It's been a long road, but things are finally starting to wind down, as the climactic event is set for this Saturday at 1 PM.
Despite returning more starters than on defense, the offensive side of the ball has been very inconsistent. The quarterback play is just not there yet, but you can blame the wide receivers as well. QB Chandler Harnish has been "the man" all spring, but hasn't had too many exceptional performances to clearly be running away with the starting spot. Harnish is the incumbent, starting 9 games last year while missing some time with an ankle injury. DeMarcus Grady has made strides this spring and will challenge for a good amount of playing time and special schemes just for him to include his athletic ability behind center.
Coach Kill has made it a point to mention 3 names of wide receivers over and over again in his conversations with the media: Nathan Palmer, Landon Cox and Willie Clark. Sure, there's more veteran guys like Marcus Lewis and Preston Williams but they aren't gamebreakers and will take a more limited role in mentoring the young receivers that are set to arrive this summer. Cox is the only consistent returner as he started 8 games last year. Palmer started sporadically last year and dealed with some injuries and Clark started the Independence Bowl.
The backfield is cluttered. RBs Justin Anderson and Alan Smith both went down with injuries, allowing more reps for the top guys on the depth chart. Chad Spann has been banged up lately, but should be the power back for this upcoming season. Me'co Brown has had a great spring and Ricky Crider continues to plug away. Coach Kill and the rest of the fans are waiting for somebody to step up big at this position.
Fullback is pretty much set after the open competition last year, headlined by Kyle Skarb and Connor Flahive. The Tight End position should be fine, but will be an open competition deep into the summer for younger players to get a decent amount of playing time behind the incumbent Reed Cunningham. Look for Sophomore TE Jason Schepler to make an impact as he played as a true Freshman last year.
The right side of the offensive line will be a battlefield right until the Wisconsin game. The O-Line should be better in the 2nd year in Limegrover's system. The offensive line is where a team begins and ends right there in the trenches. Let's hope the 2 new players on the right (Tense & Skatrud as of now) can gel with the brick wall of LT Trevor Olson and crew on the left side. LG Jason Onyebuagu and C Eddie Adamski are the two best players on the offensive side of the ball.
Here's a summary of what you should watch out for this Saturday when the offense is on the field:
- Timing between the quarterbacks and the wide receivers
- Young players stepping up and making plays at the running back and tight end positions
- How the offensive line is gelling, especially with the two new players on the right side