Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: There was a little bit of improvement; the
offense averaged 10.92 points per game after averaging 9.73 in 2005.
There's plenty of experience and a major infusion of talent at running
back and receiver, but can any of them play? The attack will rely on
several true freshmen all over the place while praying for a major,
major improvement on the offensive line. The quarterback situation
is solid with Adam DiMichele and Vaughn Charlton each good enough to
start after seeing plenty of time last season. Whatever happens, the
offense will average more than a nation's worst 215.67 yards per game.
Passing: Adam DiMichele
135-220, 1,518 yds, 10 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Jason Harper
47 carries, 186 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Bruce Francis
32 catches, 484 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Junior WR Travis Shelton
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman OG John Palumbo
Best pro prospect: Shelton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) WR Bruce Francis, 2)
Shelton, 3) C Alex Derenthal
Strength of the offense: Young athletes, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Proven production at everywhere but quarterback
Projected Starter: And the starting quarterback
will be ... uh ... the coaching staff couldn't figure this one
out last year, and it might take the entire season before the
main man shines through. Junior Adam DiMichele has more
experience playing in 11 games completing 61% of his passes for
1,518 yards and ten touchdowns with 12 interceptions, but true
sophomore Vaughn Charlton is getting an equal shot after
throwing for 417 yards and two touchdowns with two
interceptions. At 6-4 and 229 pounds, Charlton is the bigger of
the two (DiMichele is 6-1 and 188 pounds) and neither has much
in the way of rushing ability.
Projected Top Reserves: The fight is for the
number three job behind the loser of the DiMichele/Charlton
battle. Sophomore Colin Clancy appeared to be the top
starting option going into last season before getting knocked
out of the job forcing him to redshirt. He's not big and not
mobile, but he's been in the system long enough to know what
Sophomore Andrew Case is only 5-9 and 185
pounds, but the walk-on can move. Sophomore Rob Beckey is
the fifth man in the mix and likely won't be in the running for
the number three job.
Watch Out For ... a quarterback controversy all
season long. DiMichele and Charlton can each play, and if things
start to go south (meaning no wins) it'll be tempting to play
around with the lineup. Will the starter end up looking over his
shoulder all year? Yup.
Strength: Two good options. DiMichele and Charlton
each went through their lumps last year and lived to come back
for more. There's not a wrong choice between the two.
Weakness: Two good options. Will the starting situation be a
problem for the team? Probably not, but it would help if the
coaching staff could decide on one quarterback and stick with
him no matter what. That won't happen.
Outlook: Whoever gets the starting job will have
to make quicker, sharper decisions than last year. Of course,
most of the problem was an offensive line that didn't give
DiMichele or Charlton any time, but the quarterbacks simply have
to be better at leading the team on long drives. It would be
nice if someone could provide a running option, but simply
getting the passing game going would be good enough.
Projected Starters: With Tim Brown gone, it'll
initially be up junior Marcellous Grigsby and sophomore
Jason Harper to slug it out for the starting job.
Grigsby, a JUCO transfer was one of the stars of the recruiting
class with the size, experience and speed to quickly give the
offense a Brown-like weapon who can handle the full workload and
be a force around the goal line. Harper is the leading returning
rusher, but he only ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns as a
true freshman. The top recruit of the 2005 class, Harper ran for
2,995 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior in high school.
Fullback is set with senior Josh Bundy, one of the team's
most experienced players with 26 career appearances. While not
used as a runner, he'll be a key blocker from the start.
Projected Top Reserves: Along with Grigsby and
Harper, junior Jonathan Metz will challenge for the
starting job ... for a little while. He's a small little scat
back who'll have to battle with three key freshmen who'll
quickly make a run at starting time. Joseph Jones,
Corwin Acker, Kee-Ayre Griffin and Jemarr Anderson
are fantastic athletes who could end up at either running
back or cornerback with Jones, who ran for 23 touchdowns in his
senior year at South Broward High in Miami, and Griffin the most
promising of the group.
Sophomore Bryce Buffaloe, a
former walk-on, is one of the team's stronger players and
will battle with 240-pound sophomore Adam DiMichele for
the backup fullback job.
Watch Out For ... the freshmen. Two straight
decent recruiting classes have brought in several athletes who
can play right off the bat, but where? The coaching staff has to
figure out which of the running back prospects can help the
quickest in the backfield and who'll get moved to the defensive
Strength: Potential. There are speedsters and
producers in the vast array of young talents, but who'll be the
top runners? The coaching staff will have to do some quick
evaluation in fall practices to find the main man.
Weakness: Experience. Harper is the only one with any
significant number of D-I carries. There might be plenty of
prospects, but can any of them play? That remains to be seen.
Outlook: If nothing else, there's more speed and
athleticism in the backfield than there's been in the last
several years. The idea has been to bring in as many good
athletes as possible and find spots for them. Some of the key
recruits will be top runners, but it might take have the season
to find them.
Projected Starters: The leader of the veteran
receiving corps, junior Bruce Francis, returns after
leading the receiving corps with 32 catches for 484 yards and
four touchdowns. He's a speedy former walk-on will once again
play at the X on the outside being asked to stretch the field.
