The “official” depth charts are out in preparation for the upcoming season opener against Jacksonville State. A few things jumped out at me as both expected and surprising…lets look at things position by position.
QB – Josh Nesbitt / Tevin Washington / Quentin Sims
No real surprise here. We’ve had time to prepare for and digest the fact that Jaybo Shaw won’t be available to us for at least the first half of the season. We also knew that Quentin Sims was getting some QB snaps, which signaled loud and clear Coach Johnson’s intention to redshirt both true freshmen QBs on the roster.
I’m extremely nervous about the lack of depth behind Nesbitt, but like Coach Johnson says…we’re still better off this season than we were last season. Last season we had Nesbitt and a pair of true freshmen plus Calvin Booker. This year we’ve got Nesbitt back with experience and Washington ready for the backup role after redshirting and getting quality reps and practice time. And in a pinch, Sims can probably run the option better than Booker. Calvin did his best, but the Gardner Webb game illustrated his limitations in this scheme.
B-Back – Jonathan Dwyer / Preston Lyons / Richard Watson
I was surprised to see Lyons jump ahead of Watson into the #2 spot. I’d been hearing good things about Lyons but you don’t typically see a transfer jump ahead of a highly recruited scholarship player like Watson. I was also surprised that Lucas Cox wasn’t in the b-back chart…especially considering the depth we have at a-back.
I also originally expected to see Anthony Allen at b-back. He’s a powerful runner and solidly built. Sources down on campus at practice think that his hands may be the best among the running backs and he’s too good to not be on the field along with Dwyer. So he moved to a-back in an effort to get the best 11 on the field.
A-Back – Embry Peeples / Orwin Smith / Marcus Wright and Anthony Allen / Lucas Cox / Marcus Wright
Yes…you read that right…we’re six deep with quality talent in the a-back position. And that’s without listing Roddy Jones for Jacksonville State. The real surprise here is that Marcus Wright isn’t listed as the main #2 guy on either side. He’s going to play a huge role in the offense this season and will have a break out year.
Orwin Smith doesn’t look like a true freshman, but I expected him to redshirt along with Daniel Drummond and really hit the scene next season.
I have to think that the ultimate plan once everyone is healthy will be to start Allen and Jones at the a-back slots with Wright and Cox serving as their primary back ups. But then Peeples is left out of the loop which makes little sense as well, given his speed and abilities.
We’ve got so much talent at this position its embarassing. They’re all going to get alot of snaps. The starter title will be just a formality.
Wide Receiver – Demarious Thomas / Stephen Hill and Kevin Cone / Quentin Sims
If Tech has a true weakness on offense its a lack of depth and multiple threats at the receiver position.
Thomas is a known quantity and one of the best receivers in the conference. Beyond that, with the recent injury to Tyler Melton, we’re looking at walk ons and freshmen. Still…they’re all big kids that should be able to block and get downfield if needed. I just wish we had a real deep threat opposite Thomas to give opposing defenses a tough decision on who to double cover or leave in single coverage.
Offensive Tackle – Brad Sellers and Nick Claytor will pair up on one side while Austin Barrick and Phil Smith man the other.
These guys may look a little light for tackles, none are close to 300 pounds, but its important to remember that they won’t be doing any prostyle pass blocking or zone blocking for a prostyle running game. They’ll be firing out trying to cut block or get into the second level to pick up a safety or linebacker. They need speed and agility more than pure girth for Coach Johnson’s scheme.
Offensive Guard – Joseph Gilbert and Omoregie Uzzi on one side and Cord Howard and Zach Krish on the other.
Uzzi and Howard are the only offensive linemen on the depth chart that top 300 pounds. They’ll be well utilized in the middle blocking for Dwyer on dive plays. Gilbert has a wealth of experience from last season but needs to get his pads lower so he can maintain leverage on the larger defensive tackles he’ll be facing in serious ACC competition. If he allowes himself to be pushed off the line of scrimmage we’ll be in trouble…see the LSU game last year as an example of how a defensive line push can disrupt Nesbitt and the offense.
Center – Sean Bedford and Dan Voss
Bedford is a walkon who took advantage of an opportunity when Voss was slowed by injury and rehab. It will be interesting to see who ultimately owns the starting center job. Voss is a tough as nails senior…my money is on him securing the starting job with Bedford getting good time in a backup role.
Overall…in the upcoming season opener…
Ideally we’ll see Nesbitt play a few very polished series in the first quarter and sit down so that Washington can get as many live snaps as possible.
I’d also like to see Dwyer cheering from the sidelines by the second half. He’ll pop a few big runs in the first half and get his yards…no need to get him nicked up while padding his stats. Lets see what Lyons and Watson can do.
If we’re not going to redshirt Orwin Smith then we should sit Anthony Allen down for the second half and let Wright, Cox, Peeples, and Smith carry the load at a-back. We’ll need Allen and Jones healthy and ready to go for Clemson five days later. If we are able to avoid playing Smith until Jones comes back, then I’d still like to see him redshirt.
I’d like to see Stephen Hill lined up opposite Thomas. Hill is going to be a big time player and I’d like to see him on the field WITH Thomas at the same time. We need Tyler Melton to come back quick…we’re razor thin here…
We should see marked improvement in the offensive line this season. One of the things that was evident in the last open scrimmage was the improvement in blocking on the edges. We need to see offensive linemen firing out low and taking defensive linemen out on the dive play as well. We can’t hurt opponents on the outside if they don’t respect our ability to hit them in the middle as well.
Next - We’ll take a look at the defensive depth chart and touch on special teams as well, before the game on Saturday. I’ll be watching the NCSU vs South Carolina game tomorrow night, but look for a blog to be posted tomorrow evening. Hopefully we can celebrate an Wolfpack victory over Spurrier and the Gamecocks. The ACC needs to win the head to head matchups to gain respect and support from the various media, pundits, and pollsters.