Learning to distrust the results of Spring Practice is a necessary step to move forward to the more important practice period—the four weeks prior to the opening game, in this case, Army. Still, there are battles to be won now and players who can win them.
Here are 5 Things We Should Know Coming Out of Spring:
1) Backup quarterback
This currently is being billed as the battle for the backup quarterback position, and for some good reasons. Two guys, Frank Nutile (pronounced NEW TILE) and Logan Marchi have been in the program for a couple of seasons. However, Anthony Russo arrives in July and all bets could be off. If P.J. Walker, who has been rather durable all three seasons, goes down, head coach Matt Rhule cannot be blamed for burning Russo’s redshirt. If it’s for just a play or two, Nutile and Marchi are battling for backup quarterback. That is what this spring is for. Of course, one could play off the charts and change the dynamic.
2) Starting Safety
This battle could get interesting. The defensive coaching staff has resisted the temptation to start Nate L. Smith, but the former George Washington and Archbishop Wood star has made plays during real games every time he’s asked. Delvon Randall should play the other safety, but Rhule moved Brodrick Yancy over to safety and that could mean that they have a plan for Yancy since Rhule called Yancy the “receiver more like John Christopher” than anyone on the team. They like his toughness and that could translate well to the safety position.
3) Interior defensive line
The cavalry here arrives in July, with Karamo Dioubate and Gregg Webb expected to compete for starting positions along with Averee Robinson and Freddy Booth-Lloyd. Yet the Owls really need to build interior depth as many of their returning linemen either are or have started as defensive ends. There may be a few conversions out of necessity.
4) Interior offensive line
Only two positions are set in stone, offensive tackle (Dion Dawkins) and center (Brendan McGowan). Bryan Carter, a starting offensive tackle, might be needed to return to DL, but that’s what spring is for. There are a number of promising guys, like Jovan Fair, who can earn starting spots.
5) Running back
I fully expect Jahad Thomas to run with the ones again, but it has to be enticing to split out that game-breaking ability and put it in the slot. That’s probably the position Thomas is better-suited for at the next level, so why not start him now. He’s a little (lot) undersize to be an NFL running back, but one good season in the slot earns him some camp looks. The only way he gets those is if Jager Gardner shows the kind of form that enabled him to run for 2,776 yards and 36 touchdowns as a high school senior. Ryquell Armstead and David Hood, who had half that many yards and touchdowns in their senior high school season, are also in the mix.
Monday: Five Biggest Owls’ Spring Phenoms of All Time