1. What spring football developments have encouraged you the most? Which area of the team do you feel the most confident in going into next season?
Sam Fielder: The two developments that have encouraged me the most are the play of both the offensive line and the defensive secondary. These two units were beleaguered last season and were a major part of the disappointment as a result of inexperience and injuries, so getting adequate play out of these two will be a vast improvement. So far, based on what I've seen on film and read about the practices, we're on track to see quality play from both of these units in 2014 and I think that given what Franklin wants to do with the Bear Raid and the offenses we'll be up against in the P12, we'll need some great play to be competitive.
As far as confidence, it has to the our Wide Receiver group. We are as deep and talented as anyone in the country and I'm excited to see how these guys can perform with a full offseason together with Goff.
Leland Wong: During the Spring Experience, there seemed to be a set of drives dedicated to running the ball in from the red zone, taking advantage of the balance and the power that the Bone players give to the Diamond/Grizzly formation (see Berkelium97's post for balanced running out of the Grizzly and how that will open up play-action passes). Last year, we were completely impotent in the red zone, scoring only 18 touchdowns on 38 red-zone trips thanks to our struggling run game and the increased difficulty in passing the ball at that distance. Even if Kaufman manages one of his characteristic defensive turnarounds, we'll need to score more touchdowns and fewer field goals to keep up with the high-powered offenses of the Pac-12, so it's great to see the team focus on this skillset.
Definitely have to side with Sam for feeling confident about our receivers. They've got talent, variety of skills and sizes, and that swag.
Avinash Kunnath: The defensive coaching staff looks much more seasoned than last year. Art Kaufman isn't going to make us a world-class defense overnight, but he looks far better prepared to handle the rigors of next season. Chachere is more at home as a linebacker coach and Burns and Tate are solid replacements. This is a staff that will give our offense a chance to win some games this season. Doubt we'll give up five touchdowns every game next year. I see us getting at least five or six games where we give up four touchdowns or less, which should be winnable for us!
Also, no injuries. I hate injuries.
The receiving corps looks like they will hit the ground running next year. Trevor Davis gives the team even more depth on the outside, and Bryce Treggs is going to be a matchup problem for linebackers/safeties on the inside. Add in Kenny Lawler, Chris Harper, Stephen Anderson and company and expect receivers to be getting that football all season.
However, I was most excited by the improvement in fundamentals on the defense, particularly among the LBs and DBs. Guys quickly closed in on their targets and were generally good at making solo tackles. We've come a long way from letting opponents bounce around like pinballs before breaking free into the open field. Additionally, players looked better at maintaining their coverage assignments. A few times there was miscommunication resulting in a wide open receiver. Fortunately the defense was able to recover and stop the receiver instead of missing the tackle and giving up a 60-yard TD, as we saw ad nauseam last season.