Spring football concluded Wednesday at the Sheakley Athletic Center. For the most part, these practices all are pretty run of the mill and few true developments can be taken away.
As Tommy Tuberville said himself, "they're all boring, they're all about the same -- it's kind of like watching paint dry."
This year proved slightly different with the beginning of the Tuberville era and a collection of new coaches learning the skill set of their new personnel. From one month of watching drills and scrimmages, interviewing players and coaches, I've come away with a few lessons learned, heard and observed.
1) Brendon Kay sits in the driver's seat for QB1
Kay rode the momentum of his second half of the season into spring football and looked a step crisper than every other quarterback on the field. He made far fewer mistakes and showed a unique weapon nobody else possesses with his consistently accurate deep ball.
In the three scrimmages, Kay's numbers were far superior to anyone else as Munchie Legaux struggled at times with incompletions and interceptions.
Tuberville stated multiple times he doesn't plan on naming a starter until camp, but even he abstained from commenting on the obvious with the media.
"Yeah, I'd say he's a step ahead of everyone else," Tuberville said.
The coach went on to say he's not so far ahead that the ground can't be recovered during summer or fall camp, but he's clearly earned the advantage.
In other developments in the quarterback world, Bennie Coney made a push into the race for starting quarterback. Coney looked excellent playing primarily against the second-team defense, but excellent nonetheless. He's shown a soft, accurate touch but also a rare ability to break away from chaos in the pocket as well or better than anyone else. At the very least, he's separated himself from Trenton Norvell for the No. 3 spot and could easily be the backup come Aug. 31 against Purdue.
"I think there's going to be a place for all three quarterbacks," Tuberville said. "They need to learn their role and we got to learn what to teach them and make their role."
If you're interested in more on Coney, I wrote this story earlier in the week on his development.
And here were the complete stats from the combined three spring scrimmages.
|Quarterbacks in three spring scrimmages||Passing||Yards||TDs-Ints|
|Brendon Kay||22 of 37 (59%)||394||6-1|
|Munchie Legaux||19 of 42 (45%)||310||1-3|
|Bennie Coney||26 of 42 (62%)||394||3-1|
|Trenton Norvell||18 of 41 (44%)||219||0-3|
2) This team will attempt to out-physical opponents
Tuberville recognizes the strength of this team as the two lines up front. With all five starting offensive linemen returning, the offensive side makes sense. The continuity, depth and summer of adding muscle makes them the top position group on the team from my angle.
The return of starters Jordan Stepp and Camaron Beard, along with rapid progression of Silverberry Mouhon has Tuberville excited for the capabilities of the defensive line. Yet, when talking physicality, this stretches beyond the front four to the linebackers. Greg Blair, Jeff Luc and Nick Temple will be among the best linebacker group in The American. The pure physicality of Luc at his size and strength for an outside linebacker can be heard by standing on the sidelines of practice. His hits just sound different.
There will be questions in the secondary and offensive skill positions as to who will step in and seize the opportunity, but these lines will be the strength and Tuberville plans on building the gameplan around that being the case.
"Trying to be more of a physical team, not that what they did in the past (wasn't), I did what they did in the past where I was at," Tuberville said. "We've got the type of team that can be more of a physical team other than a finesse team on both sides. We can be a little more balanced in the run and pass."
A first-year coach couldn't ask for a better strength than the front lines. As players attempt to learn coaching style and understand the institution of a new offense through the first season, not as much knowledge is needed to line up and move people backward at the point of attack. That alone can win games without needing a mastery of the new system.
3) Anthony McClung is ready to be a star
Few players shined this spring to the extent of senior WR Anthony McClung. He's coming off three productive seasons, but appears destined for a breakout in the pro-style attack. Far more than any other receiver, he consistently worked himself wide open and showed the ability to make plays on the ball down the field.
McClung's best season came his sophomore year when he caught 49 passes for 683 yards and 6 TDs, last year his numbers dropped to 34 receptions for 539 yards and 2 TDs.
With new starters jumping in around him, he'll be looked at as the go-to receiver more than at any point in his UC career. Tuberville expects speedy JuCo transfer Johnny Holden to come in and help stretch the field, but other than him, McClung is one of the few deep threat wideouts among a group of big body athletes.
He'll be counted on to carry the passing game, but appears ready to handle the job.
4) Tommy Tuberville lives on the opposite end of the coaching spectrum from Butch Jones
Practice sessions at the Sheakley Athletic Complex couldn't look more different this year. Gone are the microphones with Jones screaming at his players through every drill. Gone is the sprinting and yelling from station to station.
Tuberville brings a more laid-back approach centered on teaching and technique rather than passion and power. Players told me practices are much easier this year without all the running around and wondering how long it would actually go.
Where Jones would be involved in most every drill at one point or the other, working hands on with the players, Tuberville is rarely heard during practices. He sits back, lets his coaches coach and takes it all in with most of his words coming at the end of practice and in the film room.
And the guy just has that charisma about him that plays into the hands of players, coaches and media alike. If you don't believe me, just take in his post-practice interview with Tommy G from a few weeks back.
Certainly not stating either style of Jones or Tuberville as better or worse, only they couldn't be much more different.
As always, I want to hear from you! Send your comments, questions or thoughts on the 2013 football season to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.