside zone running play to the offensive repertoire.  This play is designed to turn the DE/SLB and gain the edge, if possible, although the TB has the option to cut back inside through any hole that opens.  The staff called inside zone on ten of 27 designed runs, which gained only 28 net yards (including 10 yards lost on a holding penalty).  The DLine achieved penetration on seven of these ten inside zone plays, which absolutely cannot happen in this zone blocking scheme.  The blocking miscues explain the paltry rushing yield.  The offense didn't try any other outside runs. 

 

  • Can the big backs run outside?  So FB Jean Beljour played TB in the Spring Game.  Only one of Jean's six carries that I saw (the television broadcast missed his best run, for 19 yards) was an inside zone play.  Beljour was dropped in the backfield and never even got to think about bouncing outside.  He was the only big back to carry the football. 

 

  • Can the small backs run inside?  Pittman ran iso five times for 16 yards and Power G five times for 28 yards.  That's an average of 4.4 yards per carry.  Pittman also didn't hesitate to run the inside zone play hard inside. 

 

  • Will the FB become a running threat?  Not yet, apparently.  Neither RS Sr Ishmael Medley nor walk-on EJ Barthel carried the football in 27 designed running plays. 

 

  • Will all of the FBs be used as receivers?  Medley caught two passes for 15 yards – a 7-yard hook (safety valve) and an 8-yard bootleg drag.  Medley was also targeted twice on play action drag routes – he dropped one underthrown pass and the second was broken up by walk-on CB Nkosi Remy, who jumped the route.  Barthel caught three passes for only 6 yards – a play action drag route for seven yards, a bootleg drag route for one yard, and a play action drag route for minus 2 yards on an underthrown pass. 

 

  • Will Ver Steeg use 2TE formations as frequently with only two proven TEs?  Listorti and Cali split TE duties on opposite teams in the Spring Game.  Although walk-on Kevin Brock also took snaps at TE, the coaching staff never used a 2TE formation. 

 

  • Last season, a series of nagging injuries on the OLine confirmed that Schiano has yet to address the ongoing depth problem that has plagued his OLine for four years.  A true freshman served as the utility backup and played every position except center.  No other backup saw routine action other than emergency situations.  Schiano has lost contributors on the OLine faster than he has recruited them.  And he wasn't blessed with a surplus of talent when he arrived.  And his early recruits have not contributed significantly.  There are aren't enough healthy OLine to fill the two-deep.  So, there won't be much opportunity to compare backups against starters or the second team against the first team.   The OL were forced to play both ways in the Spring Game in a seven-man OLine rotation that included a walk-on and a spring enrollee.  Only three expected starters – RS Sr RG John Glass, So LG Jeremy Zuttah, and RS So LT Pedro Sosa – played.  The younger starters and the backups were overmatched in the Spring Game against a DLine that was similarly thinned by injuries.  The youngsters combined to commit 38 of 55 blocking breakdowns.  The left side of the OLine looks very shaky and there is little depth, excluding the guys who missed camp (RS So Dan Mazan, RS Jr Will Vogt, and So Corey Hyman).  It could be another long year.  The bill for Schiano's neglect of the OLine is about to come due.


DEPTH CHART

  • Who replaces Ray Pilch at center with Vogt and Mazan out with shoulder injuries?  Who will practice at center with the first team and who is the contingency plan?  In the absence of Vogt and Mazan, walk-on Joe Giacobbe drew the 1st team assignment in spring camp.  Spring enrollee Fr Dave McClain was the backup.  I thought that Zuttah should have gotten some repetitions at center in the even that none of the other, unproven alternatives are ultimately viable.  Schiano seems content to wait until summer camp to determine whether Vogt, Mazan, or JUCO transfer Darnell Stapleton will be the solution.  This could prove disastrous if none emerge. 

 

  • Will Leonard play FB, where he belongs, or TB for lack of other viable options?  Leonard missed much of spring camp with an injured achilles tendon.  We won't know this answer until Opening Day. 

