Every August we dissect press conference wording and drink up insider practice buzz. It only takes a word out of a coaches mouth. Hype is repeated, opinions are formed, and expectations are set.
By every October we discard them. The hype is never right, not fully. Our summer certainties mostly disappear, though some linger bitterly into next season. (James Ross seems to be the most disappointing sophomore starter and almost team-leading tackler ever).
Last year, there were several “surprises”. Green didn’t look close to the most talented freshman RB in the country. Thomas wasn’t the “starting nickelback”. Miller wasn’t an upgrade to Mealer. Omameh and Kwiatkowski was badly missed. Ross and Clark weren’t all-americans. Upon appeal, Kalis’ red-shirt was upheld by the supreme court of Prove It On The Field. We (coaches included) were wrong about the starting center, again, and many other things.
That got me thinking about this year– where are our expectations misguided now? Where should we pump our brakes? For the contrarians and skeptics out there, here’s some expectations to think twice about.
1. Devin Funchess : NFL-bound #1 WR. Good to very good is a given, but the Calvin Johnson talk (even the Marques Colston talk) might be insane. Not everyone adapts to #1 CBs plus constant safety help. At the very least, he might struggle (relative to expectations) as a deep threat. This IS still, technically, a position-change.
2. Amara Darboh: #2 WR. The unanimous opinion from Mgoblog asserts Darboh is ‘04 Avant. But what if Funchess is the (tall) Avant? The 80-reception #1 target ’05 version of Avant. What if Funchess’ talents are wasted running fly routes that blocking can’t support? If ’05 is the right year for parallels, Funchess needs Manningham and Breaston to go deep and do damage on screens (like Norfleet, Canteen, Chesson, maybe Harris can do).
3. Braden & Miller: starters. Regardless of the rationale, it’s hard to completely forget they sat while walk-ons and true freshman started last year. Maybe they got a whole lot better, or fit the new scheme… or maybe the coaching staff is wishful more than wise.
4. Keith Heitzman: natural TE. Butt is hurt and Williams has struggled. We need a TE or two or four. Enter a guy who has proven to be a solid football player and who seems happy to have cut down his weight. The thing is - position changes can be hard.
5. Green or Smith: it matters. Downhill back is a fun idea, but the field is still mostly flat. Until our OL proves otherwise, there are going to be a lot of 3rd downs and passing situations. Whoever the Uphill back is (Johnson/Hayes?), he is likely to get the bulk of snaps when the important games are decided.
6. Erik Magnuson: starter. The aborted move to LT might be about Cole and Braden being good, or it might be about him being not that good. He hasn’t started a full season yet, and if some of the other OL options pan out, Mags might be the odd man. Maybe not quite powerful enough for guard and not quite talented enough for tackle?
7. Jabrill Peppers; defender/kick returner. You’ve seen the highlights. Seriously, not going to use him on offense? Ever?
And on D:
1. Jabrill Peppers :“starting nickelback”. I see you former freshman sensation Dymonte Thomas.
2. Joe Bolden: starter. Bolden is good, experienced, talented. Morgan is probably still better on gameday.
3. Jarrod Wilson: safety cornerstone. Our defense played very soft last year, in part (I suspect) to protect Wilson. Now, he’s asked to player closer to the line of scrimmage, which may suit him OR introduce uncertainty for a guy who is just settling in. Most NFL safeties are not nearly as big as Wilson and we have talented and about-to-be-benched CBs who can play.
4. RJS: near-starter. I’ll eat an unspecified fruit if he displaces Ross or even cuts into his snaps significantly. If somebody does that it’s probably a DB.
5. Mo Hurst’s butt: not glued to the bench. The probably fake-starters last week were Glasgow (NTG) and Godin. No one believes that will hold, but Pipkins and Mone are big dudes who will play Wormley’s been hyped for 3 years now, and Henry has a similar skillset. Hurst is the most likely of the prominent DL candidates to lose out, no matter how much rotation there is at these 2 positions.
6. Jourdan Lewis: starter. I’m probably buying the hype here, to be honest, but Taylor and Countess aren’t just going to sit on the bench all year and Lewis barely separated from Stribling last season. [Note: wrote this before Hoke's presser]
7. Channing Stribling: bench-warmer. Stribling was pretty damn awesome for a freshman. On par with Lewis. Normally we’d be swooning over a ball-hawking 6’2 CB that has gained strength and experience. Guys like him tend to find their way onto the field.
Many of the above will turn out to be true. Maybe most of them. But some won’t. If nothing else, remember the coaches are intentionally BSing us right now. Hiding injuries, motivating players, keeping opponents guessing.
Don’t believe everything you read, especially this.