Amidst all of the idle chatter on here there’s been some random conversations around what we’ll be seeing in 2012. I figured I’d put up some of my thoughts and get group discussions going per position. I’ll try my best to start one per day.
So lets start on the defensive side, the secondary – corners and safeties.
Sean Murray (Jr): 6-1, 190. Sean’s coming into this season as a projected front-runner at CB. He’s had 3 years now playing behind Tru, Roots, and BDot and it’s his time to step up. He was a guy back in 2009 that Hauck took a long and serious look at not RS’ing and playing right away. In 2010 he showed some good improvement with 19 tackles, an int, and a forced fumble. In 2011 being the 4th CB on the field he finished up with 23 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. Even in his limited time on defense Murray made the most of it. Replacing Tru/Roots/Donny will not be easy, but I see Sean starting spring camp (and probably the regular season) as our #1 lock-down corner. He’s the tallest of the group, and fast, running a 4.47 – 40 as a recruit (came in as a Scout 2-star recruit). Sean in many game situations played it safe a lot, he’ll fit well into a zone coverage and if he continues to improve his aggressive moves to get picks or breakup passes he’ll turn into another great Grizzly CB.
Kevin Frank Jr (Sr): 6-0, 190. Kevin will hopefully put together a spring/fall much like his cousin Houston Roots did. As a junior Kevin saw some limited time at corner and played mostly ST (11 tackles, 1 fumble recovery). In spring camp Kevin opened strong but come fall camp he was over-shadowed a bit as Tru returned to practice and Kevin found himself mostly getting 2nd string reps. Kevin is a fast dude, reported as a solid 4.4 – 40. Kevin on defense will give the run-support some help as well as coming out of the JuCo ranks he was touted for being good in run support as well. Kevin needs to continue to improve, in fall camp at times he was a little too passive and then would correct with being a little too aggressive and hitting WRs too early. Hopefully his continued time in the system has leveled him out.
Nate Harris (RS-Frosh): 5-9 185. Nate was fun to watch in fall camp, he went from running with the scouts/rookies to some days lining up with the 1st string when Tru or Roots or Donny was subbed out or resting for the day. I also thought for sure Nate was going to forego his red shirt and get right into the mix as a backup corner and ST’er, but I was wrong. This could be for the best though, 4 years of Nate with the Griz could produce a long-term CB that frustrates opposing QBs for a while. In fall camp Nate made some rookie errors that you’d expect, getting out of position, getting beat over the top in zone, etc. However he’d come back and pick a pass, get a nice breakup, or lock down a WR like glue. He’ll continue to have “growing pains” this year, but I see him stepping up in a big way, he’ll challenge to start – I have no doubt about that.
Marlon Miles (Jr): 5-9 170. You’d have to chalk me up as someone who was very surprised to hear Miles named the scout team player of the year for 2011. Marlon is a transfer player and due to his overall small size in both spring and fall camp he was over-matched and over-powered a lot. He wasn’t bad in coverage but taller WRs and more powerful WRs/TEs had their way against him. Landing the recognition he got must’ve shown some real hard work and dedication, and quite frankly that’s got me anxious to see how he’s improved come spring ball. With my limited knowledge of his improvements I originally projected him as a main ST’er, but who knows, lets see how he steps up this spring. I’d say of the corner backs with the most to prove… it’s probably Marlon.
Bo Tully (Jr): 6-2 195. Bo won out a heated battle to start at safety with Andrew Badger last year but then found himself getting replaced by Matt Hermanson a bunch as well. Tully had solid games (ISU) and some bad games as well (SHSU stands out). Regardless of what some posters on here think, I believe Bo is our best returning option to continue to start at safety. He needs to clean up his tackling in a major way, too many arm-tackles and missed tackles. He also can go from playing zone coverage really well to looking lost at times and giving up wide-open receptions. He’s going to be challenged this spring by a host of players, but I think it’ll bring the best out in him. He’s the biggest safety we’ve got and I see him molding into an Erik Stoll kind of kid.
