I have been to some spring practices and have followed fall practice closely, and in that time there are three people that have stood out to me every time. Below is my prediction for these three players this season and what it will mean for the Beavers.
1. Caleb Smith:
While everyone is talking about Hamlett, I would not rest on Smith. He is a physically dominant player that has been practicing and training with more fire than I have seen from him in the few years he has been here. While he was big for us so many times last year, a few mental lapses in games leads many fans to add an asterisk next to his name. From what I have seen and heard is that Caleb has more focus on the details this year than ever before. He practices at 100% and is running guys over in practice.
Every opponent we play is going to have to try and cover Caleb and Connor with a linebacker or safety. None of those guys are going to be able to match up super well physically with them, and Caleb has legit speed to go with his huge frame. Like Gronkowski, Smith is going to be a mismatch against anyone, and if Mannion can get him the ball in the seam to a place only he can catch it, it will be a rough go for opposing defenses.
2. Obum Gwacham:
To be honest, I think ‘Boom’ is going to make the coaches look bad this year. They are going to make him look bad for wasting his time at receiver. In the coaches defense, physically, if Gwacham could have gotten it together as receiver, he would be a high draft pick next spring. As it is, there is a chance he will be. For those that have watched practice, you realize how incredibly athletic he is. If he can hone his technique and find a way to keep leverage and distance from offensive linemen, he is going to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
It is like watching a spider eat a fly. He is this big, giant, fast blur across the field, closing in from behind on fast players and bringing them down. I saw three plays where he held his ground, and when the pass was a bubble screen to the far side of the field, he shed his blocker and ran like he was shot out of a cannon to track it down. He is fast, he is explosive and he will be a very god player for us this year. When I think about some of my concerns about this season, I think about a sack master like Scott Crichton not being here. When I watch Gwacham, I think we might be OK, especially in passing downs or against mobile QB’s. If he can learn to keep position and be disciplined, very few running backs will be able to out run him, and even fewer quarterbacks.
3. Larry Scott:
Larry is never mentioned. He gets buried behind many other players in their assessment of practice and is slightly overshadowed by the very talented Hunt. The thing is, he is fast, has good hips and can cover very well. While many chagrin the injury to Hunt before fall camp, I am sad about the injury to Scott in the spring. He may have ran away with the competition anyway because he knows the system and is a great player.
The other part of Larry that I think is important is that he is a teacher. When injured he was constantly working with guys to get better. He is a great team player and also knows what his role is on the field. He has been in the program a while, worked hard to come back from injury and I think he is going to turn a lot of heads.
I would not be shocked to see Larry and Nelson both be conference leaders for interceptions. Of course, I am not the most objective of prognosticators.