Well, kind of. Today marks the first day of spring practice for the Jackets. And we open with a lot of questions at a lot of positions. Here are the 3 major storylines, according to me, heading into spring practice.
1. How quickly will the Jackets pick up Al Groh's 3-4 defense? Personally, I think it is going to be a rough transition. Look for the Jackets' defense to look like the offense 2 springs ago, when Paul Johnson first arrived on campus. I expect there to be a large learning curve for us this spring, especially with our front seven.
I think the secondary should be much more consistent with Charles Kelly taking over the coaching of all positions back there. We saw a lot of our guys in the secondary out of position last year, and I always thought that the fact that Coach Wommack and Kelly were sending different messages to our guys. I think having one constant voice back there will really help our safeties and corners. I'm looking for Jemea Thomas (sophomore ROV) to have a big spring. He's got some big shoes to fill (Morgan Burnett's), but he is one of those guys that's just a baller. Think back to the play he made to break up a pass in the endzone vs. Duke last season and you'll know what I'm talking about.
As for the front seven, I really don't know what to look for here. We will have some experienced guys there, but everyone is starting from square one with Groh's system. Look for a lot of the younger guys to step up and get some big reps this spring. A name to watch for is Brandon Watts at linebacker. He raised a lot of eyebrows on the scout team last year while redshirting last season. I'm also looking for AT Barnes to step it up at the OLB spot. I am personally hoping for AT to finally find a way to use all his talents on the field because he's never quite fit in the previous 2 defensive schemes.
2. Who is going to step up and assert themselves as the #2 QB? As we all know, Jaybo Shaw has transferred to Georgia Southern to play for Jeff Monken, and Josh is recovering from offseason ankle surgery. We've got 3 guys legitimately competing for that spot: Tevin Washington (redshirt sophomore), Jordan Luallen (RS Freshman), and David Sims (RS Freshman). None of these 3 guys have much experience, although Washington did see a small bit of mop up duty last season. Additionally, Washington is probably the best athlete out of the 3 of them. It has been rumored for awhile that Washington will move to A-back, but I don't see that happening now that Jaybo's gone. Luallen is the most established passer of the 3 of them. Sims is a pure athlete and may end up being the best option at the QB position, if he can learn to play within CPJ's system. This should be an extremely interesting story to watch progress throughout the next few weeks.
For those of you wondering, true freshman BJ Bostic will most likely start spring practice at the A-back position, not at corner as I had previously written before signing day. There has also been some chatter about playing BJ at QB, but I think we'll get BJ ready to play at A-back during the spring and see about the QB position later. BJ will also get some looks at return man as well.
3. My third storyline to watch for during the spring is the situation on the offensive line. We have 4 redshirt freshman: Ray Beno, Will Jackson, Jay Finch, and Antonio Foster, who should all compete with the guys returning for starting positions. These are the first 4 offensive lineman handpicked by CPJ for this system. After a year of bulking up and learning the techniques of this offense, I am expecting big things from these guys this spring. Foster and Finch will most likely play at the tackle spot, Beno will be a guard, and Jackson can play center or guard. Definitely keep an eye for these names because they will be seeing a lot of playing time next season.
What are you looking for from the Jackets during the spring? Practices are at 3:45 at the Rose Bowl Fields and are open to the public as far as I know. If you haven't made it out to a spring practice and live in/near Atlanta, I'd definitely encourage you to go as you can learn a lot. And a lot of times you can swing a beesball game right after practice, which makes for a perfect day.