The dust is still settling on Big XII Media Day, but that doesn’t mean that it’s too soon for us to talk about everything that went down. Obviously most of what’s said at these press conferences is coach speak and simply confirms what we all already know, but if you sift through the muck a little bit and read way too far into everything, there are actually a few interesting nuggets that we might be able to infer some things from. Some of this is probably going to feel like Game of Thrones-level conspiracy hunting so just bear with me..
Holgs commenting on how many more early enrollees we had this year than we’ve had in years past…
“We went through June and July, even a little bit of last week of May with over 100 guys in the program. A lot of new guys, 31 new guys that we were able to work with a little bit that’s going to get us a little ahead for August.”
Maybe I’ve missed some of the discussion, but I think that we’re all underestimating how big of an impact this could potentially have on our team this year, especially on our depth in some areas where we’re thin. Getting the new guys in for a full spring and summer of conditioning and practice prior to their first season is huge in terms of player development and adjusting to the speed of the college game. They get an eight month head start on learning the playbook and preparing themselves physically, and now we have guys like Kennedy McKoy, Marcus Simms, and Reese Donahue who look like they’re ready to contribute right now. I think we’re going to have a lot more guys ready to step in and be serviceable back ups than we’re used to, and that depth is going to be invaluable come November and December.
Discussing our options at running back…
“I feel like we’ve got three capable bodies to do the same stuff that Wendell did.”
“Then we’ve got to find a back who hits that thing quick, and keep him healthy and keep him fresh and I think we will be just as effective in the run game next year as we were this past year.”
This is probably one of the ones that I’m reading too far into, but to me this sounds like Holgs hasn’t really decided who the week 1 starter is going to be at running back. All signs have been pointing to the job being Rushel Shell’s to lose, but you’ll notice that he failed to mention Shell by name (in the same paragraph where he readily mentioned Orlosky and Pankey), instead saying that we have three guys capable of filling Smallwood’s shoes.
Then, he mentions finding “a back who hits that thing quick”. If you read my Running Back preview you know my thoughts about how Shell hits the hole, and based on the responses in the BGN thread regarding the same topic, a lot of people out there agree with me: there’s really nothing quick about it. In fact, it’s arguably his biggest weakness as a runner, and was one of the main reasons why I thought Wendell was so much more effective than he was last year. After reading this, I think Holgs is willing to go with either McKoy or Crawford full-time if one them can consistently show the ability to run with decisiveness. As famed Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby put it, “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.”
Discussing Wickline’s potential effect on the passing game…
“So having Coach Wickline be able to widen that pocket a little bit…”
This interesting little snippet could provide some insight into what we’re doing to improve our pass protection this offseason. We know that Wickline has been working with tight ends and fullbacks, but that there is also some collaboration going on between he and Ron Crook with the offensive line. I wonder if this means we’re planning to use tight ends a bit more this year to spread defensive fronts out a bit? We certainly have plenty of bodies to throw out there.
Another possible explanation could be that we’re planning to use wider splits on our offensive front this year. Anyone have any info on this? I wasn’t able to find anything about it for this year, but I did stumble across a 2010 thread from an Oklahoma State board that discusses Wick and the potential to use wide splits. Wider splits would create wider running and throwing lanes, and would force edge rushers to travel just a little bit farther to get to the QB. I think we can all agree that these are both things that could potentially benefit a shorter quarterback like Skyler Howard. There’s always the chance for defenses to exploit such alignments, but I’m all for anything that’s going to help Sky this year. He’s unfortunately too crucial to our overall well-being as a football team to not put him in absolutely the best possible position to succeed. And besides, I think our group up front is more than capable of compensating for an extra 6 inches between them if they’re asked to.
Speaking of the offensive line…
“Tackle is still something that we’re trying to develop. We got two good, young tackles, Yodny and McKivitz, those two guys are really good young tackles that we’re trying to continue to develop.”
Another likely case of myself reading too far into something, but it’s hard not to see this and think that Colton McKivitz might be overtaking Marcell Lazard at the right tackle spot. Lazard was still listed ahead of him on the recently released preseason depth chart, but it does say “OR” after his name where other, more entrenched starters don’t. Maybe there’s nothing there, but it’s at least something to keep an eye on as August approaches.
And finally, commenting on the state of the program heading into 2016…
“Two points away from winning 10, so I think we’re pretty competitive. I think the schedule sets up a little bit better this upcoming year. We got a lot of bodies, a lot of returning starters, a lot of guys that are familiar with what’s going on. So I feel like we’re right where we needed to be.”
Just a little dash of optimism to send us on our way here. I love that he brought the “Two points away from winning 10” thing up. I feel like this point is lost on some of the more pessimistic of us out there, but we were literally about 3 minutes away from winning 10 games last year. We absolutely shat our pants against Kansas State and still only lost 24-23, and played almost as poorly against Oklahoma State and still only lost by 7 in OT. A bounce or two the other way, or maybe just 5% better execution, and we probably win both of those games and finish 10-3. Just think for a second how much more confident you’d be heading into this year, returning what we’re returning and considering how good some of the new guys have looked, if we’d finished 10-3 instead of 8-5. With that gauntlet of a schedule? We’d be talking conference championship in Morgantown. I’m right there with Holgs on this; we are right where we need to be, and have been reaaaaaally close to putting it all together a couple times now. We have a ton of experience, talent all over the field, and as much depth as we’ve ever had. We finally have a friendly schedule. This could be the year where everything finally falls into place for us. Bring on August.