We’re back for our second Spring football outlook. If you missed the first part of our Round Table Series for the Spring dealing with concerns for the coaching staff going into Spring ball (which begins next month by the way), you can see it HERE. Today we’re going to deal with some positions of interest to our ACU team. Keep in mind that these questions/answers won’t have anything to do with out predictions on day 1 against Rutgers in the Fall, just Spring ball.
1: Which position needs to improve the most this Spring?
BRIDGETTE: Before New Mexico, I would have said our offensive line, but after the bowl game I have to say the offense as a whole. There’s a lot of areas in the offense that need to improve, especially in the amount of dropped passes.
LEW: Punter. No question here. The position was a liability to special teams play most of last season and CML heads into spring practice without an answer.
NICK: I have to go with offensive line with this one. There were too many issues this past season that were caused by the offensive line to overlook them. Most positions have the returners and the offensive line is taking the biggest hit when it comes to returners.
JOSH: Quarterback. Now that Apodaca out, the Cougars have a redshirt senior (Connor Halliday) and three redshirt freshmen (Tyler Bruggman, Luke Falk, Connor Ennis) on the clock. Peyton Bender will arrive in the Fall but this Spring’s depth becomes pretty slim without Apodaca.
2: Which three redshirt or grayshirt freshmen are you most looking forward to watching develop in the Spring?
BRIDGETTE: Bruggman, not sure about any others.
LEW: Tyler Bruggman would certainly be one guy who everyone will be watching…but not the most intriguing. The top three I’m keeping an eye on are Gerald Wicks, Cody O’Connell and Riley Sorenson. All three could have a significant impact on the evolution of CML’s CougAir offense.
NICK: Tyler Bruggman, Paris Taylor, Cody O’Connell.
JOSH: How could you not be looking forward to seeing Bruggman? Suddenly he’s thrust into the No. 2 position by himself. Cody O’Connell is another on the O-line and an unlikely candidate but I want to see Marcellus Pippins battle Charleston White at CB. Leach says Pippins had an impressive Fall of self-workout. Honorable mentions: C Carlos Freeman, LB Peyton Pelluer, H-Back Nick Begg.
3: What is your guess for breakout player this Spring on both offense and defense?
BRIDGETTE: Offensively, Dom Williams is only going to get better and I think next year will be a big year for him. Defensively, Darryl Paulo is going to be a huge contender for the Cougar defensive line, making huge plays in both the Apple Cup and the New Mexico Bowl.
LEW: On offense, Marcus Mason has consistently improved as a player since his arrival in Pullman. With another off season in the weight room and another year of experience, Mason could do some great things in 2014. On defense, it’s easy to expect some great things from Daquawn Brown. He did a lot of good things last season as a true freshman. Those were balanced by numerous mistakes which should be reduced greatly with a full year of experience and an off season in Pullman to develop physically. Brown could very well pick up where Deone Bucannon left off.
NICK: Offense: River Cracraft – Cracraft has shown us glimpses of great plays and should be able to contribute more this next year. Defense: Daquawn Brown – The ups and downs that Brown had last year should be settled down and figured out. Brown was apart of that secondary that gave us some exciting plays and can help continue that legacy.
JOSH: On offense, maybe not a popular pick but I’m going with C Carlos Freeman. The Cougars need a center to emerge and it’s between Freeman and redshirt soph. Sam Flor. If either breaks out I’ll be happy. On defense I’m going with LB Ivan McLennan to reemerge and make a difference.
4: Offensive line needs to replace three starters with only Ecklund and Dahl returning on the left side. With Sean Krepsz enrolling early, most of the contenders are on campus this Spring so we should get a good idea of who should start in the Fall, who emerges in those other three positions of C, RG and RT this Spring?
LEW: The problem here is that spring ball is where redshirt guys get quality reps in quantity. Front runners will be O’Connell, Sorensen and I like Carlos Freeman as a possible candidate to replace Elliott Bosch.
NICK: Riley Sorensen, Cody O’Connell, Sean Krepsz, and Carlos Freeman. Freeman at center, Sorenson at guard, and O’Connell at tackle with Krepsz getting in the mix when needed.
JOSH: I’m with the other two guys here. Sophomore Riley Sorensen at G is clearly a guy O-line coach Clay McGuire wants on the field. Redshirt freshman Cody O’Connell is a favorable candidate at RT based on size alone (6’8, 345 lbs) but still needs some technique work. I think redshirt freshman Carlos Freeman’s smarts win him the position ultimately over redshirt sophomore Sam Flor but it will be a great battle. JC redshirt junior Devante McClain is my dark-horse at G.
5: Which position battle are you most looking forward to this Spring and why?
BRIDGETTE: Bruggman vs. Halliday, because it’s clear Bruggman has talent. Halliday has the advantage of a strong arm and game experience. I think the determining factors will be focus and technique
LEW: I’m looking forward to the competition at RB between Mason, Wicks, Teondray Caldwell, Jamal Morrow and Theron West. There’s five guys who will elevate production from the running back position in 2014 whether they are taking a direct handoff or hauling in a short toss.
NICK: The quarterback position. I am one that stands behind Connor Halliday but do believe that Tyler Bruggman will give Halliday a little competition and if Halliday is unable to good number Bruggman should be able to come in and help the team out.
JOSH: My most exciting position battle has to be the O-line battle. I think because the starting unit is already in the group that will be here this Spring. Every other position will add a competitive depth chart battle in the two-deeps come Fall. Those who emerge this Spring on O-line will be there in the Fall.
6: soph. Daquawn Brown, rs fr. Charleston White, rs sr. Tracy Clark, fr. Marcellus Pippins are all on campus as CB’s this Spring. CB is wide open and Kevin Griffin, Deion Singleton, Patrick Porter and Sulaiman Hameed are coming in the Fall. Obviously we’ll have to wait for the Fall results, but if you had to guess now who are going to be the top 2 coming out of Spring ball?
BRIDGETTE: If I had to guess I would say Pippins and Brown.
LEW: No question Brown will lock down a starting position the same way he can lock down on opponents best receiver. Clark has experience which should serve him well, but the athletic talent of Pippins and White will not be denied. Between the latter two, I don’t have a clear leader.
NICK: Daquawn Brown and Marcellus Pippins. Brown has been there and has proven that he belongs there even after his issues he had last season. Pippins seems to be another one that should be able to give out results. He has the speed and athleticism to go along with his talent that he could be a player that shows a lot this season.
JOSH: Though I’m more looking forward to seeing Pippins develop, I think D. Brown and C. White come out on top, based on the practice experience of White.
7: I think it’s going to be unanimous that the strongest position of depth is at receiver going into Spring. What is the weakest position (the one that will desperately need a talent infusion from the freshman class when Spring is done)? *Clarification: this is not the same question as #1, which is simply asking which position needs the most turnaround.
BRIDGETTE: Looking at the roster, I think the running-back position needs the most depth.
LEW: No question where the most glaring weakness on this roster is going into spring. Punter. Punter. Punter. A close second would be replacing Andrew Furney as the place kicker. Time and again late in the season, and also in the New Mexico Bowl, the punting game hurt the Cougs in the field position game.
NICK: I would have to say offensive line. The OL is shallow in depth and is lacking a decent amount of talent. Most of the positions that needed help last year gained a big boost this off-season in depth and talent.
JOSH: Interesting take from Nick there (being that he was a high school O-lineman). I would say kicker but special teams isn’t really a focus until Fall. So I’m going with the cornerbacks. With Kevin Griffin and Deion Singleton coming in the Fall, the position could look severely different than what we see this Spring. Griffin and Singleton bring both size and athleticism not available on the positional roster right now.