There will be a new look at tight end this year following the graduation of the athletic Kori Dickerson and now we will see powerful Alex Holmes in the starting role with such key reserves as former quarterback Matt Cassel and current basketball center Gregg Guenther.
Holmes is a tremendous blocker, as good as they come in the open field, and at several points in his career there has been talk of possibly moving him to the OL in part due to his impressive size but he has always been set on playing tight end and now is the time for his talent to take center stage. In all honesty this is not an ideal system for him as a tight end yet he is adapting and doing what the coaches ask with the progress showing throughout last season. John Papadakis called him "The Wild Bull" and the nickname seems accurate when watching his hard charging running style as Alex has good speed, solid hands and once he catches the ball it requires multiple guys to bring him down but he will never be confused with Dickerson in terms of the ability to get downfield and cause deep threat problems for the defense. He is one of Carson Palmer's favorite targets and this past off season he also made an impact on this recruiting class when he took an active role to help bring in some of the top players on the recruiting wish list.
Cassel is a perfect example of a player taking it for the team. The common thought is that he will play at TE for one year and then return to QB for the competition in 2003. That is most likely scenario and, if so, it is a major sacrifice for Matt to move now because he will lose the valuable practice snaps at QB and, more than that, he will lose those snaps to the very guys he will be competing against next year but he did it because he is a team player who wants to be on the field and he knows he can play a role this year. Matt is an excellent athlete who is not afraid to get physical and he could very well end up being the #2 TE and a guy who could easily end up with 20 or more catches. Matt has one of the highest GPA's on the team and has as good an understanding as any of the quarterbacks of this offense so he brings a unique perspective and knowledge of how to get open in this system. The comparisons to John Fox in regards to team play and desire are obvious although Matt is an even better athlete and this move opens up the double pass and other options but more than that Cassel is a competitor and the simple fact is the Trojans will be a better football team with him on the field.
Doyal Butler is a competent blocker who should see playing time but he had some missed opportunities last season and he will need to step up his production or risk being passed on the depth chart by other players.
One wild card in the mix will be the early impact of Dominique Byrd, an impressive athlete with tremendous size who could star on either side of the ball but his first shot will come on offense. Dominique will be part of the rotation immediately but it remains to be seen how much he will be able to contribute in his first year.
Guenther could be one of the more interesting stories of the spring. With his frame it is easy to imagine how dominant he could be as a receiver but injuries have kept him from making any kind of impact on the football field so far in his Trojan career. Fortunately, his inspired play during the basketball season gives hope that we may finally see something from this tall, tall man. Carson really likes throwing to him, he moves well for his height and appears to have added weight. What a bonus this would be.
It would be a surprise if Chad Cook or Kolo Kapanui were able to move into the rotation.