 

  • Zuttah is a lock for one of three available starting jobs.  The only question is, which one?  Jeremy was the starting LG in the Spring Game.  He also backed up Sosa at LT.  However, Zuttah had the worst game of any OL, with nearly twice as many miscues as any other OL.  His run blocking was terrible, as he was blown up five times, beaten twice, and missed three blocks.  The pass blocking was better, but he was beaten once at LT for a sack and blown up once at LG.  While RS So DT Eric Foster, a converted DE, victimized Zuttah most frequently, six other players burned Jeremy, including the less experienced Westerman, RS Fr DT Carl Howard, and spring enrollee Fr DE Jon Pierre-Etienne.  Much is being expected of Zuttah this year.  Fairly or not.  Yeah, he's still young.  And yeah, it was only one game.  And yeah, he played both ways for two hours.  But his poor play against other young players is cause for concern. 

 

  • What will the depth chart look like at RB?  Four of the five TBs were injured during camp.  Medley played FB with the first team while Beljour filled in at TB.  Medley would appear to be ahead of Beljour on the depth chart at FB.  Pittman played well at TB.  He should compete for the feature TB role in summer camp. 

 

  • Who will emerge as the change of pace back if Schiano starts a big back?  Neither Facyson nor Linton could lay claim to this role due to injuries.  Based upon his spring camp performance, Pittman could be the change of pace back to compliment Leonard if Clarence isn't playing ahead of Brian at TB. 

 

  • Does RS Sr Sameeh McDonald get switched to LT or does he stay at RT?  McDonald missed the Spring Game with a knee injury.  Since expected starter Sosa saw his repetitions at LT and Zuttah took snaps as the backup LT, McDonald likely will stay at RT. 

 

  • Will Shawell or RS Fr Mike Teel emerge as the backup QB?  Will the backup challenge incumbent starter Hart?  Teel missed the Spring Game with a recurrence of the high ankle sprain that sidelined him last season.  However, favorable reports of Teel's performance leaked out of camp.  Meanwhile, Yeah, Shawell played horribly in the Spring Game. In his defense, he lacked a running game, a supporting cast, and the freedom to make plays with his feet.  He completed only 7 of 19 passes for 53 yards.  He scrambled twice for nine yards and was sacked five times for minus 33 yards.  Scarlet relied upon the passing game but Shawell couldn't move the offense with either short or deep passes.  He engineered only two good drives in eight possessions but neither reached the end zone. 

 

  • What is the composition of the second OLine unit?  With three candidates for starting jobs out with injuries, the spring depth chart is tentative.  Will the second team offer any insights into likely backups next year?  RS So Mike Fladell started at RT in the Spring Game in the absence of McDonald.  However, Mike may be better suited to play RG.  Giacobbe started ahead of McClain at center and outperformed the younger.  RS Jr Randy Boxill was a utility reserve, spelling starters at RT, RG, and LG.  Boxill may be a better choice for the backup RT job.  RS Fr Mike Gilmartin, who missed the Spring Game with a knee injury, reportedly was practicing at LT. 

 

  • Will Hairston return to TB or will he stay at FB?  Hairston missed the Spring Game with an ankle injury.  We likely won't know the answer until Opening Day. 

 

  • Who among Listorti and Cali emerges as the third TE?  Listorti had three run-blocking miscues to only one for Cali in roughly twice as many running plays.  Cali caught two passes for 29 yards, whereas Listorti caught only one pass for 5 yards.  Listorti was injured early in the 3rd Quarter.  Based upon their Spring Game performances, Cali appears to have the edge.  It's not a good sign when an undersized converted QB outperforms a third year veteran in spring camp.  The injury to Listorti may provide Cali with a further edge in the battle for the third TE job. 

 

  • Has Pittman been lapped on the depth chart by younger, more talented players?  With Schiano, who knows.  His handling of RBs has been curious, to say the least.  Former Scarlet Knight TB Marcus Jones ran well in 2003 summer camp and was demoted to 4th string.  Jones quit the program in 2004 spring camp after running well in practice and getting no carries in a scrimmage.  Pittman ran well in 2004 summer camp and then barely played behind a TB (Hairston) who couldn't run through the designed hole.  Clarence ran strongly in the Spring Game, behind a shaky OLine.  He deserves a legitimate chance to carry the football at Illinois.  Not two carries and the bench. 


TWO DEEP

Here's the two-deep, from my perspective, at the end of spring camp.  Players who missed the entire camp have been dropped from the two-deep under the theory that they will have to work their way back into the rotation.  Players who missed only some portion of spring camp are included in the two-deep.  Their location is based upon their perceived place in the rotation during the spring, which may have been limited by the injuries.   

