As we enter into finals week and Spring Break, it is important
1. The defense will dominate:
Towards the end of the first two weeks, the prevailing story line was that of the quarterback competition and the new offense. In the final scrimmage, the Beavers were able to move the ball on the ground pretty well. Once they get back, the kid gloves will be off and OSU will be installing their blitz packages. Having worked mostly on installing the base system, changing the mentality of the defense and teaching the desired techniques, the Beaver coaching staff took the first two weeks of spring ball to build up the foundation of how they will play defense.
Now they will start adding the wrinkles that are going to ratchet up the pressure on opposing offenses. This will really change the whole dynamic of the practices and force the offense to perfect their calls, recognize disguised coverages and prepare for an aggressive onslaught.
EXPECTATION: Honestly, I think the next three weeks of practice will really establish the pecking orders of this team. The aggressive defense will really force the offense to prepare quickly. One advantage to so much live competition is you get to see players as they will be in games. Receivers will need to take advantages of mismatches and be spot on perfect in their route running to take advantage of gaps due to blitzing. Linemen will need to be able to read the defense and not get fooled by blitzes or delayed blitzes. Quarterbacks will need to be able to differentiate between real coverages and disguised coverages and not lock on targets in their pre-snap reads. Basically an aggressive and attacking defense will help the people that are ready to produce on offense shine.
2. The QB competition will be over quickly:
While it may not be announced quickly, my guess is that as the defensive pressure mounts, it will help further separate who is ready to start and who is not. There will be no surprises about who can do what anymore and now it is going to be about handling a heavier burden and being able to see through disguised coverages and play through pressure. I am not saying that a starter will be announced at the end of week three, but i do think that those that attend practice will find it easier and easier to guess who the starter will be by their play and their reps.
EXPECTATION:Honestly, I expect that the last week of practice will be with a definitive first, second and third uint. Having not seen more than a few clips and heard more than a few whispers I cannot say who I think will start, but my guess is whoever shows they can do everything (head, arm and feet) the best will be the starter. You don’t need to be the fastest or have the best arm, but you need to be the most reliable in all three.
3. The secondary will be the strongest unit on the team:
While most of the talk this spring has been on the QB competition and the live contact in practice, one item that sticks out to me is the interceptions. With returning contributors Justin Strong, Cyril Noland-Lewis and Larry Scott, the Beavers have some talent and experience to build on. Add the physical talents of Dashon Hunt, Dwayne Williams, Charles Okonkwo and Brandon Arnold and you have a lot to be excited about in this unit.
The other item that gets very little press is the addition of Coach Odum. While at SMU he was responsible for getting perennially ranked secondaries coached up and ready to play. SMU was often in the top twenty in interceptions nationally during his tenure there and in years like 2007 where his Utah group finished first in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 2012 where he coached an injury riddled secondary to lead the nation in interceptions returned for touchdowns, tied for third in the nation in total takeaways and second in the nation in fumble recoveries for TD’s.
If our quarterbacks and receivers are not on the same page, this unit can punish them. There have been numerous interceptions dropped by the defense in the first two weeks. As they shore that up, the offense will have more pressure to move the ball efficiently. I expect big things from this unit in 2015 and that starts with the rest of Spring Practice.
EXPECTATION: I am going to be hard on this group this year as they develop, but the receivers are going to have their work cut out for them all spring and fall. This secondary will be in their face, aggressive and resemble the secondaries we have seen at UW or for the ducks in the last few years. Fast, aggressive, physical and always looking for the big play. It will be very important that our offense is ready for this in terms of efficiency and protecting the ball. Playing this unit will only make the offense better.