Saturday, November 15, 2008


I think it's interesting to look back at the preseason depth chart and see who turned out to be better or worse than the coaching staff thought. I'll break it down by position in a second, but here's a quick summary of guys who've really stepped up for us this year:

• Redshirt freshman receiver and return man Jamie Graham
• Redshirt freshman tight end Brandon Barden
• Redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Marve
• Junior running back Jared Hawkins

Where would we be without these guys? Graham kept us in the Georgia game with two spectacular touchdowns and broke Rice's back with a touchdown run, while Barden's touchdown catches were the turning points in the South Carolina and Auburn games, and Marve singlehandedly sealed the Ole Miss game by stripping the ball from Dexter McCluster on the goal line. And nearly every game we've won has featured Hawkins bulling his way for first downs to burn off the clock.

Anyway, here's a breakdown, position by position:

• Stepped up: Uh, nobody.
• Holding steady: Uh, nobody.
• Stepped down: Uh, nobody.
• Dropped off: Uh, nobody.

If you'd told me that after nine games the depth chart would still read "Chris Nickson or Mackenzi Adams" I'd tell you we were having a bad season. Of course, if it said "Larry Smith or Jared Funk" we'd be having a worse season. (Though I still want to see Larry Smith get in a game this season.)

• Stepped up: Jared Hawkins. Now the clear starter.
• Holding steady: Third-teamer Gaston Miller.
• Stepped down: Jeff Jennings. Firmly second team.
• Dropped off: Nobody.

• Stepped up: Jamie Graham, a starter not on the preseason two-deep; Alex Washington, second-teamer not listed at preseason
• Holding steady: Starter Sean Walker, backup Udom Umoh
• Stepped down: George Smith and Justin Wheeler now sharing a starting position
• Dropped off: Chris Reinert injured, Turner Wimberly and Andrew Diomande no longer listed

• Stepped up: Brandon Barden the clear starter
• Holding steady: Nobody
• Stepped down: Jake Bradford now second-team
• Dropped off: Austin Monahan injured

• Stepped up: Starting left tackle Reilly Lauer, backup center Chris Aaron
• Holding steady: Starting center Bradley Vierling, starting guards Ryan Custer and Eric Hensley, starting tackle Thomas Welch, utility backups Kyle Fischer and Joey Bailey, backup tackle James Williams
• Dropped off: Preseason starting guard Drew Gardner, preseason backup guards Nick Forte and Ryan Vance

How many different combinations have we used on the offensive line? While the quarterback situation has gotten most of the ink, the coaching staff has been doing an awful lot of tinkering with the offensive line. Though four of today's predicted starters were preseason starters, left tackle Welch is now at right tackle and right tackle Eric Hensley is now at guard. In all, a whopping 12 different lineman have played this season and eight of them have started at least one game.

• Stepped up: True freshman Rob Lohr listed as second team but hasn't played yet
• Holding steady: Starters Greg Billinger and Adam Smotherman and backup T.J. Greenstone
• Dropped off: Derrius Dowell (injured)

• Stepped up: Redshirt freshman Tim Fugger
• Holding steady: Starters Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart and backup Theron Kadri
• Stepped down: Teriall Brannon now listed as third team

• Stepped up: Starter Chris Marve
• Holding steady: Starters John Stokes and Patrick Benoist, backups Chris Johnson and Nate Campbell, Brent Trice (moved from strong safety)
• Dropped off: Starter Brandon Bryant (injured), backup Austin Newton

• Stepped up: True freshmen backups Sean Richardson at safety and Casey Hayward at nickel back
• Holding steady: Starting cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis, starting safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, backups Alan Strong, Joel Caldwell and Josh Allen
• Dropped off: Backup nickel back Jared Fagan

• Stepped up: True freshman backup kicker Ryan Fowler, backup snapper David Giller, backup kick returner Gaston Miller and punt returner Jamie Graham
• Holding steady: Starting kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, starting punter Brett Upson, returner D.J. Moore, snapper John Stokes
• Dropped off: Backup kicker John Laughrey, backup snapper Nick Miller, backup kick returner Sean Walker, starting punt returner Alex Washington

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