Position

1st Team

2nd Team

WR

RS Sr Chris Baker

RS Fr Keith Taylor

LT

RS So Pedro Sosa

RS Fr Mike Gilmartin

LG

So Jeremy Zuttah

RS Jr Randy Boxill

C

Walk-on Joe Giacobbe

Fr Dave McClain

RG

RS Sr John Glass

RS Jr Randy Boxill

RT

RS Sr Sameeh McDonald

RS So Mike Fladell

TE

RS Jr Clark Harris

Jr Sam Johnson

WR

RS Sr Tres Moses

Jr Willie Foster

QB

Sr Ryan Hart

RS Fr Mike Teel

FB

RS Sr Ishmael Medley

Jr Justise Hairston

TB

RS Jr Brian Leonard

RS Sr Clarence Pittman

Missing:  RS Jr WR Shawn Tucker (groin), Jr WR Marcus Daniels (groin), RS Jr C Will Vogt (shoulder), So LG Corey Hyman (shoulder), and RS So C Dan Mazan (shoulder). 


PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

  • Is Hart making better decisions?  Hart played against a defense starting four walk-ons in the back seven.  The game was a glorified walk through for Ryan.  He generally executed the offense with great efficiency, directing four long drives that produced 21 points and a missed FGA.  Hart made only three bad decisions.  Midway through the 1st Quarter, Hart tucked the ball and scrambled when Moses was open on a shallow crossing route.  Late in the 1st Quarter, on 3rd-n-goal from the 22-yard line, he rolled out, locked onto RS Fr WR Keith Taylor on a deep sideline route, and forced a throw that walk-on WS Brandon Renkhart dropped.  Early in the 4th Quarter, Hart stepped up into a sacked by Westerman, whom he clearly saw. 

 

  • Can Hart complete passes to receivers downfield?  Hart attempted six deep passes, completing four for 106 yards and a TD.  Although those are impressive results, Hart victimized walk-ons on each of these four deep completions.  But, nonetheless, the throws were accurate. 

 

  • Can Hart throw half as many INTs as TDs?  Hart threw two TDs and no INTs.  However, Hart threw two passes in the 1st Quarter that should have been intercepted.  On his third play from scrimmage, Ryan overthrew Taylor on a crossing route and Lewis dropped an INT.  On the next possession, Hart rolled out to avoid pressure and forced a throw to Taylor on a deep sideline route.  Renkhart dropped a drive-stopping INT on the goal line. 

 

  • Is Sosa ready for prime time?  Not yet. Pedro committed eight blocking miscues in the Spring Game – five run blocking and three pass blocking.  In his run blocking assignments, he was beaten twice, blown up once, and missed two blocks.  He was beaten three times while pass blocking, yielding two sacks.  He also could have been called for holding several times.  Pedro had problems with pass blocking the outside speed rush, where he yielded his two sacks.  Sosa needs to work hard during the summer to hone his craft.  He's responsible for protecting Hart's blind side.  This unit will be best served if Sosa can handle the assignment. 

 

  • How much has Harris' run blocking improved?  Johnson's?  Both missed the game with injuries.  We'll find out on Opening Day. 

 

  • In the absence of Tucker and Daniels, how effectively does Baker compliment Moses?  In the Spring Game, Baker was Shawell's primary target.  Ten of Shawell's 19 passes were thrown to Baker.  However, Chris only caught one, a 6-yard hitch route, as the other passes were overthrown (one), underthrown (six), or deflected (two) at the line of scrimmage.  Five of the intended passes were deep routes. 

 

  • If at TB, is Hairston running to the correct hole?  Hairston missed the Spring Game with an ankle injury.  We'll find out on Opening Day if he is even playing TB. 

 

  • How do the backup QBs perform?  It is clear that Shawell is not a viable option.  He was terrible in the Spring Game.  But Terrence had only one experienced skill player at his disposal, led a one-dimensional passing offense, and suffered from the touch football rules for QBs that compromised his mobility.  Teel missed the Spring Game with an ankle injury.  We'll find more in summer camp.  Or September. 

