I loaded up my oldest daughter and headed down to campus this morning for our annual spring game ritual. Its become a tradition of sorts. She enjoys seeing Buzz and the cheerleaders and I enjoy the opportunity to keep my GT brainwashing plan on track. (My wife will be happy to hear that she still plans to go to school at Florida State…so I still have work left to do…)
The weather had dampened the crowd both literally and figuratively but there were still a few thousand folks on hand. I suspect they were all curious about the Groh 3-4 defense and how different things might look this season.
The biggest thing that jumped out at me was the fact that this defensive shift in philosophy may really help out Brad Jefferson, Anthony Egbuniwe, and AT Barnes.
Barnes has always been a tweener of sorts, not really fitting at the DE or LB position under Tenuta or Wommack.
Egbuniwe always seemed a little light for a defensive end and seemed to play with his pads too high to really get in and battle offensive tackles.
In the 3-4 alignments we saw today, it looked like Barnes and Egbuniwe will benefit from Groh’s penchant to walk his outside linebackers up on the line from time to time. It gives the appearance of a five man front but also allows the OLBs the ability to drop into coverage, blitz, or spy a running back. Its a perfect role for guys like Barnes and Egbuniwe since they are obviously athletic and versatile. Both will play a large role in the defense this season and one or both may have breakout years.
Jefferson brings a tough, aggressive style of play to the inside linebacker position. He’ll be able to focus on reading plays and reacting with more focus than in previous seasons when he had to play more laterally as a conventional middle linebacker and cover more ground.
Offensively the star of the day was Stephen Hill. He’s put on weight since last season and looks stronger now. He’s not as big as Demarious Thomas was nor as silky smooth as Calvin Johnson was, but he’s positioned himself to be the next GT receiver to land on NFL draft lists. At a minimum he’s obviously going to be one of our main playmakers.
Before the rain and lightning ended the scrimmage early, Hill had gone up over a defender to wrestle away an under thrown ball and had also burnt freshman safety Isaiah Johnson deep on a 79 yard TD completion.
In short…Stephen Hill has matured and looks like a collegiate wide receiver in every sense of the word.
The other guys who stood out to me on offense were Tevin Washington (looks like the obvious #2 behind Nesbitt) and Orwin Smith. Smith is poised for a huge season in my opinion. He just has “it” and looks like a threat to break a long gain every time he has the ball.
Anyone else have any impressions from the abbreviated scrimmage this morning?
For the record…I had a chili cheese dog and fries at the Varsity. My daughter got her first Varsity Orange and approved heartily.
Our four early departures have all been drafted at this point.
Derrick Morgan and Demarious Thomas obviously went in the first round. I figure they went about where they should have gone.
Morgan was probably the best defensive lineman we’ve had on the Flats since Greg Gathers. He was over shadowed when he was playing with Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, and Darryl Richard but people who were paying attention knew that Morgan would ultimately make the biggest splash.
Thomas was the first receiver chosen this year. He has all the tools needed to succeed at the NFL level and was an excellent exhibit of how Paul Johnson’s offense can showcase a receiver if he has the talent and skills to take advantage of it. Maybe now the haters and negative recruiters will hush. If not, then when Stephen Hill goes pro in a couple of years that may do it.
Morgan Burnette went in the third round, which seems about right. After a huge sophomore season he seemed to disappear last year. While still productive, he just didn’t seem to make the same impact as he had the year before. But still…his obvious physical tools warranted a third round pick. He’ll make big money when he comes up for free agency at the end of his initial contract.
And finally, Jonathan Dwyer fell all the way to the 6th round. This was largely the product of some injuries that hindered his combine showing. But it was also due to concerns that he wasn’t in sufficient shape and may have appeared a bit soft compared to his sophomore season. (GT fans wondered if he had put on weight…)
The media fumble of the NFL drug test results were probably a extremely minor factor here, if any.
Dwyer has a HUGE upside ultimately. He’s capable of being a feature back if he can stay healthy and deliver on the field. Pittsburgh may well have gotten a steal in the 6th round. And its a good organization for Dwyer to land with.