7. Who will be the next player to emerge at linebacker?
When Jacquian Williams, Sabbath Joseph, and Donte Spires all graduated, the Bulls lost guys who played a lot of snaps and also lost several team leaders, which is never easy to replace. Sam Barrington, DeDe Lattimore, Mike Lanaris and Curtis Weatherspoon all have game experience, but replacing the depth was a question.
The four returning linebackers with game experience all had great springs and are firmly on the two-deep depth chart. DeDe Lattimore excelled while playing in all 13 games and started 12 in 2010, and carried that over to the spring, cross training at both WILL and SAM, and finishing being listed as the staring weak-side linebacker. Backing up at WILL is JUCO transfer Mike Jeune who had a great spring and was a great addition to the unit; he's big, strong, and is smooth in the way he plays. Jeune and DeDe are a great combination at WILL.
Sam Barrington played at both SAM and MIKE all spring and was listed as the top MIKE linebacker in the post depth chart, but could easily switch to SAM when and if needed. Mike Lanaris is considered a starting caliber linebacker, but was listed as the top back-up at Mike to help bolster depth on the edges, but will see plenty of reps, and could end up being the starter if the guys at SAM don't develop into starting caliber linebackers.
Redshirt freshman Reshard Cliett who made the switch to linebacker from safety had a great spring and his name was called out regularly as a top performer all spring and finished being listed as a co-starter at SAM. Curtis Weatherspoon was moved to SAM and with the way Spoon can run it gives them a veteran senior backing up the position. The two must keep coming on to play at the level the staff needs them to be at.
Barrington, Lanaris and DeDe are the top three backers and will see a lot of reps with Jeune, Cliett and Weatherspoon being rolled in as a two man rotation and keeping everyone fresh. Every linebacker cross trained to learn multiple spots so they see the big picture. This also gives them solid depth if there is an injury during the season and a solid top six linebackers. The seventh spot is still up for grabs with true frosh Antoine Pozniak, redshirt Hans Louis and a bunch of incoming this summer are competing for that spot this summer.
Raymond switched from safety last summer and in turn became the Bulls best cover corner. With him now gone, who will replace his production is key to the secondary.
Quenton Washington came on strong as the season progressed and was locked in as a starter all spring. Kayvon Webster might have been the most improved corner this spring and grew as a player and finished being listed a starter, but still needs to keep working. The pair have plenty of game experience, but need to play at the highest level come game day.
Fighting for the back-up spots on the two deep is George Baker, Spencer Boyd, Ernie Tabuteau, and Ricardo Dixon, all but Boyd and Tabuteau have game experience as Bulls. The top two appeared to be Baker and Tabuteau. Baker had a very good spring and is the fastest of the CBs and is getting better with every snap. Ernie Tabuteau, a walk-on is a great story and has a chance to be a player.
Ricardo Dixon was dealing with back issues, but was able to return to practice and Spencer Boyd also dealt with a hamstring which slowed his progress, but he was able to get on the field and get some reps. All are in the mix along with another walk-on Brandon Salina, and this summer will very important in developing depth. There's also a chance one of the incoming like Kenneth Durden can get a strong looks.
9. With the increased role of the Tight End/H-back/fullback position, who will be the next to step up?
During the first year in the new offense the tight end/H-back position played a much bigger part. But with Richard Kelly, Kevin Gidrey, and Andrew Ketchel all gone, and Jeff Hawkins banged up, this spring a few newcomers got a strong look at the role that is so critical to the offense.
Junior Andreas Shields had the most experience, played in all 13 games in 2010 and earned a start in the Meineke Bowl, and got the nod as the starting tight end. Sophomore Isaac Virgin has game experience and after becoming a fulltime tight end, had a very good spring and showed that with his size and ability he has the opportunity to make an impact o the offense. Virgin also cross trained as the up-back on punt teams and as a long snapper
The two that got the biggest look at fullback/H-back was Chase Griffiths and Armando Sanchez who were both converted linebackers. Sanchez who was a special team's ace had the best spring and got the most reps at starter and finished there as well. He also caught a few passes in both spring games and showed he can be a part of the offense. Griffiths battled injuries and ended up not embracing the switch and will transfer after this semester. Walk-on Chris Breit finished as the back-up fullback on the post spring depth chart, but incoming TE/H-Back/FB Ty Turner will get a strong look and has a great shot of earning playing time this summer
10. What changes will Holtz and staff implement this spring?
With a full year under their belt there were questions as to what changes the coaches make to improve the team on offense and on defense.
The offense had early struggles last season that carried on, especially on third down and in the red-zone. Throughout the spring Coach Fitch emphasized the need to open up the playbook and make it more explosive and consistent, but it was hard to tell what changes were actually implemented, but what could be seen is that everyone looked more comfortable running the offense and that they had far more playmakers this spring do achieve the type of offense they want.
The defense played very good in 2010, and Coach Snyder has them not only playing at the same level, but is trying to improve in every category, especially takeaways, and that was seen throughout the spring. There's no question that the defense is fast, has great athletes across the board, and an opportunity to improve on the numbers form last season.
Much of the changes seen with the team weren't the actual offense or defense but more of an attitude, how they practice, how they diet, and how they trained. New strength coach Mike Golden is getting rave reviews and the changes in how the eat is helping everyone gain size. They no longer eat the team meal directly after practice, but eat a high protein snack with nuts and fruit, then go to team meetings and then have dinner so their appetite is back when they do so. Holtz is implementing procedures and goals that will bring this team to the next level, not just for a season, but for years to come.