Matt Hermanson (So): 6-1 188. Matt’s a known quantity for Griz Nation right now, presumed a lock at free safety, he showed why Pflu and company were jacked that he committed to the Griz this time last year. We’ve seen Matt play the pass really well and he’s got a good nose for picking the ball off, hopefully this season his run-support will improve as well and round him off into an all-conference safety. Matt will presumably be the glue that holds the defensive secondary together. He’s going to shift from being a guy that rotates in a ton to being the leader back there, hopefully that’s a smooth transition.
Steven Rominger (Jr): 5-10 188. Steven for some reason fell into Breske’s dog house and never saw the field at FS despite a good spring camp and a solid fall camp. This could be the make or break year for him to bust through and land somewhere on the team depth. He’s a hard hitter and strong worker on ST, I’d love to see him carry that over and get some chances to work his way into the safety rotation. “Romo” as I’d heard guys calling him in practice was really up and down when playing zone, that’s his big area of needed improvement from my observational standpoint.
Justin Whitted (So): 6-0 204. Whitted I’ve not yet seen much of, as he was getting rolling in fall camp he hurt his shoulder (I think) and wound up having surgery and sitting the whole season. He’s a bigger dude that the rest of the safeties and can really put a hard hit on guys. Not sure if we’ll even see him this spring, I’d see him in an ST role once he’s back out there for now.
Connor Lebsock (RS-Frosh): 6-2 198. Lots of hype followed Connor into fall camp and just as he was starting to roll he suffered a real bad hamstring injury that wound up ruining any chance of him seeing the field as he worked his way back to full speed. Connor will presumably challenge Bo Tully this year to start opposite of Hermey but it’ll be an uphill battle for him as he works his way back in. He’s got the size and speed for sure, and in his first few weeks of camp he was showing a good ability to defend the ball. I’ve just not seen enough of him yet to know if he’s a legit guy to start yet, hopefully spring camp will shed more light on that.
Zach Gratton (RS-Frosh): 6-0 185: Zach had a few nice moments in the fall but was a little lighter/shorter than the other safeties and especially in running situations found himself flat on his back a little too much. He’s a real quick kid and plays pretty smart. Hopefully a fall/winter in the weight room has put a little more weight on his frame, that could go a real long way. I see Zach being an ST’er this year for sure.
And then there’s the new additions:
Jacob Coogan (Jr): 6-2 205: Jacob if I recall is already here and will be out there for spring ball. If I’ve learned anything over the last handful of years a JuCo highlight reel does not equal immediate success once transferred. In many cases over these last few years (Roots and Dodson) JuCo kids usually come in strong but then have to adapt to the level of competition here and can taper off in their 1st year transferring in. Looking at Jacob’s highlight reel he looks like a solid competitor to get into it right away, I’ll be waiting to see that come spring camp for sure. The highlight reel had him covering in the slot as a 3rd DB as well, I wonder if they’ll work him in that way as well if he cannot surpass Hermey/Tully/Lebsock/Romo. Time will tell.
Anthony Goodwin (Jr): 6-1 190: Echo my opinions as stated above, I’m going to withhold overall judgement until I see how he stacks up at this level. I’m excited to see what this kid will bring to the CB corps, he could wind up starting or backing up – what will be the big test is can he start big and keep it going, or will he start big and then recede?
Ellis Henderson (So): 6-0 180: Ellis is going to get looks at corner/ret/wr. I guess we’ll just have to see where he lands, maybe I’m way off-base but with the loss of explosive WRs Sambrano and Atkins I really wonder if he’ll get a heavier look there.
JR Nelson (Frosh): 6-2 172: We wont see him until the fall. Good height, I’d love to see 10 more pounds on him when fall camp starts.
Going into spring camp I’d guess the depth as follows:
Starting 4: Murray/Frank/Hermey/Tully
2nd string: Harris/Goodwin/Lebsock/Coogan
There’ll be tons of movement I’d expect – and again this is just a guess, I’m also presuming that Whitted will still be out