In a little bit of a departure, I wanted to touch on something that is key to winning in college football today. Depth. I don’t mean that the players are philosophical and like to meander around the field pontificating on new ways of viewing reality and giant paradigm shifts as if they are players in some fantastic Monty Python skit. I am talking about numbers, and not just any numbers, quality numbers.
As I watch the defensive line, I am confident in the fact that Edwin Delva, Siala Hautau, Jalen Grimble, Noke Tago or even Dylan Wynn are interchangeable and can all play and contribute at defensive tackle. At times in the last two practices, I am not sure that Tago isn’t the best of the bunch. Other times Grimble and Delva look unstoppable. In the same breath I think Siala is playing to high, he hunkers down and occupies a huge space in the middle allowing other players to swarm in and make the play.
That is depth. If you are playing a fast paced team and decide to just leave two of these guys in and rotate per series and not per situation, I am satisfied the defense will do well.
I see that same depth at Linebacker between Doctor, Alexander, Johnson, Mageao, Songy and Saulo and Noland-Lewis. While the experience of Doctor and Alexander is tough to match, the talent and speed of the other guys can make up for a lot of it. In the secondary, you have Nelson, Hunt, Patrick and Scott that can all play well at corner and Zimmerman, Murphy, Arnold, Robinson and even Strong that can ll contribute if needed. Strong needs the most time, but he is picking things up rapidly and I see him and Arnold making waves this year.
Tight end is like an ever flowing fountain of talent, with five or six guys that are all contributors. Same with running back. Where it gets dicey is on the offensive line, at QB and at receiver. You can no longer have the days of the huge drop off between starters and their subs at any position. I think Brent Vanderveen is doing really well and between him, Kempt and Del Rio they are going to have a guy that has legitimate Pac 12 talent backing up Mannion. Unfortunately, should Sean get dinged up, there will be some pretty rough parts at first before hey can be consistent. Part of that is that they don’t play often, but part of that is that they are all young.
Same with offensive line. When Keenan went down late in practice, I thought Harlow was going to slide over and take his tackle spot. But Harlow got dinged earlier in practice. So in comes in Sam Curtius and he does a pretty good job. In a matter of minutes, the offensive line got thin and guys that were down the depth chart a bit found themselves being needed for reps. When you have a position that requires five starters, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to injuries. Same goes for the receivers. I think that the receivers are working hard and Friday was definitely better for many of them than Wednesday. I just don’t know if they are two deep across the board in talent that can be interchangeable. Talent that can contribute at or near the same level as the starter when they go out.
So it will be interesting to see who steps up on those teams and who can be the next Micah Hatfield that can come in and make plays without there being a huge drop off from the starter.
Injuries will happen, and the teams that are going to win week in and out are the ones that can overcome those injuries and have the personnel to win even when their best players are on the sideline.