Monday, August 25, 2014

Falcon Preview...

And so we begin again.

When last we left our team, we had lost to Pittsburgh in the bowl game...but when we really last left our team, the one with the coaches intact and focused on business, we were in Ford Field celebrating an incredible championship.  At mid-season, BG looked like a good but not great team, but transformed themselves into something else after the UT game, outscoring opponents in the remainder of the regular season by 176-17 and beating the #14 ranked NIU Huskies by 20 to snatch the crown.

It was incredible.  After years of disappointment, this team delivered on its promise and gave us all a memory we will not forget.

Time marches on, however.  We will start it all again Friday.

Big changes since we last left our team.  Coach Clawson left--as I think we all suspected he would--and was replaced by a person that is his opposite in almost every way.  Coach Babers is flashy, outgoing, brash, and plays Baylor style FAST football from a radical spread formation.  Clawson was the opposite of all that.  Clawson also won a championship.

It is an exciting time at the Doyt.  BG was picked to win the East by the media and today the coaches picked BG to win as well.  Expectations are very high, and for all the FalconFast hype, I remind fans that we have been here before, with the flashy offensive system and didn't get any titles out of it.  Expectations are high, but the thing must still be done and everyone else is trying to win, too.

On the offensive side of the ball, it is difficult to imagine what difficulties might emerge.  You have Dieter, Roger Lewis and Ronnie Moore starting at WR, which is (to say the least) impressive.  You have Travis Greene out of the backfield and, of course, the top returning QB in the MAC, Matt Johnson, who is believed by some to be the best returning player in the conference.

Hard to believe that one year ago Schilz started for BG.  Hard to imagine winning that title without Johnson at the helm.

You have to search pretty hard to find worries on offense.  The o-line remains young, but two of the youngest guys started all of last year.  There's a new C.  So, I guess if you want to find things that might be worries, you'd start there.

The other would simply be changing to a new system.  BG had things pretty knocked down under last year's system, but this is a complete change and you worry how much adjustment there will be.  My guess is that our guys are going to shine in this approach pretty quickly, but I would say that's a concern.

Moving to defense.  BG's defense was simply dominant last season.  So much talent, so much depth.  When BG's defense failed to stop UT's final drive and then lost Gabe Martin to injury, they responded by giving up 17 points in 4 games and then stifling NIU's supposed offensive juggernaut.

Yes, there were graduation losses, but a lot of talent is back.  In fact, if there's a year you want to worry about graduation losses on defense, it is next year.

The biggest area of concern is in the middle of the front 7:  DT and MLB.  BG has had some significant attrition in the middle of the last few years, and it has shown up a little bit in the depth chart.  D-line play is all about rotation, and so I have a concern about the depth of our rotation in the middle.

The big benefit last year with Ouellette and Campbell in the middle was that kept blocks off our our LBs, and they had big years as a result.  The middle of the BG line has to at least do that.

Especially since the biggest potential issue at LB is also in the middle.  With Martin and Lynch on the edges, we look very good, but the middle the depth chart shows R-FR Nate Locke and JUCO Paul Senn, who played some last year, most on special teams.

The backfield is looking pretty good.  With Darrell Hunter back and then the guys who filled in for Martin returning to their normal positions, I think the backfield has the ability to be as good as it was last year, with maybe a small issue with depth in dime sets--true FR Nick Johnson is a backup at CB, for example.

Stylistically, last year's team played in a ball control format, which meant the offense was designed to take time off the clock and keep the defense off the field.  This year's offense is designed to do exactly the opposite, so that might provide an adjustment for our guys.  Also, last year's team was focused on forcing punts--in fact, turnovers was the biggest area in which they did not excel.  The current defensive philosophy is to go for turnovers, which is something the defense will have to adjust to.

In general, it is probably too much to expect the defense to produce what last year's defense did, but this defense has the ability to still be really, really good.  Best case, I don't think they are far off what we did last year--everyone has to stay healthy etc--and worst case I don't think the defense is ever a liability unless hit with heavy injuries.

And, of course, you'd expect to be racking up some points on the other side of the equation, taking some pressure off the defense.

On special teams, the PK position is solid for the first time in a long time with Tyler Tate finally providing BG some confidence on FGs.  The punter is new, but is a scholarship player (Joseph Davidson) so we will have to see how he does.  The return game should be fine.  We have enough good defensive players to defend kicks effectively.  I think special teams will be effective.

In conclusion, the high expectations for this year's team are warranted.  There's only one measure of success for this year's team, and I am sure they feel the same way.  This team has all the tools to be back at Ford Field again this December and anything less will be a disappointment.

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