First of all, I need to explain what the "offensive frontfield" is and why it needed to be created. It's simple, really: the offensive frontfield is a grouping of offensive players consisting of the offensive line and wide receivers. Why did I create it, you ask? Because there are only seven days in a week, and I would've had eight previews if I had treated these groups separately. Got it? OK, on to the content.
Tentative Pre-Spring Depth Chart
|WR||Anthony Autry (So)||Corey Dennis (R-Jr)||Ricky Jeune (Fr)|
|WR||Darren Waller (Jr)||Travin Henry (R-Fr)||Michael Summers (R-Fr)|
|T||Ray Beno (R-Sr)||Bryan Chamberlain (R-So)||Chase Roberts (R-Fr)|
|G||Shaquille Mason (Jr)||Morgan Bailey (R-Jr)||Trey Braun (R-So)|
|C||Jay Finch (R-Sr)||Freddie Burden (R-Fr)|
|G||Errin Joe (R-So)||Shamire DeVine (Fr)||Catlin Alford (R-Jr)|
|T||Will Jackson (R-Sr)||Thomas O'Reilly (R-Fr)||Chris Griffin (Fr)|
I got this chart from our library of football resources -- check it out!
The offensive line is the key to any offense, so they all really get a gold star here. I'll single Jay Finch out, however, because the center is the most specialized postion on the line. He had to go out with injuries several times last year, which was always a terrifying moment for me because I thought, "Oh dear, up goes the fumble count." I know you thought the same thing, so surely you see where I'm coming from. The line depth this year is such that injuries shouldn't be that big of a problem though.
On the WR side, I'd definitely have to go with Darren Waller. It's key that he steps up this year, makes big plays, and comes into his own like Demaryius Thomas did. Not necessarily because he's had any mental issues he had to get over like Stephen Hill did -- I just think this could be when he's finally got enough experience and confidence to do great things. If I'm right, there's a deep threat that defenses have to worry about and suddenly the "selling out against the run" problem goes away just like it did in 2009. Anthony Autry could also fill this role. He was playing great until a knee injury in the Boston College game sidelined him. Unfortunately, he will not be back for spring practice. Thus, the focus will be on Waller this spring.
A lot of guys are sitting out spring practice: Autry, Henry, and Finch in the frontfield. This hurts Autry and Henry more than it does Finch because all they're really missing is experience, but hopefully they will be ready to go for fall practices.
I honestly think Tech will have one of the best offensive lines in the country this year. All the experience and depth that they have makes for a pretty tasty looking recipe. The blocking complexities that this offense lends itself to shouldn't be a problem and in fact should help that unit because they're used to doing difficult things. The big question this spring, as it is every spring, will be "Can this squad avoid injuries?" Finch is sitting out practices already, so he will avoid the injury bug in these next few weeks. The biggest momentum killer in the spring time is when players do something to get themselves hurt -- the very reason coaches both love and fear spring practice. I think we'll get two or three nagging injuries and one big one somewhere in the RB corps, but I think the offensive line should stay relatively healthy. The nightmare scenario to me here is if Finch comes back in slowly and re-injures himself, only to be out for the season, a case when all hell will break loose as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it might not be that bad should Finch re-injure himself, but it'd be a lot tougher to loose a center than any other postion on the line. I have confidence in the backup Freddie Burden, but I'd rather see him at guard protecting Vad's blind side.
My expectations for the receiving corps are a little more mundane. I don't predict anything substantial will really happen this spring. We'll see all of Waller's development that I talked about above in game action. As for the WR at the other end, I think that Ricky Jeune could come out of nowhere and might usurp Autry for the other starting receiver spot. He could have a big spring, as his size (6'3", 205) won't hold him back and might help him avoid the redshirt.
>> Does Autry get usurped this spring?
I don't think so. Coaches value game experience very heavily, and Autry's got eight games under his belt. He also seemed to break the "physically gifted, but bad hands" mold of young GT receivers past last season. I don't think you can overcome that barrier very easily.
>> Who stands out among the OL backups?
Look out for Morgan Bailey and Trey Braun. Them boys is BIG!
>> Will we see some more shotgun/pistol this year?
I think so. The line's pass blocking is up to the challenge as we saw last year and Vad Lee is more fit to that skill set, so I think we'll see a lot more variety in the offense this time around.