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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Depth Chart Commentary

Well I might as well add some commentary on the depth chart beyond that which I offered about the running backs. My first thought is to reiterate the hackneyed coach speak that it’s not who starts the game, but who finishes it, that's important.

The spot that everyone seems to be discussing is WLB where Bo Ruud is listed ahead of Steve Octavian. The general response to this pronouncement seems to range from shock or disbelief to downright resentment. Personally I don’t understand the hubbub. Although there is little doubt in my mind that Octavian is the more talented player, we must keep a few things in mind. First, it was less than a year ago that Octavian suffered a broken leg. It is because of that injury that he has just one quarter of Division I experience. Secondly, Octavian had his appendix removed less than two weeks ago. While the surgery is fairly minor these days, and Octavian quickly returned to practice, he did miss important days of Fall camp. There were also reports that Octavian came into camp a little heavier than the coaches would have liked and he himself remarked that the surgery was a blessing in that he dropped some weight. When there is a great deal of competition in camp and the separation between players is small, these are the types of variables that play a role in depth chart decisions.

Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, we are scary thin in the secondary. I have discussed this several times in the past, but seeing the reality of the situation on the official depth chart was still troubling. The backups at both cornerbacks spots are converted wide receivers who have less than 25 practices under their belts at their new position. In addition, true freshmen Ricky Thenarse and Major Culbert are listed as the second string safeties. On the one hand it is nice to see the future of a position laid out so clearly. On the other hand, we are one play away from that future becoming the here-and-now.

On offense I really don’t see any surprises. It is clear that Callahan and company are going to get the most experienced players on the field early on. I’m not sure how you can argue with that philosophy. Those that suggest that Maurice Purify should be starting need to go back and watch highlights of Nate Swift from last season. Again, Purify may indeed have more upside potential, unfortunately, all the physical talent in the world won’t help him digest the playbook or add crispness to his routes. I think of it in this way. Imagine you have your brand new Bentley parked in tight quarters. Who do you trust to back it out – the flashy and physically gifted Jessica Alba, or you, the crafty veteran with both experience and a keen understanding of the situation?

The most talented players are going to find the field no matter what the depth chart says. If you were surprised or disappointed by the first depth chart, then let it serve as a reminder that the future holds a multitude of unexpected twists and turns.

Oh, and it was a trick question. The correct answer is to back your Bentley out, with Jessica Alba right where she belongs, firmly planted in your lap.