With the spring season now in the book it is time to look back and reflect. The football team will now have more then three months till their next official practice. Still this was a very productive spring season and was certainly different then the first three under Coach Christensen.
There are many more established starters on this team compared to previous years. Also less players were switching to new positions. Previous spring camps have felt like the team was desperately trying to find someone to fill a position. The QB battle of 2011 is a thing of the past.
Let's recap some highlights and figure out what all happened during this spring season.
- Colby Kirkegaard is a much better quarterback then he was two months ago. With Brett Smith being kept out of contact drills it meant Kirkegaard took a large majority of the snaps behind center. We don't have a quarterback controversy on our hand by any means. But if Kirkegaard needs to come into a game next year I'd expect him to have much more confidence in the offense and himself. The Pokes are going to be thin at QB next year so having a quality backup will be very important if anything happens to Smith.
- The offensive line is still a work in progress. Their improved performance last year was a huge reason for the uptick in scoring. Now the hunt continues to find a solid starting five for the offensive line. A healthy Kyle Magnunson will help this fall. If the pass protection drops in 2012 it could spell trouble.
- The running backs that were healthy got a decent amount of reps but none of them really shined. Kody Sutton and Brandon Miller were pretty even this spring. Their production did improve over the three scrimmages but not many flashes were shown. The running game will certainly need to step up in August.
- The wide receivers may be deeper then we expected. Despite not having Chris McNeill this spring the receiving crew showed some nice progress. James Caraway is transitioning nicely from cornerback and will certainly see the field. Trey Norman and Dominic Rufran also are making progress while heading into their sophomore years. Eric Nzeocha is great athlete who has caught onto to the speed of the game fairly quickly. Adding Trent Sewell to this group will add some further depth.
- This is basically the same roster on defense as last year but they are performing way better under Chris Tormey. The new DC loves to mix things up and threw a lot at the offense this spring. The vanilla defense of English is gone. You will still see a standard 4-3 but the Pokes will also work out of a 3-3-5 and 4-2-5. There are numerous blitz packages and Tormey hasn't even installed the entire defense yet.
- Depth on defense is impressive. The defensive line and secondary are loaded. Some people are concerned about the linebackers but not me. J.J. Quinlan stepped up at MLB with Oliver Schober hurt. Quinlan is a tackling machine and earned himself a scholarship. Zack Berg had an impressive spring at OLB and will get playing time as a backup and at special teams. Don't forget that Ghaali Muhammad will also be playing linebacker in the fall when he is healthy.
- Mark Nzeocha is a scary freak of nature at safety. At 6-3 220lbs he has 3 inches and 25lbs on the next biggest player in the secondary. Yet his speed allows him to cover anyone on the field. He is going to make some noise in 2012.
- The defensive line is stocked right now and that will get even deeper when the new recruits join the team this summer. It seems like the team has adjusted well after losing Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns. Den Durbin has done well in his move to defensive end. Kurt Taufa'asua had a fantastic camp at defensive tackle.
It is amazing that last year the defense performed so poorly but now they look miles ahead of the offense. Great to see them improve so quickly under Tormey. There is some concern for the offense but having a healthy Brett Smith will make the offense improve dramatically.
Here is a video with some highlights from the Spring game. Feel free to post your thoughts and the team as they head into the off-season. Any thing I missed or other concerns you have?