Here’s a front-page commentary after the first practice and a quick visit with Bret Bielema. It’s a day without pads, but the offensive tackles look the part:
Thanks Clay. Appreciate this type report with comments instead of just what coach speak they give you guys. Must be hard to do much coverage in 20 min. of drill, but this is good stuff.
Jim, I turned it into a column. This is a little more after talking to Bret Bielema. FYI, I talked to Bret and he has changed a total of six diapers for his daughter in the last three weeks. He was up early this morning to head to the office and after a check decided that number six was needed.
“I’m not saying they are perfect,” he said. “But they haven’t come undone and there are no infections!”
Maybe that last tidbit was too much information, but that’s Bret.
Cool. Most of us has been there. Bet I could still do it.
I am going to run the risk of getting my head handed to me again, happened a couple of years ago when I refused to believe all the hype about the football program under Bielema.
I think we are going to have a good offense. I’ve watched Austin Allen since high school and I think he is a winner. He was nearly killed last year because of poor pass blocking. His drop off in production late in the year was a direct result of the O-line inexperience. Even though the receivers are inexperienced I think we have enough talent to catch balls from Allen. The running back position isn’t deep but I think we will be productive.
On the flip side, the defense is going to have to prove it to me. I think we will continue to be a poor defensive team. I don’t think we have SEC caliber talent across the board. I’m not a big fan of the 3-4 defense. It takes special talent to effectively be a good defense in the 3-4. If you don’t have the talent to line up four linemen who can compete and three solid linebackers who can play, you are just not an SEC caliber defense. I guess it comes down to recruiting. The 3-4 scheme is desperation. The problem to me is that this scheme gives running backs a chance to be three or four yards beyond the line of scrimmage before a backer can make contact (i know the linebackers are supposed to be quick and stop that but I seen bad results too many times). There will be no stacking the line of scrimmage with down linemen. I see SEC running backs potentially having a field day against us. So, I said it. Give me your best shot.
I’m not as worried about the DLine as much as I am the depth at LB. I think we have some talent on the Dline but it is limited. We need some guys to become stars that were not in the past, which is not a good spot to be in. Sosa and Bijohn can draw some double teams but the 3rd guy/DE is a big question. LB depth is the concern when your Dline is not playing gap control/releasing blockers into the LBs/second level. I think our LB’s will get beat up more in this scheme. I’m not as worried about the back 4 in this scheme, but safety play is still a problem…until proven otherwise.
The 3-4 is actually a better run defense than the 4-3. You are going to have linebackers playing closer to the line of scrimmage and two of the four are probably stepping forward at the snap. It might be a different two each snap. That’s the deception in the scheme that makes it good against the run and much better at providing blitz pressure against the pass. The 4-3 is probably better against the pass. But the 3-4 (or the 5-2, because it’s the same thing) has always been better against the run. I think you are wrong in your assessment. Anyone you ask will tell you the 3-4 is a better run defense.
I guess I am in the minority in that I am not as concerned with the D. Not that I don’t want them to be better because I definitely do. I believe that no matter what defense we run last year will be a statistical anomaly. We will regress towards the mean…and be an average defense. Where I want to see improvement is the O-line and a significant decrease in turnovers. If this happens we will win more games. If the offense had not turned the ball over in the second half of the last two games we win both and the mood going into this year is much different.
We have to be more consistent on both sides but we have to become mentally tough with a short memory. Last season we would have a penalty or turnover and instead of moving on and not looking back we seem to dwell on the problem and make another mistake then things start to snowball on us. We do not handle adversity very well as a whole and until we change that aspect we will more than likely stumble repeatedly at times. Mental and physical toughness will have to define this team and become as known for this as they are as Tight End U or Running Back U. If we can find a way to accomplish these things this team might surprise us as I believe we have the talent to compete. WPS