Camp has begun and is one week in. Where do you think we’ll see the most improvement? Is there a position group that has the highest ceiling? The highest floor?
Joshua Morgan: I think we see an big jump from the offensive line. They were not a bad group last year as they ranked near the middle of PAC-12, but with all of the starters returning, I think they could turn into a real plus for this team and we definitely should see a fair amount of improvement. I also might give them the highest floor with the reasons mentioned above and the fact that three of the five starters are seniors. The highest ceiling for me definitely has to be the secondary. Young stars Cam Bynum and Elijah Hicks were absolutely fantastic down the stretch for the Bears as freshmen, and Jaylinn Hawkins was also solid. This is a very young secondary, but a very talented one that could easily become the teams biggest strength this coming year.
Piotr Le: I agree with Joshua that Offensive line. We are returning all the starts in the second year of the system and under coach Greatwood. Another year with the strength and conditioning coach Becton should do them good. Add in the influx of talent we can assume that they will have the highest floor accounting for possible injuries. With the highest ceiling would be the defensive back group. With a healthy Rambo the two young and playmaking corners in Bynum and Hicks we only need a corner to man the nickel spot and we will have a shutdown secondary.
Mike Foiles: I will also pick the OL for most improved group. The line improved vastly over the course of last season and played its best football in the last three games. Their floor is probably the highest given the amount of depth here, particularly on the interior. Highest ceiling goes to the secondary. We saw the talent out of these young guys last year but the lack of experience was evident at times. This year’s group will improve physically with players like Camryn Bynum having an excellent offseason and there will be less coverage breakdowns to prevent some of the big plays we surrendered last year like the Colorado and Weber State games. Also excited about Evan Rambo being back and playing well.
Alex Ghenis: Okay, so I’m going to take this question a bit differently than some of the other writers. As many have noted, theoffensive line returns pretty well intact (including the two deep) with plenty of seniors, and certainly has the highest floor for the season. But if we are talking about “most improvement,” it’s also notable that the OL position group was actually playing pretty darn well at the end of the year (which is one reason why we can all be so excited). A position group that is likely to make the biggest jump from the end of last year to the beginning of this year almost has to be tight end. We were down to some pretty inexperienced backups by game 12 – but now, we get a 6th-year senior back, an experienced graduate transfer (6’7” and 255lb, who by all reports has been doing pretty darn well in camp), and a super-athletic highly-recruited Frosh (#14 TE per 247 non-composite). All of a sudden, we are all talking aboutthe potential for tight end really being a core part of this offense, even running multiple-TE sets on the regular…That’s one hell of a jump.
I also second the near-consensus that defensive back has the potential to be a major bright spot with a high ceiling. Another position group that might “fly under the radar” but has the potential for a high ceiling could be running back. Laird is going to be a beast, with great vision and moves overall. The guys behind him are pretty inexperienced at the college level, but as a group have major potential to shine with at least one or two breakout newbies. Ali-Walsh was super fast from what I saw in Spring, Clark was a well-rounded back, while Netherda was a load at 6’0” 215lb and was tough to bring down (although a walk on, he had 1400+ yds as a senior in high school). Dancy’s JC tape looked promising and it seems like at least one of the two freshmen will see the field (Adams is super-athletic, and Brown is a huge back at 6’1” 220lb who can be quite a surprise if he is recovered from his senior year foot injury). Running back is one of the positions that’s easiest for new players to acclimate to and shine – even as freshmen – so if one or two of the guys not named Laird can find a groove, that group has high potential. (And if you count fullback as part of the RB group, take that up one more notch).
Rob Hwang: Highest Ceiling? DL. They have depth. They have length. They have size. They have speed. They have technique. They have a chip on their shoulder. They all have motors. Thats a recipe for success. Its incredible watching this group in practice and how much they get after it on every rep. With the loss of big names like Looney and Mekari, this group has the chance to have some significant breakout players, international ones at that as well. Guys like Siu Fuimaono and Lone Isaara Toailoa, are having great fall camps and showing up with WOW plays. On the flip side the floor has to go to the OL/Run-Game. Reason being is that you know what youre getting from your OL. The entire line returns and you add talented freshman like Matthew Cindric and Will Craig only adds depth. Since you know what your OL looks like and gives you, the running game should be solid at worst. Patrick Laird, Derrick Clark, Biaggio Ali-Walsh, Marcel Dancy, Christopher Brown Jr., Johnny Adams Jr., and Alex Netherda should have no problem identifying the gaps.