This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
While the off-season's more than halfway over, the college football season is still weeks away. That hasn't stopped me from speculating about the season. Here's what I hope to see:
- For the defense to try flavors other than vanilla. Most fans could tell problems were present with the defensive play-calling last season, especially since Tim Brewster and Danny Hope said variations of "we knew exactly what the defense was going to do". Whether Pat Narduzzi thought a base 4-3 could work against spread offenses or if he was trying to hide a lack of talent on defense, it didn't work. It'd be nice to see the defense show a nickel set-up on obvious passing downs, but I'd settle for seeing an 11-man blitz on 1st down at midfield, if only to show signs of original thought are present. The talk of giving more of a 3-4 look is hopeful (if William Gholston's as advertised, I can't imagine someone better suited for the linebacker/defensive end hybrid). However, I'll believe it when I see it.
- For a kicker to emerge and consistently make field goals up to 40 yards. Whether that's Kevin Muma, Dan Conroy, or even Mike Sadler, so long as somebody can convert short to intermediate range field goals at an 80% clip, I'll be happy. Don't make me bring up John Goss as a cautionary tale.
- For Keith Nichol to turn 3rd downs into 1st downs. He doesn't need to be a deep threat, since Mark Dell, Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham can already stretch the secondary. If his role is limited to catching the 10 yard curl, slant, or out on a 3rd and 7, I'll be happy with that.
- For Kirk Cousins to take a page out of the Brian Hoyer playbook. Specifically, the page titled "Know when to take a sack". Hoyer could be absolutely maddening at times when he'd buckle under a defensive lineman, losing yards and a down. Conversely, discretion is the better part of valor, and sometimes it's better to live to fight another day rather than get possessed by the ghost of Drew Stanton and wing the ball indiscriminately down the field. Cousins didn't have many interceptions this year, but some of them were either costly (the one that ended the Notre Dame game), or deep in the opponents' end (2nd half of the Michigan game, where a field goal could've essentially sealed a victory).
- For Keshawn Martin to have multiple touchdowns passing, running, receiving, and in kick returns. More wishful thinking than expectation, but how sweet would this be? Assuming the offensive play calling is as aggressive as it's been in past seasons, there's a chance for Keshawn "HACKNEYED NICKNAME HERE (my choice is rocket)" Martin to achieve this.
- For Greg Jones to improve his pass defense and win the Butkus award. Pass defense is the one dimension Jones needs to add to become a truly great linebacker. If he can do that, the Skandalaris building better be prepared to add a new wing for all the hardware he'll win.
Those are my expectations, what are yours?