As expected, we're solid at QB. Ryan Dinwiddie looked like himself already. He's got great command of the team, sees the entire field and throws strikes. He was guilty of throwing one pick in 24 attempts but also threw a TD. His QB rating wasn't what he's capable of but more than a few of his bullets were dropped and this defense knows his game better than any defense he'll see this year. Mike Sanford played well enough to establish himself as the #2 but Jared Zabransky looks like he's going to fight him for it. Incoming freshman Taylor Tharp showed a lot of poise and talent and I look forward to watching what he does with it over the next couple of years.
Tailback was one of the big question marks, but mainly because it's replacing Brock Forsey (or trying to). Bronco fans know that's a tough task and that this year's offense probably won't revolve around TB, but we do know about David Mikell. DMike has proven that he belongs back there. He's got the speed that burned Arkansas for 90 yards on one return, as a freshman. And he's the guy that's been in Brock's shadow for 3 years, all while averaging 1-2 more yards per carry than Brock. And DMike looked good even though he only had 4 carries (17 yds). The young O line (more on them later) didn't exactly blow huge holes for him so he ran through people. It was good to see. Donny Heck made it clear that he was #2, gaining 22 yards and scoring the only rushing TD with a 4 yard dive over the top. He was also very effective catching passes out of the backfield. Freshman to keep an eye on are Jon Hellmandollar (5'11", 215) and walk-on Calvin McCarty (5'11", 205). Both hit the holes fast and hard and stay upright.
Wideout was also a position in question as 85% of the passes and yardage are gone. Tim Gilligan is back and starts the year at the #1 position but there are 5-6 newcomers that are expected to produce and that's always scary. Coach Hawkins and staff knew what they were doing when they brought in so many new faces at wideout. Less than half of JC's and other transfers ever pan out and we need 3-4 very good receivers out of this bunch of newcomers. Gilligan didn't disappoint, catching a 70 yd catch and run TD on the first play. The two most mentioned newcomers are Brett Ralph (transfer Wyoming) and Mark Onibokun (big, fast JC transfer) and both sat the scrimmage out with minor injuries. Both should see time in the next scrimmage. And still there were many bright spots at WR. The ones that caught our eyes most often were Lawrence Bady, Chrisean Christopher, Tony McPherson and Drisan James. Quinton Jones also made some noise on one play; turning the corer faster than any Bronco I've seen in a long time. Get that guy the ball! All these receivers are fast, looking faster than anyone we had on the field last season. Add Ralph and Onibokun and it's hard not to feel good about WR. Time will tell.
The Oline really looked better than I thought they would and they got better
as time went on. Colburn and College started at tackle like we expected. With
key center prospect Joe Wiegand sitting down for one more day, Mike Macleod
started at center with Tyrone Tutogi and Michael Ansel at guard. Backups
included true freshman Tad Miller, who looked real strong, true freshman
Cavendar (not sure which one) and the huge Tony Volponi. This group will need
some time to gel but there's talent there and RD will give them the benefit of
his field vision and quick feet to escape trouble.
(However, the Idaho Statesman pointed out that on the same day Joe Wiegand returned to practice, Jason Turner.. who had been getting reps at Center.. moved to Tackle where he played last year when Rusty Colburn was injured, and Colburn moved inside to Guard.. so we could see some upheaval in the OLine for the next scimmage.. we will keep an eye on it and report back!)
Overall the offense looked good enough to dispel the gloom and doom projections and in fact should be very productive in 2003. Look for about a 10 point a game drop off however, down to 35 points per game. Shame, isn't it?
The strength of this year's team did nothing to lose that title. Starting with the line, Seniors Paul Allen and Dane Oldham started at tackle and looked real strong. Julius Roberts and Mike Williams (rs freshman out of Canada) started at the ends and Williams looked especially good, getting into the backfield in a hurry. Backups that will challenge for playing time are lead by Alex Guerrero who will have to be on the field whether it's at tackle or at end, he's that good. Freshmen Dan Gore, Jeff Biederman and Andrew Browning all looked very good, as did Mike Dominguez. Beiderman and Gore look the part too as both are 6'4"-6'5" and both made big plays including a sack each.
The linebackers we simply awesome, led by Andy Avalos, who will end up on the WAC 1st team for sure. He's faster than I remember him being and he's in on everything. Starting with him were Travis Burgher and Chris Barrios and as a group, they were the highlight of the D. But they better not stumble because we're at least 2 deep with more size and speed in the wings in Jared Hunter, Josh Bean and Korey Hall, all freshmen and all with big time motors.
The backfield was solid again as well. Returning all WAC CB, Gabe Franklin made the plays and the other starting corner, Julius Brown has gotten a lot bigger and faster over the summer. They will be one of the best tandems in the west. Backing them up were Terrial Hall, Lee Marks and Gerald Alexander and they made few mistakes.
Safeties were Wes Nurse and Chris Carr and Carr stole the show. He is so fast and he hits like QM did last year. Carr and backup Cam Hall both got picks and Hall showed his speed returning his for 23 yards. Remember Cam Hall, he's got a nose for the ball and that speed is tough to beat.
Quick, name last year's punter. Hard to do since we didn't need him last year. But we just might need one this year and it looks like there's at least one fighting for a scholarship. Walk-on, Kyle Stringer (Humble, Tx) looked awesome. The ball jumps off his foot and we timed his hang times in the 4+ second range every time. The kid can kick field goals too, with a strong, accurate leg. He might be the steal of the class.
The return teams were very good too, with Quinton Jones and Lawrence Bady both lighting it up. In kickoff drills both were whistled dead after they had broken free.
Look for big things from the special teams.
Things to watch for in the next scrimmage are who gets the most touches at tailback behind DMike and Donny Heck, and how Brett Ralph and Mark Onibokun break into the WR rotation. Also look for the big freshmen at defensive tackle; Beiderman, Smart, and Gore could be fixtures there for a long time.