The ZHK has been notably asleep at the wheel at a time when everyone is weighing in with their two cents on anything and everything about Orange football. So read on brave readers for what can only be a regurgitation of what you must already be aware of. Its what the ZHK does best.
Ok, its October and if you already haven’t figured it out, the Big East is completely mediocre. Completely. As if we needed last night’s game to remind us of that.
Now when I started doing preseason analysis, I predicted that we would be 3-2 after the Pitt game and as we know, we are not. But the sad reality is, that with a decent coach we would have been! A decent coach would have figured out how to stick it to Akron. A decent coach would have gone for the kill on 4th down (or hell attempted a 55 yd FG which should be doable for Shadle), remembered to insert their stud RB instead of burning the frosh year of Antwon Baily especially when Fiametta or Daniel Bailey (who had already gotten carries in the Pitt game) were available or managed to make one in game adjustment. Now to complete the fantasy, imagine being 3-2 right now knowing the team you just beat went to the supposed best team in the BE and handled them. What would we be thinking now? Hey we have a chance to compete with anyone. We could hang with one dimensional UConn, and mistake prone Louisville both at home. We could catch a WV or USF sleeping, or stick it to a struggling Rutgers. Cincy is on to their 3rd string QB, that game could have value to us.
Hey recruits, we are looking good! Get on the bandwagon now!
But alas that is not what we are thinking right now. We are focused on our future head coach search. On who’s been seen on campus (Lloyd Carr?) and who hasn’t? Where’s Gross today and why? We all have our lists, our timetables for change (face it its November, whether you like it or not). Hell we are even distracted by our feel good Express star Ernie Davis’ hacked up statue.
So now what is a fan to do with so much season left to do? Well, this fan is going to the cabinet to mix a batch of kool-aid. Anyone want a drink? Did I forget to mention that I will be adding some liquor as well?
The kool-aid: I have been pleasantly surprised by Curtis Brinkley. I am the first to admit that I had him 3rd in the triumvirate of Hogue/Carter/Brinkley. He has shown a ton of heart and his performance on the field has been a revelation for a team in need of a spark. Brinkley has averaged 95 yards per game and is on pace to eclipse 1000 yds this season. I will watch the rest of the season just to see this kid wrap up his career.
Mitch Browning is the next person to tip my hat to. If you would have told me that the offensive line would have given up only 7 sacks through 5 games (it was 22 at this point last year). I would have understood why we should be 3-2. He has done a great job with line and the running game.
The young receivers are improving. Yes they really are! We see Marcus Sales, Van Chew and Dante Davis incrementally getting better. (I refuse to say flash!) They will prove to provide nice depth for the next coach to work with.
The offense does have some promise for the future. Now the defense….
What a new coach should do: Focus on the D please! There will be some parts to work with – namely Arthur Jones and Anthony Perkins. But everything else is in need of an overhaul. Holmes has regressed, and Merkerson has looked lost jumping back and forth now to both sides of the ball last week. Since this recruiting year could be a total loss, why not troll the JC arena looking for some linebackers and someone who can legitimately rush the passer? Look for someone who can step in immediately and compete. Louisville did that (and found Ron English) and they are much improved from a year ago. The tackling has to improve and maybe it will. The unit all around is pretty young and maybe it just needs to grow in experience. What I think it needs is someone who hasn’t been a part of it, tackling machine with a high motor to step in change the personality. This defense has been nothing more than bend don’t break for 4 seasons. It needs a new mindset and personality to run it.
So will we win again this season? Good question, with no good answer. We could in theory hang around with UConn or Louisville. These are our best shots since they are at home. Well the best hope on the road is Rutgers, who have taken a big step back without Ray Rice. Something tells me we will steal a win in one of those games. But logic says don’t bank on it. We are still being lead by Greg Robinson after all.
Some trends to watch: Since we are in lame duck mode, and tracking improvement by wins and losses isn’t likely to occur, we will have to reach deep to see if the team is actually improving. So here a few things that aren’t so hot now that can still be improved on.
Kickoffs: Still aren’t very deep. Most of the kickoffs in the Pitt game were caught at the 5 or ten yard line. That isn’t helpful to coverage units. C’mon Nico, you were supposed to be the best of this bunch!
Dropped passes: Seeing less of this, with Merkerson’s drop last week the most obvious in his brief return to the WR group. Can you imagine having a team like USF with 14 receivers catching passes and 11 different players having scored a TD?
3rd Down conversions: Still stink. We don’t have a bread and butter play to execute to keep the chains moving, whether its short yardage runs or a quick slant. It just isn’t there. You can tell the staff has been trying the unexpected with its 3 deep throws on 3rd down that resulted in 2 TDs and a should have been pass interference. Keep an eye on this in BE play for any improving trends.
3rd Down stops: Getting off the field has been a challenge. It seems as if opponents can do whatever they want on 1st and 2nd downs, safely knowing that they have good old 3rd down to convert against us. Whether it was Akron’s give-up draw plays, Penn St’s sweeps, or Pitt’s passes to Derek Kinder, the SU defense has been very accommodating to opposing offenses. It is the sole reason why Greg Robinson will be out of a job this year.
Sacks: Hello? Where is the pass rush. It just doesn’t exist and the lack of pressure is the key to helping fix the 3rd down problem above. Outside of an occasional Anthony Perkins siting in the backfield, we just aren’t getting a consistent presence on the edge. Which leads me to…
Too much “flashing”: All right I said it. Greg’s favorite word is out there. Players have flashed. Well we have to get passed the occasional good play and more consistency. Better blocking, better throwing, better tackling. We look good for 1Q or even a half, then the wheels come off. There has to be more than the occasional good shot to get fans to come back to this product. This isn’t like golf. The bags need to come off the fans heads. Alums like Jim Brown need to be proud of the effort even in defeat.
That’s all for now fans. Let us know what you think!