Coach Dykes said that he sat down and watched film on every practice and every game last year to see where they needed to make changes as a coaching staff. He's still trying to bring about a culture shift despite the looming specter of graduation rates and the APR. The coaching changes on defense have been described as "make or break" hires.
Moving forward, the more accurate benchmark for success might still not be wins and losses, but whether a young team improves throughout the year.
First up, a look at the offensive side of the ball as we head into next week's spring camp.
Rob Likens(Asst. HC/OutsideWR)
Mark Tommerdahl(ST/Inside Receivers)
Damon Harrington(Strength and Conditioning)
Key Newcomer: Dominic Granado (T)
Not much. There is complete continuity with the offensive staff. Stated goals for this year would be to play faster and to establish some semblance of balance between the running and passing games. Although we saw glimmers against Northwestern and Ohio State, the Dykes/Franklin offense never reached its full potential last season due to issues with the offensive line and an inability to run the ball. Contrary to haters and lazy sports pundits everywhere, the Bear Raid is not designed as a pass-only offense. Coach Yenser's ability to put together a capable Oline might be the biggest tipping point for Dykes' Season Two. Although he installed a new blocking scheme last year (Vertical Set), inexperience and youth shouldn't be mitigating factors moving forward.
For more details, this was last season's write-up on Vertical Set Pass Protection.
Biggest Questions for the Offense:
1) Who plays tackle?
Freddie Tagaloa was demoted and subsequently opted to transfer. Christian Okafor was up and down when given a chance to step in. Right now, it looks like Steven Moore will move from right tackle to left tackle, with the hope being that JUCO transfer Dominic Granado can step in and play well enough to hold down the right tackle position. Waiting in the wings are talented youngsters like Aaron Cochran who could push for more playing time.
2) Who gets the call at center?
Center is a crucial position for the Dykes/Franklin offense because he's the guy that makes all the calls at the line instead of the quarterback. Our offense became noticeably stagnant last season when we lost both our starting center, Chris Adcock, and his back-up, Matt Cochran, shortly after that. For someone who had never played the position, Jordan Rigsbee really answered the call and held it down for the rest of the year. If Adcock is back, do we keep Rigsbee at center and move Adcock back to right guard? Will Matt Cochran, have a role up front if he's available?
3) Which young running back will win the starting job?
At times, Daniel Lasco looked like our most complete back last season. Unfortunately, recurrent injuries stopped him from ever getting settled, while Khalfani Muhammed did an admirable job for a true frosh. With another year of experience and strength, it looks like the starting job could be his to lose. Both guys need to show the coaches something in the spring or they're in danger of losing snaps to Vic Enwere and Tre Watson in the fall.
4) Is Jared Goff 100% and will he make a huge leap as a sophomore?
Well, the good news is that Shayne Skov's dirty hit resulted in an injury to Goff's throwing shoulder. However, he's already been throwing, and is expected to be good to go for spring ball. He's been acting like a coach on the field by directing off-season work-outs. Now, it's doubtful that he'll ever be a dynamic running threat, but in year two, our young quarterback can certainly improve his pocket presence, reads, and ability to step up and maneuver within the pocket. Some of his struggles last year can be attributed to being shell-shocked behind an often porous Oline. and it didn't help that the offense was rendered one-dimensional by the lack of an effective running game or by falling behind early in the game.
One of the most potent aspects to a full-strength Bear Raid attack are the combination run-pass plays. Each play is designed to read a specific defender either pre or post-snap. If the quarterback makes the right read, the defense should always be at a disadvantage because one of its defenders is out of position. This didn't happen very often last season. It's unknown whether Franklin didn't trust his true frosh QB to make reads, Goff was picking the wrong option, the tempo never quite got going, or the plays were just getting blown up due to poor blocking. This spring may be a better glimpse at the offense's true potential.
5) How will the wide receiver depth chart play out?
Between Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper, Kenny Lawler, and Trevor Davis, you have four guys who could all start at outside receiver. There was off-season chatter about moving Treggs inside, something they tried with Harper last season. Even so, that still leaves three guys for two outside receiver spots, and another vacant one created in Richard Rodgers' absence. It'll be interesting to see how Franklin and Likens set their rotation. Will they opt to put their best four playmakers on the field? Or, will we platoon on the outside and keep our bigger receivers like Powe and Harris on the inside?