Editor’s note: While I’m stuck down here in Tempe for another two weeks, Paul Somerstein went to the spring game on Saturday and did exactly what he said he would in his countdown, watch for five key things. Here they are.
5. The Young Guns First of all, every quarterback on the roster passes the eye test. I happened to be standing by the player entrance when the whole team walked by, including the group of Jeff Lindquist, Cyler Miles, Troy Williams and Keith Price. They all looked big and strong, even Price. The most impressive physically was Lindquist. He is every bit of 6’3” and 235 lbs.
When the “game” started (it was not a game, it was a practice with some scrimmaging built in), Cyler Miles was clearly running with the second unit with Lindquist rotating in and out. Williams and Derek Brown played with the Scout Team. Under center, Miles looks impressive. He’s tall, and he’s very athletic moving around in the pocket. Unfortunately, his throwing motion looks strange and it appears to cause him to deliver the ball a split second slower than he should. I thought it made him late on several throws, especially timing routes with the running backs and slot receivers. The one guy who Miles seemed to really click with is Antavius Sims. Sims never even sniffed the field last year, but he has deep threat speed, and if he can emerge as a playmaker, all the better for the Dawgs.
The guy who impressed me the most was Lindquist. Simply put, the dude has a rocket launcher for an arm. Long throws, short throws, they explode out of his hand. Several times some of the backup receivers simply dropped balls that they couldn’t handle. Clearly, I have no idea about the inner workings of the QB position, so there may be things I’m missing between Miles and Lindquist. If I’m making the call, Lindquist is Price’s backup at this point.
4. The Wide Receivers I really didn’t watch what Kasen Williams was doing. He caught a few balls and then headed to the sideline. Just looking at him, you know he is stronger and bigger than 95 percent of the cornerbacks he’ll face this year. If and when Price gets him the ball (more on that later), he’s going to make plays. I spent a lot of time watching Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall, DiAndre Campbell and Kevin Smith. Unfortunately, James Johnson was in street clothes nursing some injuries, so we didn’t get to see him. What we did see was less than encouraging. Mickens and Hall both dropped balls that they should have caught. Campbell and Smith actually looked good, with Smith making a nice TD grab after Miles scrambled and directed him to the corner of the end zone.
I think this position is going to be in flux well in to fall camp, and the arrival of The Big Three (Stringfellow, Daniels and Ross) is only going to complicate things. At least Sark is going to have options when it comes to who he wants to run out there alongside Kasen.
3. Shaq Thompson He looked big, strong and fast. There’s not much more to say. Much like a lot of the skill players (Sankey, Williams, etc.), Shaq got his work in and then cheered on his teammates from the sideline. He’s just impressive to watch.
2. The Offensive Line The whole group was solid. There were some issues with the Center/QB exchange for the second team, but otherwise, it seemed like KP17 had time to make throws (which he hesitated to make, but again, I’ll get to that shortly). There were also holes for Bishop Sankey and Dwayne Washington to run through, which is an encouraging sign. I think the line will be solid if unspectacular – which is better than what we had a year ago. One thing I did notice – during the “Gauntlet” drill when an offensive lineman had to match up with Danny Shelton, Shelton made them look like middle schoolers. To be sure, this was not necessarily the fault of any of our lineman. Danny Shelton just looked and played like an NFL defensive tackle. Hopefully he will be able to manhandle opposing defensive lines to the point where they will have to double and triple team him and free up other guys along the line.
1. Keith Price Oh boy. This was the one I was worried about, and nothing happened to dissuade my fears. I am very well aware that spring game performances mean next to nothing, and that it’s more of a show for the fans than an actual game. All of that being said, Keith Price looked like the same indecisive and gun-shy quarterback we saw all of last year. At one point, I asked my sister to watch Price while I watched the wide receivers to see if they were getting open and he was hesitating; or if they weren’t getting open and he was keeping plays alive by moving around the pocket.
It was maddening. If this was three years ago, I wouldn’t be so worried, but this is Price’s fourth spring with the team and fifth year in the program. I know that they were trying to run the new “hurry up” offense we’ve heard so much about and I know that ASJ was not available, but still, it was worrying. A guy with Price’s experience and talent should be able to dominate a spring scrimmage and he didn’t. There is still a lot of time between now and fall camp, and I was very encouraged to see Price’s tweet immediately following the game.
I love his attitude and passion, and I am hoping and praying that he is able to pull it all together for a phenomenal season.
Can’t wait for August. Bow down and go Dawgs.