Monday, July 25, 2011

So Can We Beat Boise State?

I'm not quite ready to start doing any official previews/prognostications, but LC got me really thinking about the Boise State game this weekend.  We ended up with a pretty big crew on Saturday, so at one point Reeder 3:16 dumped his wife, me, and LC off at an island in the middle of Lake Oconee while he, Simple Man, and the rest of the crew went out to play on the boat..............  Yeah, we were discarded like a worn out pair of sneakers.  We kept the cooler though, and I was coming off of a massively failed attempt at kneeboarding, so just floating in the water with a beer in my hand worked out for the best anyway.

While the three of us are floating there, reminiscing about old times one minute and solving all the world's problems the next, LC turns to me and says "Ok, really, do you think we can beat Boise State?"  I didn't have an answer, and still don't.  I mean yes, in theory, you always "can" beat anybody, and can be beaten by anybody.  But I knew what LC was getting at.........looking at the recent body of works from the 2 programs (conference strengths aside), how confident can you be that we are going to be celebrating at the end of that game?

We know that Petersen and the Boise State coaching staff are very clever and creative, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  And while I'm excited about the talent we'll have on defense this year, it's a lot of VERY young talent that is going to be seeing their first real significant amount of time in a big game.  The guys everyone is most excited about in our front 7..........Ogletree (played safety last year), Jones (did not play last year, was a reserve as a true frosh at USC and may be suspended anyway), Geathers (played sparingly last year), Jenkins (JUCO ball last year) and Drew (high school ball last year) have little or no experience playing their current position against top-level competition.  Even as athletic as they are, they're going to make mistakes, and a team like Boise State will make you pay dearly for those mistakes.  When I look at their talent, I get excited and see the potential for them to be dominant.  But when I look at their experience, all I can see is their potential to give up big plays.

Not that this is any big revelation, but we are going to have to be able to control the line of scrimmage on defense for us to have a chance this game.  I had never paid much attention to Boise State's offensive line, so I did a bit of research and here's the breakdown of their projected starters (Height & Weight stats from BSU's athletics page):
  • LT - Nate Potter (SR) - 6'6", 300 lbs - Named first-team preseason All-America by both Phil Steele and Athlon Sports.  By all accounts, he's the real deal.
  • LG - Joe Kellogg (JR) - 6'2", 299 lbs - Started 10 games last year, only missed starts due to injury
  • C - Thomas Byrd (SR) - 5'11", 288 lbs - Named to the 2011 Rimington Trophy Watch List, an award given annually to the nation’s top center
  • RG - Jake Broyles (SO) - 6'4", 278 lbs - Had a strong spring, but is light on experience, has only played in 5 games as a backup.
  • RT - Charles Leno (SO) - 6'3", 278 lbs - Only 2 appearances as a backup as a freshman, and had to spend some time at tight end due to injuries
Now I'm far from an expert in the ways of Offensive and Defensive Line technique, but I do know that if one man is at least 20-30 pounds heavier and more athletic than the guy across from him, he ought to win more battles than he loses.  The left side of BSU's line looks pretty stout, but the right side looks like it could be vulnerable.  And I don't care how experienced and talented that center is, if he is able to effectively handle Big John, who outweighs him by 50 lbs and is supposedly freakishly athletic, then I'll be impressed (and disappointed).  I gotta hope that Jenkins and Geathers will be able to draw a lot of double and even triple teams, opening things up for the linebackers.  Just for size comparison, here's the top guys we will be rotating in and out on our DL:
  • Abry Jones - DE - 6'3", 309 lbs
  • DeAngelo Tyson - DE - 6'3", 309 lbs
  • Garrison Smith - DE - 6'3", 294 lbs
  • Derrick Lott - DE - 6'4", 304 lbs
  • Kwame Geathers - NG - 6'6", 350 lbs
  • John Jenkins - NG - 6'4", 340 lbs
In other words, our smallest guys are as big as their biggest guys, and our biggest guys are A LOT bigger than their guys, especially on the interior of the line.  A good coach can scheme around a lot of things using misdirection, decoys, etc, but it's hard to scheme around your offensive line getting whipped (see the 2009 LSU pounding of Ga Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, despite the sheer genius of the immortal Paul Johnson).

Am I predicting that our DL will control the line of scrimmage?  No, I'm not.  But I am saying that's what NEEDS to happen.  Otherwise, we lose.  If their OL manages even to just battle our DL to a draw, that will be enough for them to run their offense as they see fit.  And if it becomes a shootout, I have no confidence whatsoever that we can outscore them over the course of 4 quarters.  

So to answer your question, LC.........I have no idea. I honestly have no gut feeling at this point. Give me about 3 more weeks to digest what the team looks like, and I'll have an answer for you.


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