First, it’s exciting that football season is almost here and expectations are high after the Bobcats came oh so close to earning a bowl invite a season ago. I’m definitely looking forward to covering the 2014 season and as you’ve probably noticed by now our coverage started at the SunBelt Conference Media Days from New Orleans. There’s more video, audio and written content available online than there’s ever been before in the lead up to a Bobcat football season. Given where the program is heading, that’s only going to increase from here on out.
On to the football, and as of this writing the Bobcats are two days into fall camp. Here’s what we know at this stage of the game:
- Unlike last year, the Bobcats know who the starting quarterback will be for Week 1 and throughout the season in Sophomore Tyler Jones. That takes a lot of the pressure off of the offense since it can be tailored to one individual and everyone can buy into one QB instead of favoring one over the other.
- What will be interesting to find out is who wins the role of Jones’ back-up. Connor White, Randy Price and Fred Nixon will be battling out for the role of 2nd string QB which is obviously a pretty important job. Just because TJ has a lock on the starting job doesn’t mean we should ignore QB play throughout camp.
- Even though Jones is the sure-fire starter for the coming season, I had a chance to speak with him after Day 2. He’s not taking the job for granted and has put in a lot of work to be ready for the fall. He looks every bit the part so far.
- Jones was 4-3 as a starter last year, and two of those losses were to the 1st and 2nd place teams in the Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
- Who will Jones throw to now that Andy Erickson and Isaiah Battle are gone? Ben Ijah was his favorite target last year, and Brandon Smith will likely start as well. CJ Best has been running with the 1st team offense early in camp, and I expect we’ll hear from Jones’ old HS teammate Brice Gunter as well. Very elusive and could be a difference maker this season.
- In the words of Coach Fran, the offensive line finally looks like a legit D-I FBS group and when looking at the depth it’s easy to agree. Charlie Will Tuttle (SR), Adrian Bellard (JR), Matt Freeman (JR), Felix Romero (SO) and Ryan Melton (SO) are all experienced lineman and the youth behind them is promising as well. Freshmen Tryston Mizerak, Jackson Hoskins, Will Copa, Kian Schoenborn average out at nearly 6’6” 300 lbs. The Bobcats have a total of 16 offensive lineman on the roster in camp, so look for some intense competition over the next couple of weeks.
- The biggest unknowns on defense are upfront and at the safety position. During some 1st team offense vs defense drills, Michael Odiari and Thomas Evans were getting reps at defensive end, while Dallas McClarty and Darius Hood were at DT. Kris Peterson will likely factor as a pass rushing specialist and there are quite a few newcomers from junior colleges who will get opportunities on the defensive line throughout camp as well.
- As far as safeties are concerned, Colby Targun is the only returning starter from a year ago now that Aaron Matthews and Justin Iwuji are gone. The Bobcats won’t always have three safeties on the field under 1st year Defensive Coordinator John Thompson, but when they do, it could be Targun, Germond Williams and Damani Alexcee. The safety’s role in Coach Thompson’s defense is something to keep an eye on throughout the season.
- Craig Mager is a really good cornerback and that puts pressure on the CB playing opposite of him, and Xavier Daniels played really well in that position last season. With “X” now gone, that role is likely going to fall to David Mims who definitely possesses the speed necessary to play the position in what is a WR loaded Sun Belt Conference. Establishing depth behind Mager and Mims will be key in Fall Camp.
- Fans may have noticed that the players have been practicing in the maroon helmets which were first introduced last season. The team will likely alternate between gold and maroon helmets throughout the season so look for some interesting uniform combos this year.
Only a couple of days into fall camp and there’s so much to look for over the next few weeks. There’s a lot of excitement on both sides of the ball, and one of the assistant coaches told me to anticipate a lot more scoring from the offense this season. Couple that with a DC with a proven track record in Coach Thompson and the Bobcats have every reason to feel confident heading into 2014.
Full pads on Friday and the first two-a-days session is this Saturday…hope to see some more fans over the next several practices! Of course if you have any questions you would like answered in this blog or our podcast, let us know on Twitter with the hashtag #BobcatAccess
Until then, Eat ‘Em Up!