Mother Nature, like many football coaches, not a fan of spring games. At least, not Butch Jones' spring games.
For the second consecutive season, rain and wind blew through Nippert Stadium during the team's event. Unfortunately for UC fans, that meant huddling under the upper deck to take in Bearcat Bowl V.
Outside of the weather, Jones sounded like the night was productive and the new format allowed to observe how players reacted in pressure situations.
If you want a general recap of what went down, here's my story from Saturday night. Cliff's Notes: Walter Stewart looks ready, the defense took a step forward, Danny Milligan owns spring games and Kenbrell Thompkins didn't play with a bum back/hamstring.
--- Scott Springer, a savvy spring game veteran, placed Milligan in his Spring Football Hall of Fame. Milligan playing well in this game has become as much an annual rite of spring in this community as reminders of Akili Smith and David Kilngler.
Springer also jumps into the Jordan Luallen conversation. Jones thought Luallen played well Saturday. To say who leads in the QB battle would be premature, but Luallen looks more in the mix than I anticipated.
--- Bill Koch wrote a recap as well. At some point were all sharing the same limited storylines here, but I will always promote reading Bill's stuff.
--- Somebody mentioned to me on Twitter during the Bearcat Bowl that Walter Stewart could be the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East this season. Stewart's offseason success has been obvious and the kid can make plays as we witnessed his freshman year. I think it could happen, but I'd also contend he may not be the best defensive lineman on his own team. I love where Derek Wolfe is right now.
Wolfe will benefit most from the replenished depth at the d-line positions and playing less snaps per game. Jones, right now, plans on playing a 10-deep rotation on the line. Guys like Brad Harrah, Roney Lozano, Jordan Stepp and Cameron Beard will be among those thrown in for a play or two in order to keep Wolfe, Brandon Mills, Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano fresh.
UC ran more plays per game than any team in the Big East last year. That also meant more plays for the defense as well.
Wolfe will be playing around a group that took major strides last season and receive more one-on-one coverage with weapons around him. He's in the best shape of his life and feeling the urgency of his senior year.
If this defense takes the strides they hope to in 2011, Wolfe will be the anchor.
I spoke with Wolfe earlier in the spring, but didn't have the opportunity to post anything on it. He's an excellent interview. Here were some of his comments:
Wolfe on the defensive line improving as the year progressed:
"It was enough is enough and it was a learning curve. When you are in a defense, especially third defense in three years. Me and JK (Schaffer) were the only ones who had started on defense before that. We had been through camp, but that is not like the game. You throw a little adversity in there when the game is on the line people handle things differently. We know how to handle each other now."
Wolfe on his physical condition by the end of a season where he was taking 80+ snaps a game:
"I didn't realize it until the end of the season after the Pitt game. It's like a roller coaster with a train that is not attached. It keeps going, going, going and once it gets to the end, it's like, 'Pow!' it all hits you at once. It all hit me at once. That next week I was out of commission. I felt like every bone was broken. But then I got right back to lifting."
Wolfe on his personal expectations:
"I changed my whole mentality. I want to be the best in
--- Along the same line as Wolfe and Stewart, people forget the most productive defensive lineman during the second half of the 2010 season was Brandon Mills. Over the final three games he averaged 7.3 tackles and 2 sacks per game, while adding a forced fumble and pass breakup.
Mills believes the image of UC's defense being a footnote to the powerful offense is about to change.
"Surely changing," he said. "We are about to be a defensive known team."
Also, during a recent practice when the defense secured a victory over the offense, Mills broke out some wild arms flailing in the air, flexed knees dance that could only be described as concerning to the untrained eye. Mills later informed me it was inspired by a move martial artist Tony Jaa does. For the record, Jaa appears to be a bad ass.
--- Did you see the Music City Bowl between UNC and Tennessee? Then you understand college football's rule change to utilize the NFL's 10-second runoff in the final minute before halftime and the conclusion of the game.
--- I'm really late on this, but Rick Pitino was closer to retirement than we ever realized. His wife helped talk him out of it, apparently.
--- Great news for UNC, terrible news for anybody hoping to contend for a national title next season. Harrison Barnes is returning to Chapel Hill.
--- On to some randomness...
--- The only thing worse than Nic Cage's mugshot from this weekend was his 2007 flop Ghost Rider. (Picking which of Cage's flops to use for the punchline without doubt the toughest decision on the blog today).
--- I still remember seeing Pearl Jam in 2000 when Eddie Vedder strolled out for the first encore with a ukulele strapped to his shoulder and played Soon Forget. Apparently, 10 years later we're in the middle of a "ukulele craze." The Ukulele works a bit like talking to your pets: Doing so in small doses can be effective and cute; extended use makes you appear legally insane. (See Tim, Tiny)
--- Apparently, but not shockingly, Arcade Fire killed it at Coachella.
--- On that note, how about some Fire from the show to kickstart your week. The buildup lasts until about the 2-minute mark.