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September 2, 2009

Fall Camp rewind part II--Concerns & surprises

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Yesterday we took a look at the bright spots from Fall Camp. While there is a lot to be excited about, there are some questions remaining and a few surprises looming as the season gets ready to kick-off.

AREAS OF CONCERN

Cohesiveness of the Offensive Line

With the season looming, the biggest cause for concern revolves around the offensive line and when they will start to play as a unit instead of a group of individuals. I have no doubt that Coach Cavanaugh will get this group up to snuff as the season goes on, but when?

There is plenty of depth along the offensive line but the 1st team struggled mightily throughout camp trying to not only contain the pressure from the line on the other side of the ball, but also the blitzes that seemed to come from every angle.

The group is led by returning starters, center, Alex Linnenkohl and senior right guard, Gregg Peat. The rest of the starting group rounds out with sophomore, Mike Remmers at right tackle, sophomore walk-on, Grant Johnson at left guard, and true freshman, Michael Philipp at left tackle. The talent is definitely there to be a very solid and formidable line, but so far the group just hasn't jelled.

The struggles on the o-line could also be attributed to the talent of the defensive line. With junior, Stephen Paea commanding a double team nearly every snap, it frees up ends Kevin Frahm and Ben Terry to create havoc from the outside, while fellow tackle Latu Moala can clog the middle.

I am in the camp of the thinking that the defensive line is just that good and if there are any issues with the offensive line lingering in the games following Portland State, Coach Cav will be quick to get the ship righted.

Depth at Safety

While the injury bug seemed to hit members of the entire team, no group was hampered more so than the safeties. At any point throughout camp, one could look to the sideline and see one of the safeties not in pads or not participating due to an injury.

Every single player that was in the initial 3 deep at the start of camp, missed time do to an injury at one point or another during camp. Going into the first game, it appears that the only long term injury is Josh LaGrone, who will miss the entire season with a knee injury sustained during the 2nd week of practice.

Lance Mitchell, Cameron Collins, and Anthony Watkins all missed considerable portions of camp due to injury and Suaesi Tuimaunei also sat one day towards the end of camp. With so many suffering minor injuries during non-contact or semi-contact drills, it leaves one to wonder if the group as a whole might be a bit fragile.

As the season progresses will this group be able to survive the rigors and demands of the Pac-10 season? Luckily there is some depth, and there are also 3 true freshmen in Dax Dilbeck, Zeke Sanders, and Jordan Poyer, but none of them appear ready for primetime Pac-10 ball yet. Poyer appears to be the most ready of the three and will probably see some playing time on special teams.

SURPRISE PLAYERS

Jordan Poyer

I know that I listed him above as not being ready to play safety right now, but as he was originally going to be a greyshirt candidate, he now has more than likely positioned himself on the depth chart as a 3rd team safety.

He showed great instincts when he was on the field as a safety, whether it was picking off passes, stepping up in run support or shadowing his man in coverage, he will be a gamer in years to come.

However, right now he could really benefit from a year in the weight room before he sees time at the safety position. In the meantime, he will more than likely see the field on kickoff coverage and possibly, kickoff return team.

The Unga Twins, Devin and Kevin

With players that take their two-year mission, there is always concern when they return about the physical condition that they're in and how the time off affect their instincts? Will they be a step slow? Will they be able to step right in and be able to take a hit, and then dish one right back out?

With Devin and Kevin, boy did they put those questions to sleep rather quickly. Both looked to be in excellent shape entering Fall Camp and they did not disappoint as they made their presence felt early and often.

Both showed that they hadn't lost a step and seemed to pick up right where they left off in high school; it was like they hadn't just spent the last two-years away from the game.

I think that both will see playing time on special teams and Devin has the opportunity to snag one of the back-up outside linebacker spots.




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