Spring practice is now two days upon us. Many people don't get why spring practice (a least for a fan) is such a big deal. No position battles will ultimately be decided. Only one real scrimmage will be played. And, many of the contributors for playing time at key positions are either too injured to participate in full drills (Costa, JJ, Bacon), not here yet in the case of several freshmen, or in need of dropping a few pound before we can make anything of the (Blount). But spring practice is a huge deal for many reasons, and here's what I'll be keeping an eye on in the papers over the next month:
1. We have a ton of position battles going on. While we return a lot of starters, the players that we have lost are big time players.
- Most people are paying attention to the QB battle. Replacing Dixon is a big task. Costa is not participating in full drills while returning from injury. Roper will get most of the snaps in spring ball. Kempt doesn't appear to be in contention. Thomas and Harper are likely to redshirt this season and likely wouldn't have their own battle until Costa and Roper graduate--which would be their redshirt junior seasons, and Cade Cooper is the great unknown to us all.
It seems fairly obvious that Bellotti sees Costa as the likely starter, even making the bold claim that we win out if he were healthy last season. But its also clear that Roper will get an opportunity to make them reassess that situation. Thomas and Harper--who clearly have the best physical tools of the bunch--will also get their chance to impress, and, even if they don't have a great shot at the starting gig, we get our fist glimpse at their potential as one of the will be an Oregon starting quarterback. Kempt and Cooper will also get their shot to make something happen.
- Wide Receiver is another interesting position to watching, as the losses of Colvin, Strong, and Paysinger, and absence of Derrick Jones will stretch our depth. The good news is that as they missed a lot of last season, a lot of other players had to step up. J-Will will obviously start again, but how is his case of the dropsies looking? Are Jeffrey Maehl and Aaron Pflugrad building on their successes this past season? Does Drew Davis look any better than his disappointing freshman season? And what of the mysteries--Terrance Scott and Jamere Holland?
- The starting free safety spot is up for grabs, with TJ Ward, Marvin Johnson, and freshman John Boyett all possibilities. Think about how good Matthew Harper was last year and you know what's at stake.
- Finally, I think linebacker is a spot you really have to look at. We lost AJ Tuitele and Kwame Ageyman, and Bacon had trouble tackling even before his injury. Casey Matthews and Kevin Garrett looked good in limited time last year, and Bacon should be healthy by August. But you need more than three.
Obviously, none of these jobs will be decided in spring. But coaches go into a season with someone in mind. If the coaches go into August with the thought that Nate Costa will be the starting QB, its much more difficult for someone else to change their mind in August. For a guy like Roper or Thomas, you have to earn your way into the conversation right now. Same thing goes for the other positions. If Holland or Scott want a shot at starting, they have to put their names in the conversation right now. And, for names that are even more off the radar like Rory Cavaille or Sam Doman, now might be your only chance. So, while nobody will 100% wrap up a starting job right now, it goes a long ways. As a high school basketball coach, I can tell you that we do the same things in our summer program. It just takes time to plan, and you plan with the best information that you have in a reasonable amount of time.
(BTW, I have it on reliable source that Costa is saying the right things and acting the right way, Roper is acting a bit timid, and Thomas is putting some of the older guys off with his cockiness--they still need to put the freshman in his place a bit).
- I'm interested to see how all the new arrivals do. Thomas, Harper, Boyett, Blount, Blake Ferras, and a few other newbies are practicing for the first time. It'll be interesting to see how they do.
- I want to see if Frantz has any shot in hell.
It was also announced today that the spring game will be televised on CSN, so at least some of you will get to see it.