It was nice just having a spring game to watch. After last year with Covid-19 nuking pretty much everything fun in the spring, I was legitimately excited to watch the game. Then I watched it and realized it’s still a meaningless scrimmage with vanilla game plans. But it gave us something to watch and obsess over until fall camp starts sometime in August. I didn’t get to see guys I wanted to see (Jermaine Burton, Justin Robinson). By halftime I was zoned out. Maybe that comes from being a dad, or I’m getting old enough where a game isn’t enjoyable without some juice.
I also haven’t paid as close attention to the team as I did in 2016–2019. I’m not as in on recruiting as I have been. The heartaches have taken their toll on me and I find myself managing my expectations. Previously, I would know who was who and which number each new guy was. This year I only knew AD Mitchell was 5 because he caught so many passes and Brock Vandagriff was 12 because he’s the quarterback and touches the ball on every play. I will still attempt to give what few thoughts I have on what I saw.
The Offense Looks Great
Again, I’m driving slow on this…but the offense is looking good. JT Daniels is a real QB and he looks fully healthy. The more he throws with these guys, the better both of them are going to look. Without the Covid-19 restrictions, they all should really get in sync and be ready for Clemson.
I really hope Darnell Washington gets more involved in the passing game. He should have a minimum of six red zone touchdowns this season with his size advantage. I don’t think any linebacker can cover him and no defensive back will be able to tackle him. We didn’t see nearly enough of him last year. This year if he’s just a blocking TE without much rub in the passing game he will have every reason to transfer.
The offensive line looked a little shaky, but that could be for a few reasons. It could be our defensive line has finally matured and is ready to go. It could be they will finally unleash the stud pass rushers we’ve recruited the last few years. It could be we haven’t found the right mix of five. I’m not pushing the panic button right now, but that Clemson defensive line will come to Charlotte ready to eat.
Our Front Seven Is Legit
I’ve been waiting for Travon Walker to fully put it all together. I’ve been waiting for Adam Anderson and Nolan Smith to wreak havoc in opposing teams backfields. I’ve been waiting (less time obviously) for Jalen Carter to be a force. That wait could be over. With big Jordan Davis coming back and Devonte Wyatt by his side, the defensive line will cause problems. Who will back up Davis though?
Quay Walker has also kept us waiting a while to show out. Will he and Nakobe Dean both do it this year? They should be making some highlight type plays if our DL does what they are capable of.
Our Defensive Backs are Inexperienced
Lewis Cine and Chris Smith have some experience in games. Ameer Speed has been in the program since 2017. But Jalen Kimber and Kelee Ringo haven’t played much and will be tested. However, if our front seven is as good as advertised, that will help them get acclimated. My main concern is the depth, because there isn’t much thanks to the transfer portal. Maybe when Tykee Smith comes to town that will help. Maybe if we can pluck another DB from the portal that will help also.
I’m cautiously optimistic for our chances. We face a stern early test against Clemson, but if we lose, it isn’t the end of the world. We have a sneaky tough game against UAB before we face a rebuilding South Carolina, a Vandy team we will have a special sort of pain for, and an Arkansas team that was very frisky last year. Then we have Auburn on the road and Kentucky at home. Then we play Florida which should be a victory, but those guy always come to play so who knows. Mizzou is a winnable, but tough game. Then we play the Vols who by that time might have the offense working or might be playing walkons due to lack of depth. We finish with Charleston Southern and the North Avenue Trade School. Too soon to tell, but it feels possible.