1. How much of what we saw and read about the defense doing well in Midland is due to either
A. The OL struggling
B. The DL improving
D. Something else
Zach: C - The DL is clearly better than it's been in recent memory, with budding star Broderick Washington coming into his own and Eli Howard finally seeing the field. The young OL clearly needs help so it's good they're going to add a couple grad transfers like Andy Dodd, Aaron Cochran, or Wilson Bell.
Joe: C. Both. I'm hardly ready to say the defense has improved massively, but I suspect it is a bit better. The o-line had its problems in the scrimmage, but Kingsbury didn't seem terribly concerned, and neither am I. It will be serviceable for Eastern Washington and probably pretty good by the second half of the season.
Jarret: C. Some of the young guys are growing up, I think the interior will be as strong, though not as deep as last season, but play at both defensive end spots will be improved. However, I am am greatly concerned by the offensive line. Just looking at them physically they don't look like a Power Five offensive line with a couple exceptions such as Bruffy and Steele. In their defense many of them are very young so they have to man up and develop a lot between now and Sept. 2.
Alyssa: C. I think the defensive line has made some strides, but I can’t be fully convinced of that until the competition on the other side is increased. This offensive line just lacks experience and that was evident in Midland.
2. We're about halfway through spring ball. What are your thoughts on what you have seen from the QBs so far?
Zach: It's Shimonek's show and Payne Sullins is looking like a grizzled veteran out there. Sullins should probably be the backup this year, allowing Carter to redshirt and preserve eligibility while he learns the offense.
Joe: Shimonek and Carter didn't really shine in Midland. Neither was terribly accurate, and there seemed to be some communication between the QBs and receivers. Sullins looked pretty good. Confident and decisive. If you didn't know any better, you'd think he is the presumptive starter, at least based upon one scrimmage.
Jarret: Actually, Shim Wow looked pretty good on the TD drive in Alyssa's video. I think he'll be fine. I don't want to judge Carter too harshly off this early in his career, but having Sullins, as I mentioned in the last Mailbag, is GREAT insurance. The guy knows what he's doing as he has been taught by one of the best QB coaches in the country for years.
Alyssa: Well, I was really surprised by Payne Sullins on Saturday. He played better than both Nic Shimonek and McLane Carter especially in the tempo session which is where I thought we were going to see Shimonek shine. I agree with what Jarret has been saying all offseason, which is that years in this system and learning under Kingsbury really does have value and goes a long way. I hope Shimonek has a better outing in Frisco though.
3. Which newcomer has impressed you the most so far?
Zach: Nelson Mbanasor will factor in at the 3 this year. He ain't redshirting.
Joe: I'd probably go with Eli Howard. He didn't necessarily set the world on fire in the scrimmage, but he does look like a legit contributor.
Jarret: Octavious Morgan. Boy, he sure does look the part. He's a big, strong, physical corner who challenges receivers at the line of scrimmage, likes to get his hands on them, but will play the ball in the air and has shown no problem helping against the run game on the edge. I just think he, along with The Hammer and Lane are going to make a pretty significant difference in the secondary and it starts with "Captain" Morgan.
Alyssa: Tony Jones. He had had some significant plays in Midland and always seems to be making an impact in the practices that I have been to.
4. DJ Polite-Bray earned a lot of praise and recognition last week, yet he struggled mightily last season. Do you believe he's a vastly improved player as we've been led to believe or not?
Zach: I'll believe it when I see it during live game situations.
Joe: I'm not about to proclaim DJPB "vastly improved" based upon one scrimmage, but the early returns do look good. Kingsbury echoed this in the post-scrimmage presser, by the way.
Jarret: All of a sudden Friday morning I started hearing from multiple sources, including the tweet for Player of the Practice by Tech, about DJPB coming on, playing well, but it's just hard for me to believe. I think I'll just be hopeful with a believe it when I see it mentality.
Alyssa: I think there is some improvement based on what I saw in Midland, but that was the only time he has grabbed my attention this spring. Hopefully he can continue to make an impact during the season, but we will see. I’m not giving much in to any hype no matter where it is at this spring.
5. If the season started today which running back do you think should be the starter?
Zach: Ward. What's the point in running Stockton out there when he clearly lacks the patience, balance, and vision for the starting job? He needs to be in on sweeps and screens.
Joe: Tough call, but I'd probably go with Demarcus Felton. Of the three main running backs, he was the one who looked most dangerous.
Jarret: I think Felton should get the first look. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and is the best between the tackles runner on the roster. I do also like what Ward brings to the table as a pile pusher/receiver/blocker and the big play ability of Stockton, who looks much better this spring. If they could just splice the three of them together they'd really be on to something. I guess that's what Dre was when you think about it.
Alyssa: DaLeon Ward. Every time I see a big run get through it always seems like he is the guy. Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton haven’t made as much noise this spring so as of now Ward is my #1.