so, a couple of questions for all you guys, and then some ideas/thoughts for next season.
(1) What's the consensus in these parts on Mike Shaw as a go-to guy in the run game? I know he's shown some flashes in his first 2 seasons, but he's also looked a bit fragile and careless at times. With Vince Smith's knee injury and unknown timeline for recovery, it would seem Shaw's the guy for now.
(2) Who else do we expect to vie for playing time next fall? Mike Cox? Fitz Toussaint? Who else? Any of these guys have particular hype or immediate impact-potential?
(3) have we heard any hype/intel on the progress or potential impact of Je'Ron Stokes? Did he work as a slot or outside guy in practice?
(4) I know we've beaten this horse well into the ground, but what the hell do we do w/ denard?
=> I'll address this last question first with an idea... With a lot of unproven guys fighting for playing time in the backfield, I see D-Rob continuing to make a lot of appearances in the running game, whether it be as a 'wildcat' QB or on the field w/ Tate. We KNOW Denard can gain yards on the ground, even when the defense expects it, and he's our top returning rusher. With all the talk about how to handle the QB situation, it's funny to me that, IMO, nothing will change in how these guys are rotated in and out. Unless Denard magically connects his brain to his arm, he's not beating out Tate as the starting QB. On the other hand, unless Shaw has a monster off-season or Vince recovers unusually quickly, Denard will easily be our best returning run threat. In short, I think Rich has eeked out another year of dangling the QB carrot in front of Denard's nose before a real decision has to be made. This isn't to say that i think Denard won't be more effective. I could see him producing 1000 yards between running, throwing and maybe even receiving/returning.
=> IMO, this spring is the time for Rich Rod to get the pass game online. He's got a solid returning thrower in Tate, a 3rd year burner in Stonum who still has a lot of unrealized potential, a dependable minion slot guy in Odoms, a 3rd year receiving tight end in Koger, and the hot handed Roy Roundtree. These guys are going to have to produce early and often next year while we figure out who's going to step up in the running game. It's pretty exciting, actually, and I can only hope Rich really tries to build a scheme around the abilities of all these guys. I'm looking for a 50+ catch season from Roundtree, which you wouldn't think would be a stretch considering that's less than 5 catches a game.
some (potentially wishful) predictions:
*Tate shows some improvement, is handed the keys a little more often (especially early in the season), and throws for around 2500 yards, 21 TDs, 14 ints. he wins us a couple of games, and loses a couple as well.
*Denard, Shaw and Vince rush for nearly identical amounts of yardage (400-500 yards)
*Roundtree grabs 50+ balls for 600-800 yards and 6-8 touchdowns.
*Stonum has a breakthrough of sorts, catching 30-40 balls at over 15 ypc.
I actually think we are on the cusp of an explosive offensive year that should be enough to comfortably get us into the bowl season. Turnovers and the defense will keep us out of BCS contention, however.