Yes, I know. It's tourney time, and as such football's not just on the back burner, it's on a neglected hotplate in another room. But I for one can only fill out so many brackets (5 so far) and gnash my teeth for so long over the 3-day wait before the best postseason in all of sport begins.
Mercifully, the football program came to the rescue. Ahead of tomorrow's kickoff to spring practice, the team released this updated depth chart:
Fanpost lurkers might recall the series of guesswork posts I put together, based on where the team was after the bowl game, about what our two-deeps would look like in the fall. As expected, the various offseason happenings that alter every roster have shifted some guys around, so in case you didn't read my previous 5000 words on the subject, I'll hit the high points:
1. Offensive Line Shuffle
I speculated that there would be some movement to accomodate the fact that we have 7 guys with starting experience (6 with substantial time) but only 5 spots to play; this isn't what I expected. Dan France, 2-year starter at LT, is now listed as the starter at RG. Fou Fonoti, recovered from his leg injury, is now the starting LT, while Skyler Burkland retains his RT spot. The also-healed Travis Jackson returns at C, and Blake Treadwell continues to hold down LG.
The plot will really thicken here when redshirt sophomore Jack Allen returns from his offseason surgery. When that happens, both starting guards will have the versatile and talented Allen breathing down their necks for snaps. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg speculates that Allen could push Treadwell out of the lineup, but I'd view France as the most likely loser in that battle. I found it surprising in the first place that France, whose pass blocking is a step above his run blocking, would be moved to the inside where our scheme needs its best run-blockers. There's also an outside possibility that Allen fills the McGaha-Ruhland Memorial Offensive Line Super Sub position I had tentatively bestowed upon Nate Klatt (who, btw, will take a medical DQ), but Allen's probably too good to relegate to a backup role.
Speaking of young guns making moves on the OL, former late addition/unheralded prospect/probable subject of MGoBlog mockery ergo stud-to-be Jack Conklin is now listed as Fonoti's backup at LT. Dantonio has been very excited about Jack's progress during his redshirt last year, so we could be looking at our next diamond in the rough type of guy. Kodi Kieler has also moved into the second string, behind Jackson at C, though I'm inclined to think if Jackson goes down again (knock on ALL the wood) it will again be Jack Allen in the middle of the line.
2. Tight End/Receiver Intrigue (Not Really)
Former TE Derek Hoebing is shifting into a reserve OL role. Not altogether surprising, as his blocking was excellent but his pass-catching unproven. Redshirt junior Andrew Gleichert is currently the starter at TE, Paul Lang the backup, and Josiah Price and Evan Jones as co-third stringers.
The interesting point here is that Juwan Caesar, who we have all been informed spent last season transitioning to TE ("good," we thought, "for our receiving options at TE grow slim"), is still listed as a WR, and not exactly atop the depth chart at that, at 4th string amongst X receivers. Not sure what to make of that, since there are plenty of bodies at WR and a pretty urgent need for a pass-catching threat at TE.
3. Defense: So Many Dudes, So Few Snaps
Most of the movement on the defensive side of the ball was prompted by injuries to Darqueze Dennard, Denicos Allen, and Ed Davis, except one: Lawrence Thomas is listed as the backup at 3-tech DT. Dantonio said he could move back to offense, but between Trevon Pendleton and Niko Palazeti, I think we have enough fullbacks (TyQuan Hammock has opted to pass on his final year of eligibility and will graduate) and not enough proven, dynamic DTs. Although there are plenty of other seasoned bodies at DT, finding an impact guy on the line will be critical, and Thomas could be that guy. One way or another, I think he needs to be on the field.
The other move is former backup SS Jairus Jones to STAR linebacker. I'd view this as a filling-the-depth-chart move while Ed Davis recuperates. Kyler Elsworth is also the nominal starter at SAM while Denicos Allen recovers, but I'd expect Darien Harris takes a ton of snaps so the coaches can see more of the probable future of the position. Standing in as starter for Dennard is redshirt sophomore Arjen Colquhoun. Dennard's injury could be helpful in the long run, as it will allow more candidates for the other CB spot to show their stuff.
Well, that's everything I thought was of note. Anything else worth discussing, or do we all have to go back to listening to Doug Gottlieb now?