A couple of things happened today. One, when I arrived in my office, not only did my TCU/Oregon State tickets arrive, but I also got a treat in the form of tickets to the first Cowboys preseason game at home which is next Thursday. That’s right, 10 days from now I will have seen a real, live football match in the flesh. Or at least half of one. So after doing a little celebratory dance, I loaded up my email and read spitpurple’s g-chat status which was along the lines of “Frogs report to campus today,” which gave me such raging morning wood I had to manufacture some real work behind my desk before even attempting to face the rest of my office. Naturally though, I was in no state of mind to focus solely on job related tasks, so I started discussing the aforementioned crack cocaine practice reports on Purple Menace with lyle and got to thinking about what I hope the end results of training camp will be before the season is upon us in 32 days. And while some are obvious - backup QB, right tackle - you probably didn't think of making Braylon Broughton into a comic book character and riding him to defensive success until just now did you?
Braylon Broughton – Honestly, more than anyone, I hope Broughton has a HUGE camp and emerges as the unquestioned starter at the Cherry OrHughes-back. We’ve gone over and over and over again about the guy and his potential, but I’ll beat this drum until I wear a hole in it. Dude is a monster and could be a lock first rounder if he gets it together. However, I realize that sometimes these guys need a little extra motivation, so I’m putting out a call to anyone who has access to nuclear material to gather them up, fill a bathtub with them, and submerge Braylon Broughton in it until he emerges a raging hulk-like creature hell bent on digesting opposing quarterbacks like his predecessors. It’s probably not going to be easy, and I’m sure there are multiple safety issues involved, but I picture it to go something like this.
Right Tackle – This is obviously the biggest unresolved issue heading into camp, and while I’m not terrified of anything going wrong, the fact remains that a lot of our offense depends on the o-line getting up field and making blocks, so being able to line up a dominant front five is huge. As lyle pointed out in his inventory, it’s likely to be junior Jeff Olson getting the nod with Spencer Thompson and Zach Roth right on his heels, but I want this figured out sooner rather than later so that whoever it winds up being can get some consistent reps with the rest of the starters. I can definitely remember years when the O Line was thought to be a major issue and ended up being the strongest part of the offense, so I’m hoping this is another one of those times. When Jake Kirkpatrick can be developed from an afterthought into a front runner for the Rimington Award, you know you have a solid line coach on your staff. I trust they'll make the right call here.
Tank – I’ll be honest – the Tank Carder situation kind of terrifies me. We’re pretty far removed from the last time the Frogs suited up, so naturally when we think of last year’s defense we think of Daryl Washington and Jerry Hughes. This is all well and good and with those two NFLers, it’s understandable if some of us forgot that Tank Carder was easily is as important to last year’s top ranked unit as those two guys, and maybe more important. It took a while for everyone to get past the arm bands, but once that was out of the picture you realized he was one of the best linebackers in the country as only a sophomore. So when he went down in spring drills, it was like a gut punch for a team that relies so heavily on its linebackers to establish the defensive pace. Recent reports suggest that he’s doing well and should undoubtedly be good to go for the Oregon State game, but you just wonder how well his body will rebound back into playing shape after sitting out most of the spring. Then again, dude DID break his neck as a youngster and come back to be the preseason MWC defensive player of the year, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry TOO much.
Injuries – On the Tank Carder note, and after watching Jerry Jones’ new face tighten up to levels that doctors never even thought possible when addressing the Dez Bryant injury, please please PLEASE God don’t let anyone get hurt over the next month. Last year it was Colin Jones who went down in spring drills and had to be replaced by a wide receiver turned safety, but while that situation worked out swimmingly, I wouldn’t expect lightning to strike twice necessarily. Obviously Dalton literally has no risk of injury – he will not be hit hard during camp, if at all. Our defensive players and coaching staff are smart enough to know not to put him in harm's way. And with the mostly veteran defensive unit we have, I feel like those guys are conditioned well enough to avoid any of the major nicks and tweaks that a less conditioned player might suffer. Same with the receiving unit – Young, Kerley and Hiicks, not to mention Bart Johnson and Curtis Clay, are tough dudes who can stand up to most hits. Remember when Antoine’s chest got died and he was coughing up blood after that game but came back the next time out just fine? That makes me feel good. But as the curse of the TCU running back is a real thing – most recently bestowed upon Dwight Smith in the spring game – you have to be kind of apprehensive about one of those guys taking a pitch out and having the ball explode like a grenade or for a rabid pack of dingoes to storm the practice field and eat Matthew Tucker’s leg off. Or at least an ACL tear. Heck, the curse even spilled over into my season of NCAA 11 as Tucker was lost for the season in the first quarter of the first game with cracked vertebrae. When real life spills over into your computer generated one, you know you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. As I said, with an experienced defensive group, I seriously don’t think any of those guys are going to get too trigger happy and blast through anyone’s ribcage to make a statement tackle, but I’m going to count everyday without an injury a victory.