 

  • Can the backup QBs move the offense?  Shawell engineered only two good drives in eight possessions but neither reached the end zone.  Scarlet relied upon the passing game but Shawell couldn't move the offense with either short or deep passes.  He wasn't able to move the offense with his passing but he wasn't allowed to run, either, despite several chances because of the touch football rule for QBs.  He scrambled twice for nine yards and was sacked five times for minus 33 yards.  The spring game did nothing for his confidence.  Not that he'll ever be needed.  But why play him without letting him play?  Shawell had a couple of scrambles where he had lots of real estate in front of him. He made the right decision to run even though any gain was immediately nullified. It's just unfortunate that he was penalized for making the right decision. If he wanted to keep a possession alive, the rules tacitly encouraged him to make bad decisions or force throws into coverage. That sends the wrong message.

 

  • Can the backup QBs complete at least 60% of their passes?  Shawell completed only 7 of 19 passes (37%).  He was wildly inaccurate.  Of his 12 incompletions, six were underthrown (one was INT) and two were overthrown. 

 

  • Do the backup QBs force passes into tight coverage?  Shawell made six bad decisions on his throws.  Typically, he forced deep throws into coverage.  He got greedy after a TO and, on the next play, threw deep to a covered Baker; the pass was intercepted by Jr CB Joe Porter.  He was spared an INT that would have ended his only scoring drive when he was tagged for a questionable sack. 

 

  • Do the backup QBs find their safety valve receivers more often when pressured to throw away the ball?  Shawell consistently forced deep throws when he had secondary receivers available underneath.  These mistakes contributed to five drives stalling. 

 

  • Will Beljour contribute at FB?  Beljour played at TB in the Spring Game due to injuries at the position.  He gained 32 yards on seven carries.  He had a rough 1st Half, with TFLs on all three carries, including a safety.  But he ran effectively in the 2nd Half, gaining 34 yards on four carries.  He recorded a game-high 19-yard run (the play was not shown on the TV broadcast).  As the TB, Beljour was often split out wide as a 3WR.  He was not targeted on any passes but he did draw a defensive holding penalty.  Jean brings more athleticism to the position than Medley.  Beljour's blocking ability will dictate his playing time. 

 

  • Following three hollow recruiting classes, Schiano's third and fourth classes must step forward early and fill the breach.  Are Fladell, Gilmartin, and/or McClain ready to contribute?  Fladell was the starting RT in the Spring Game, in place of the injure McDonald.  Mike is not ready to contribute at RT.  He is way too slow afoot, especially in pass blocking.  He committed six miscues, five in pass protection.  Fladell is too easily bull rushed in pass protection, which sets him up for speed rushes or inside rushes.  And looks slow in run blocking when he has to move to reach his target at the second level (i. e., LB depth).  He is another year away at RT, if at all.  He belongs at OG. 

McClain was clearly not as good as Giacobbe.  Dave looked slow and was late getting to his blocks.  He missed a few obvious pass-blocking assignments.  McClain is not ready to play.  He had four blocking miscues in a reserve role. 

Gilmartin missed the Spring Game with a knee injury, the full extent of which is not known.  He reportedly was practicing as the backup LT. 

 

  • Will Listorti or Cali contribute this year?  Cali may play ahead of Listorti this year.  Anthony made an impact as a receiver in the Spring Game on a team that lacked weapons.  He caught two passes – a 13-yard corner route and a 16-yard seam route.  He was targeted on two other corner routes; he was covered on both.  Anthony was overmatched in run blocking but he battled.  He needs to add weight and strength and must improve his run blocking.  Otherwise, he will tip off pass plays by his mere presence on the field.  Much as Clark Harris did two years ago. 

Listorti was injured in the 3rd Quarter of the Spring Game.  The extent of the injury is unknown.  His run blocking was shaky as he missed two blocks and was beaten on a third in, at most, 13 running plays.  He was not a factor as a receiver, catching only a 5-yard crossing route.  His ability to contribute beyond special teams is still uncertain.  His performance was unremarkable. 

 

  • Does Taylor look like a contributor this year?  With Tucker, Foster, and Daniels missing the Spring Game with injuries, Taylor – the #6 WR – received a big opportunity in the Spring Game.  He caught four passes for 58 yards and a TD.  He was targeted three other times – one was overthrown, one was a poor decision because Taylor was covered, and a third produced a defensive pass interference penalty.  The slight Taylor showed a willingness to go over the middle.  He needs to put some weight on shi skinny frame and get stronger.  But he should see some playing time this year.  He'll push the guys ahead of him on the depth chart – Baker, Daniels, and Foster. 


Coming Next:  Spring Football Review – Part 2.  I'll revisit some of the issues that I raised about the defense in my spring previews. 


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