Well, we got our blowout, which was good because (1) it feels good to beat somebody, anybody by the score of 52-6 and (2) we were able to open up the offense and get some young guys on the field.
I told you earlier today that I’d like to see redshirt freshman Walker May get some serious minutes, and for five true freshmen – corners Andre Hal and Steven Clarke, safeties Andre Simmons and Karl Butler, and linebacker Chase Garnham – all to venture beyond their special teams duties and get to play some D.
Mission accomplished. In fact, May led the team with six tackles. This crew looked really fast out there. Plus, true freshman Kenny Ladler got the start over Jay Fullam at free safety, and defensive tackle Jared Morse burned his redshirt. This was a bit of a surprise because Morse had told his Facebook friends before last week’s UConn game that he still had a lot to learn about college football and that he was going to redshirt.
Morse is a great prospect who had offers from Auburn and Florida State. The fact that he played tonight indicates that (1) Adam Smotherman may not be fully recovered from injury, (2) T.J. Greenstone’s injury might be more serious than we thought, and (3) the D-line’s poor showing at UConn may have left the coaches feeling they need something more than the four redshirt sophomores – starters Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter and backups Josh Jelesky and Taylor Loftley.
Also, redshirt freshmen Thad McHaney, a defensive end, and Javon Marshall, a defensive back, saw the first action of their careers.
On offense, only one of the five guys on my playing time wish list even got on the field. That was Jordan Matthews, who recovered an accidental onside kick (you know things are going your way when you miss the ball and kick it onsides and then recover) and hauled in the first reception of his career, a nice 35-yarder from Jared Funk.
James Kittredge, who burned his redshirt last week, didn’t get on the field, but Logan Stewart did, burning his redshirt to work a full series at center. The coaches seem settled on starters Bailey, Johnson, Seymour, Welchans and Fischer, with Burrow, Brown, Stewart and Kittredge available in relief. Don’t expect any more offensive linemen to see the field this season, unless senior Chris Aaron returns from his inner ear problem to get a few snaps.
Also, Charlie Goro stayed on the bench. As much as I’d like to see him play, I’m fine with Funk getting as much time as he did. If Larry goes down, he’s our best bet right now, and you can’t argue with 3-4 passing for 100 yards and a TD.
Chris Boyd didn’t play, which leads me to think he’s not ready yet and will almost certainly redshirt. Also, Brady Brown didn’t play either and still hasn’t seen the field this season despite being a preseason favorite to start. Our go-to receivers down the stretch are going to come from Umoh, Cole, Krause, Wimberly, Matthews and Herndon.
We’ve now had 13 of our 24 February signees see playing time this season. Expect the remaining 11 — receivers Boyd and Trent Pruitt; offensive linemen Andrew Bridges, Grant Ramsay and Chase White; defensive linemen Thomas Ryan, Vince Taylor and Kyle Woestmann; linebacker/snapper Andrew East; quarterback Jordan Rodgers; and H-back Blake Gowder – to redshirt unless we get plagued by injuries on the offensive or defensive lines.
Brown and Goro are the only scholarship players on the team not eligible to redshirt and apparently uninjured who haven’t played this season. (Chris Aaron, Justin Cabbagestalk, Adam Smotherman and Austin Monahan have been injured since the preseason.)
Other firsts on offense included Mason Johnston’s first catch, a 1-yard TD from Larry Smith, and Jared Funk’s first completion and first TD, both on a 57-yard pass to John Cole.
Speaking of John Cole, the man really turns it on against weaker competition. Remember his TD run last season against Rice? Tonight, he had a 54-yard punt return that came inches short of a score, as well as four catches for 103 yards, including the 57-yard TD.
He’s a tough, smart kid who simply doesn’t have the talent to get open consistently against SEC corners. Same for Turner Wimberly, who looked like old-school T.O. in the open field against Eastern Michigan.
Well, that’s about it. Don’t expect us to amass 558 yards of total offense again this season, but at least it should get us out of the triple-digit rankings for passing offense and total offense.