One of the team's few explosive consistent playmakers last
season, he averaged 15.1 yards per catch with two ore more
catches in every game but two.
Freshman Delano Green will
likely take over at the Z until Travis Shelton takes the
job back. Green's a small, quick receiver who was a star
quarterback in high school before switching to receiver at Fork
Union Military Academy. Only 165 pounds, he'll have to show
early on that he can he can take the pounding inside.
Kevin Armstrong is just one of several options at tight end.
The 6-3, 250-pounder only caught one pass for nine yards.
Finally looking like a tight end and not the former linebacker
that he was, he should be the most physical of the group.
Projected Top Reserves: It's not necessarily a bad
thing when one of the most explosive weapons is listed third on
the depth chart. Junior Travis Shelton averaged a
team-leading 17.2 yards per catch on 20 grabs with three
touchdowns. He'll quickly find his way back into the starting
mix after leading the nation averaging 196.7 yards per game
helped by all the kickoff return chances he got. He missed the
first half of the season with academic issues, and if he can get
his grades straight he'll be an All-MAC star in some way.
Domerio Hamilton caught ten passes for 77 yards playing
in just five games, and now he'll play a big role at the X
pushing Francis for time. He should be able to crank out big
yards after the catch if he can get the ball on the move. 6-1,
200-pound redshirt freshman Dale Parris is finally
healthy and ready to finally be the playmaker the offense has
been waiting for.
One of the fastest receivers is redshirt
freshman A.J. Bunton, a star high school sprinter who was
banged up all of last year. He'll see plenty of time in
three-wide sets and should push for time at the Z.
At tight end,
252-pound sophomore Steve Maneri made the most of his
little bit of time making six catches for 61 yards and two
touchdowns, while 260-pound sophomore Marcus Brown was a
shorter range target catching seven passes for 29 yards and two
scores. They'll join Armstrong in the fight for starting time.
Watch Out For ... the receiving corps to be one of
the team's biggest strengths. Francis is a nice number one
target to work around, while Shelton and Bunton have tremendous
speed to open things up. Green will be a good one in time.
Strength: Talented young targets. If everyone can
stay healthy and keep their heads on straight, this is a good,
fast receiving corps that should be too much for most MAC
secondaries to handle. Yes, this group should be that good.
Weakness: Proven number two receiver if it's not Shelton. Green
and Bunton upgrade the overall talent, but they're still green.
In a perfect world, there will be too many good options to not
go to three-wide sets.
Outlook: It'll be a good corps this year, and the
best in the MAC next year. All it needs is time. There speed,
talent, and even a little bit of experience. Now all the
potential has to turn into production.
Projected Starters: The veteran line starts with a
terrific anchor, 6-4, 292-pound junior center Alex Derenthal, who
earned team MVP honors last season. A starter for 23 straight games,
he's a rock in the middle and easily the team's most productive blocker.
Able to star as an underclassman, he should grow into a special blocker
now that he knows what he's doing.
Next to him on the left side will be
6-6, 285-pound true freshman John Palumbo, one of the team's top
recruits who got to school early to try to take over a starting job
right away. He got hurt in a high school all-star game following the
2005 season dislocating his left ankle and breaking his leg and spent
all last year getting healthy. Now he's ready and expected to be a
four-yard starter as one of the team's better pass blockers.
right side will be junior Brison Manor, a 6-3, 285-pound veteran
who's back after missing the second half of last year with an ankle
injury. The former defensive lineman is physical and should be an
6-7, 275-pound sophomore Devin Tyler is a mountain at left tackle
and one of the building blocks for the future. He had major problems
throughout his freshman season, especially in pass protection, but he
returns experienced and bigger hitting the weights hard and with 12
games of starting experience.
Junior Andre Douglas has the
potential to be the star of the front wall if he's as good as
advertised. The 6-5, 305-pound transfer from Rhode Island was one of the
stars of the scout team, and now he finally gets a chance to start at
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jabari Ferguson
moves over to left tackle from tight end where he served mainly as a big
blocker. With his athleticism, he'll be a key reserve behind Tyler.
Junior Dwavon Battle can play either guard or tackle and will
start out battling with redshirt freshman Charles Smith for time
behind Douglas. Battle is 6-3 and 310 pounds, but he struggled
throughout last year in his seven starts at right guard. Smith is a huge
6-6, 332-pound prospect who could be a major player if he can get in
6-4, 300-pound sophomore Darius Morris will be the first
option behind Manor at right guard after seeing time in ten games. A
good recruit a few years ago, he could play either guard spot.
Watch Out For ... the line to be night and day
better ... eventually. There are so many new options to play around
with, the coaching staff will have several chances to come up with the
right combination. It might just take a while to figure out which parts
Strength: Size. This might not be the most
talented line around, but it has decent size, especially at right tackle
where the three projected prospects average 316 pounds per man.
Weakness: Instant star talent. Arguably the weakest link on a
weak team, it's still going to take a while before the front five is
even passable. You don't go from awful to great overnight.
Outlook: The Owls allowed 48 sacks, plenty of
pressures, and didn't get any push for the ground game with injuries and
inexperience proving to be a major problem. Ten players with
experience are back, so expect better production. Things should be far
better with all the experience along with the inclusion of Palumbo and