|As he was on this play against Baylor, Ed Wesley is gone|
Those rumors were confirmed this weekend, of course, along with the additional news of offensive linemen Nykiren Wellington and Carter Wall also being removed from the program for academic reasons. If you're keeping track at home, as I know many of you are, that's eight players gone during the offseason- six of which either would've started or had a more than decent chance of starting this fall.
Ouch. As one friend of Spit Blood put it, OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!!
Am I worried about this? Yes, for sure. Is the sky falling? Despite the common sentiment of Frog fans- no, it isn't. Look- despite the talent level among those departed and the valuable playmaking ability and depth lost, those guys are gone for a reason. They were either A) not doing things the right way, B) not putting in the work required to be a successful student-athlete at this level, or C) just didn't want to be here anymore. In the tough dogfight of a football season, Coach Patterson will be better off relying on guys that don't display those attributes.
The question, now, is who will be stepping up into the void left by the departures? The highest profile of those not returning is Wesley, who has been a staple in the offense the past three years. The good news is that he may end up being the one we miss the least. Matthew Tucker and Waymon James are both capable of 1,000 yard seasons, and senior Aundre Dean and early-enrollee freshman BJ Catalon are both talented and hungry enough to provide quality depth.
Linebacker is most likely the position causing the most hand-wringing among the purple and white faithful. Gildon was already viewed as a questionable replacement for Brock, but his own departure makes the LB depth chart a gigantic mystery box. Walk-on sophomores Danny Heiss and Joel Hasley appear to be the most capable of joining senior Kenny Cain in the rotation right now, but two incoming freshmen (AJ Hilliard and James McFarland) as well as JUCO transfer PJ Dawson will likely be given every opportunity to crash the starting line up. And even though Devonte Fields is viewed as the next big thing at defensive end, is it beyond the limits of your imagination to see his 6'4" 240lb frame playing behind the line of scrimmage this fall? I don't like how big a question mark this all-important position is this late in the game, but my money is on GP and company finding some guys that will make plays.
Like the situation at linebacker, depth was already a bit questioned along the offensive line. Wellington and Wall weren't viewed as being integral to the 2012 game plan or even future superstars, but they did provide a measure of depth. With Eric Tausch and Michael Thompson probably combining to serve as the #2 man at all 5 positions along the line, redshirt freshmen like Brady Foltz, Bobby Thompson and Jamelle Naff may be called upon to contribute a little bit more than they regularly would've this early in their career. It may even be that you'll see the rarity of a true freshman or a walk-on getting snaps, but Eddie Williamson has most definitely earned our trust with being able to put together a tough and reliable O-Line.
I'm not trying to tell people they shouldn't be worried about all of this. I just think we need to escape the kind of defeatism that can run rampant amongst our fanbase at times. There will most likely be moments next fall when we say things like "man I miss Tanner Brock" or "that was a freshman mistake", but I think we'll also be making comments at other times like "the Big 12 has to live with three more years of that guy" or "now I see why people have been raving about our recruiting the past few years".
102 days 'till kickoff for us to wait, and the team to continue to prepare. Go Frogs.