AD – I’m worried about Dalton. I think the guy has finally reached his peak and may be in for a down year. How is he going to deal with Casey Pachall looking over his shoulder all year? How is he going to expect to come out and replicate the year he had before? How will he react to the expectations? Will he crumble under the homespun Heisman hype? Will the Skiff Staff get into his head? Will he look across town and wish he could replicate the success his old Katy HS teammate had at SMU?
Haha, I’m only kidding. Dalton is football tits. No worries there. At all.
Running Backs – Throwing out my paranoia about losing one of our herd to injury, I could not be more excited to see how the running back battle shakes out over the next month. It’s easy to accept the status quo and assume that Tucker and Wesley will be running backs 1A and 1B next season, but we all know that’s not necessarily a given. After his flirtation with the strong safety position – something that, no matter how much I believe in our coaching staff, bothered me to no end until he switched back – Aundre Dean looks to be solidly in the running for some touches out of the backfield this year, as does Waymon James. I’d list Dwight Smith in there as well – and, as we can all attest to, he looked damn good in his few touches in the spring game – but as he’s still dealing with his injury, I’d also be completely fine red shirting him and saving his eligibility. That way he can be fully healthy and also acclimate himself to the academic workload of a college athlete, an issue we remember fretting over all too well. Even if he’s truly an NFL ready talent, he’s still going to be sharing the ball a lot with what we have to work with, so why lose a year for only a handful of carries?
As far as who I want to win the battle, I really don’t know that answer. Normally I’d have a dog in the fight, but honestly, does anyone really care one way or the other? Ideally you’d have Wesley work as more of a slot guy with Tucker being your main back and either Dean/James splitting carries with him... but if Dean and James are genuinely better than one of both of those guys, what do you do then? Do you respect what Tucker and Wesley did last year and give them the benefit of the doubt? Or do you give the youngsters a chance? My head tells me that we will probably see our backfield resemble last year’s, but it will still be every man for himself this month. Right tackle is going to be the position battle with the biggest focus, but things could get very interesting in the offensive backfield by the time we’re all stumbling into the Jonesmahal.
Skye Dawson and Josh Boyce – This just in: Skye Dawson is fast. So is Josh Boyce. Oh, you already knew that? Ok, well carry on then. But before you do, just think about what Dawson and Boyce could potentially mean for the future of this team. Receiver is arguably our most loaded position right now, so I’m not sure if we’re going to see either of these guys get significant touches this year… but if they look like they did in the spring game, they’ll be extremely difficult to keep out of the playbook. I can’t wait to see what Jarrett Anderson and Justin Fuente have up their sleeves over the next few weeks when it comes to these two. I know it’s blasphemous to think this far into the future, but holy crap I can’t wait to watch these guys play together with Antoine Hicks as their leader next season.
Backup QB – Another battle that may sneak up on everyone as we’ve all just assumed that Casey Pachall is the backup and that’s that, but Yogi Gallegos may have a word or two before it’s all settled. And, as the ultimate dark horse, I recently remember seeing a comment that freshman Matt Brown is going to push both of those guys and he’s definitely not content to being either of their backups until they graduate. I mean, you would think that Pachall will eventually earn the job – he didn’t overly outstanding in the spring game, but you could definitely see where the hype comes from – but Gallegos was that man last year and has more experience. Hearing that Matt Brown is the real deal pleases me to no end, but I don’t see the staff burning his redshirt just for the sake of making him a backup, so I consider him a distant long shot at best. Still, this is probably the battle I’m going to watch the closest behind our running back trio and the competition should only make each player better. But, regardless of who wins, we should all hope that we don’t see them except in mop up duty; you just want to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens. That thought it so terrifying that I’m not going to mention it here.
Kicker – Ah, Ross Evans. I’ll just never get the guy. He looked atrocious in the spring game. Absolutely horrific. Great success in the Air Force game last year, but he’s still the reason we aren’t a two time BCS participant. He has all the pre-season accolades this year, so hopefully he’ll live up to them on a consistent basis. However, with our offensive fire power, I don’t expect many of our games to come down to just a field goal.
GP – It’s hot out there, Gar Bear, and those mock turtles aren’t very forgiving in the breatheability department. Stay hydrated. We can’t lose you to a heat stroke or yelling-induced brain explosion.
I’m sure there are many things I’ve overlooked – most notably, ‘what kinds of things moved into Dick Bumpas’ mustache during the offseason – but off the top of my head those are the things I’m most interested to find out. 32 Days. Jumpin Jehosaphat!