Monday, April 12, 2004

Spring Game Observations

Orange Defeats White in BGSU Spring Game, 17-13

The field at Doyt Perry Stadium was in bad shape at the end of last season. It was impossible to fix during the winter, and recent wet weather has kept the grounds crew from working on it yet this spring. Therefore, the spring game was moved to the practice field adjacent to the stadium.

I wasn't thrilled when I first heard about this. The practice field has no bleachers or seating of any kind, and I wasn't optimistic about being able to see much. As it turned out, I liked it very much. There were definitely some line-of-sight issues, but being down on the field, essentially right on the sidelines with the players, is an interesting vantage point to take in a game. I wouldn't mind if the spring game were held there from now on.

For one thing, you can hear the players and coaches as they chatter amongst themselves. Despite some raw language (which doesn't bother me, but I'm sure it does/did some people), this is pretty interesting. It lets you see how they communicate about different things. One thing I really liked was hearing some of the upperclassmen giving tips to some of the younger guys, talking about what they saw on the field and why they reacted a certain way. Besides that, being so close really gives you a different perspective on the game itself. When you're right there as the players come on and off the field, you get a sense for how big they really are. In most cases, they're just monstrous. One player in particular, an offensive lineman, was just a beast--he's listed as 6-5, 323, and he's every bit of that. I noticed a couple other players who were no taller than I am (5-9), despite having a significantly taller "program height."

The biggest thing about being so close to the action, though, is getting a real sense of how fast the game is and how hard the hits are. Some of these guys can really fly, and they hit hard. This was all teammate-on-teammate stuff too, so I can only imagine how much more vicious it can be during real game action. I came away with even more respect for these athletes than I had before, and that's saying something.

Here are some players who caught my eye:

Omar Jacobs, redshirt sophomore quarterback. Omar is going to be "The Man" this year, replacing departed senior Josh Harris. It may take some time for him to grow into Josh's leadership role, but he's got the tools to be as good of a quarterback. He can really fire the ball--when he wants it somewhere, he gets it there, RIGHT NOW. I think he did a good job of making decisions about staying in the pocket vs. taking off with the ball. When he decides to run, he can really haul the mail. He's fast for a quarterback. He's not Michael Vick, but he looks to be faster than Josh was. Josh was quite a running quarterback, so Omar is going to be a heck of a weapon.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Thurman. Thurman threw the prettiest ball of the day, a long spiraling strike to wide receiver Steve Sanders. I also liked Thurman's leadership skills and the way he talked to his receivers and offense on the sidelines. I'm not sure if Thurman or Van Johnson will be the #2 quarterback going into the season, but my vote would be for Thurman. I think he would have the best chance to lead us to a win if Omar was out. Johnson also looked good during his chances, though.

The running backs. All of them that played: incumbent starter P.J. Pope (true junior), Raishaun Stover (redshirt sophomore), Dan Macon (true sophomore), and Melvin Cole (redshirt freshman). Incumbent backup B.J. Lane did not play. All that did play showed good moves and speed. Macon had the long run of the day, a 72-yarder around the right side.

It was hard to single out individuals, but the offensive linemen did a good job for the most part. They gave the quarterbacks time to look for receivers. They gave up some sacks, but we've got some injuries there right now. I'm not concerned about it just yet. If the injured players aren't ready for the start of the season, the first game or two may have some issues along the line.

Junior linebacker Ted Piepkow. Teddy saw a lot of time last year due to injuries, and shined. During the spring game, he was in on a lot of tackles. He was flying around and making hits. Linebacker may be our weak spot this year in terms of depth, but I think Ted's going to be a good one.

Senior defensive end Ryan Newble. He was a force along the defensive front. He had several tackles, at least one sack, and an interception that essentially ended the game. He looked good. The Falcons have plenty of experience coming back on the defensive line, and that's going to be a real strength of our team. Here's hoping Newble is wreaking havoc like that all year long.

Anyway, that's what stood out to me. Obviously, I'm not a football expert, and it's easier for me to pick things out on offense than it is on defense. The angle of being on the field didn't help much with that, either. All in all, though, the guys looked really good. They were into the game, which was good to see (one former player, who now does the radio broadcasts, was walking around the sidelines, and I heard him say that the winning team would be served steak for dinner, while the losing team would be eating hamburgers and hot dogs). It was a nice little football fix for junkies like me who were anxious to get an early look at the team before the season starts this fall.

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