Last week in anticipation of the spring scrimmage we published a What to Look For article outlining what fans should focus on in the 2013 Blue and White game. The results were mixed, but here is what we took away from the dome last saturday,
1. The Play of the Quarterbacks
The results were mostly poor with a tiny bit of good sprinkled in. Ben McLane led a good opening drive that featured a dart over the middle to WR Lynquez Blair, but eventually settled for a field goal. Then Ronnie Bell had a few good throws, mixed in with some really awful ones. Clay Chastain took a while to get going, but eventually found a rhythm late in the game when the play calling was very simple. He did throw a touchdown on a nice corner post, but the ball could have thrown much better, something Clay himself acknowledged.
McLane finished 4 of 7 for 25 yards while Chastain was 4 of 9 for 82 yards and the touchdown. Chastain also had an interception when a ball was tipped at the line by DT Nermin Delic and reeled in by NG Joe Lockley.
Overall, unless someone takes a giant leap forward, it appears the Panthers are still looking for the answer at signal caller. Chastain has the frame and the physical skills, but he is miles behind when it comes to reading defenses and managing an offense. Something else that plays into the equation is that he has had very little experience taking a ball from under center. In high school and at Georgia Military College he took snaps almost exclusively from the shotgun.
Ben McLane could be a serviceable quarterback, if he had an elite running back he could lean on. Which leads us to...
2. Who will separate themselves amongst the Running Backs?
Gerald Howse early on in the scrimmage had a nice run where he stiff armed DB Arrington Jordan and got to the edge for a nice gain. Howse played limited snaps, but finished with 25 yards on 5 carries. Was he held out because the coaches are confident in his abilities and wanted to give other guys a look? Coach Trent Miles noted post game that he had shown solid improvement throughout camp.
Backup walk-on Duvall Smith was the only other running back who finished with a noteworthy day. He carried the ball 9 times for 39 yards. Smith has run hard throughout camp. He is a max effort all the time type of guy, but likely doesn't have the talent to contribute in the fall.
With Parris Lee appearing to have been moved back to wide receiver, it looks as though Howse will be the guy with Travis Evans serving as his backup. No surprises there, but Howse needs to continue to develop this summer. While I think he can be successful, he has a lot still to learn and improve on to be the back that Georgia State's offense will need this fall.
3. How much will the defensive line dominate?
Four sacks, another tackle for a loss, multiple tipped passes, and an interception. I think that just about tells the story.
Delic is a monster, but the issue is keeping him healthy. He is so injury prone and was taken out of the game as a precaution after a minor injury. If he is healthy and can play significant snaps, then you will see a lot of plays being made as a result. Whether its a tipped pass (something he is proficient at) or a sack or even just moving the offensive line back, Delic could be the x factor for the whole defense.
DE Theo Agnew is probably one of the top five players on the team. He is simply a physical specimen at 280lbs and has embraced his role as a leader. Meanwhile DE/OLB John Kelly has begun to flourish in his new hybrid role, leaving Lockley and NG Terrance Woodard to clog the middle and stop the run.
4. How much of the offensive scheme will be in place?
Coach Miles answered that question after the scrimmage when he said 15-20 percent. But we did see a lot of H-back and lead blocking backs used, but most of these positions were manned by walk ons. The incoming class has a number of players who likely will compete at that spot this fall including Bill Teknipp, Keith Rucker and possible Sebastian Willer. But overall the play calling was very vanilla, and that was by design as the entire system is new to the players.
The quarterbacks and the offense as a whole have a ton of work to do in the classroom this fall. Any time there is a new staff in place there is going to be a learning curve when it comes to scheme. What makes it worse is that there isn't a quarterback on the roster that is particularly known for being proficient at reading defenses or understanding offensive schemes. That is huge because for the next three months and change they will be leading the workouts without the aid of their coaches.
Overall not much should be read into the Spring scrimmage, good or bad. Spring games have grown increasingly overrated in my opinion. The rebuilding process is going to take much longer than 15 practices. But overall I have been very pleased with the coaching staff and the way they are progressing this team in the right way.
The most interesting thing that happened on Saturday occurred before a ball was even snapped. As the team ran out Coach Miles noticed they lacked energy and appeared to be going through the motions, so he made them do it again. That's the kind of accountability and attitude that has been lacking on this team.
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