There is sure to be a lot to look for. How has 2020’s freshman class developed in what has to be the longest off season in history? What are the position battles to look for? How have players further down the depth chart progressed? Let’s dive right in and take a look.
First and foremost, do not to expect to see a full package installed on either side of the ball for the Lions. David Bailiff and staff want to keep some things under wraps and away from prying eyes of opponents. The main thing to look for is, are the simple plays being made? are assignments being executed properly? Are the silly penalties being limited, if not eliminated?
Second, we as fans and media may not see many first and second team players. This group is well established and have proven to the coaching staff what they are capable of, and how talented they are. That being said, , if there’s a individual returning from an injury, or to work towards settling a position battle(and that’s a good thing), then circumstances may change.
Third, how much have the freshmen developed? Are the transfers assimilating to the Lion culture and ways of doing things? Can they step in and play right away, or be counted on in case of injury? If this doesn’t raise any eyebrows, let us take you back to the 2019 season. The vast majority of the running game on offense was shouldered by fourth teamer Antonio Lealie’ee and converted linebacker Jemal Williams. They fueled a deep Lion playoff run.
Fourth, development of depth and who stands out? Position battles further down the depth chart and which players move up? Who might benefit from a change of position, and who might challenge for a starting spot are all questions that remain to be answered.
Fifth, how are the schemes of offensive coordinator Billy Riebock and defensive coordinator Xavier Adibi being developed and expanded? Are the newer player buying in? What new wrinkles can we expect, ,even if we don’t see them that much next week?
Finally, and it really is this simple…..NORMALCY. The spring game is occurring when it is supposed to. All signs indicate that the 2021 season will be played in its entirety. After such a incredibly tough 2020, things seem to finally be taking a positive turn. And none too soon.
There’s certainly quite a bit to look forward to, Lion fans. Here’s a few players to keep an eye on….
Michael Phoenix(WR)-Showed flashes of brilliance in the spring. Big, fast, good hands. Next in line of great Lion wideouts.
Eric Rodriguez(QB)-Showed promise in the fall game, with a good arm and decision making. How has he developed?
ShunDarion Ward(QB)-Fast, mobile, good arm, can make plays with his feet.
Rehoboth Chibesa(OL)-Great size, strength, good footwork.
Clifford Funderburk(DL)-Good showing in the fall game.
Carandale Hale(RB)-Great talent who was a standout on the 2017 National Champions, looking for a great senior season and returning from injury.
Antonio Lealie’e(RB)-A fourth teamer who came out of nowhere to earn an All LSC first team recognition. Outstanding runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Dayne Douglass(LB)-Can he step in and handle a full time load on defense? All signs say yes.
E.J. Thompson(RB)-The other half of a great Lion ground game in 2017, Thompson is a power back looking for an improved senior season as he returns from injury.
Jake Viquez(PK)-Stepped right in and filled the shoes of the legendary Kristov Martinez, Viquez looks to get even better. He has shown the ability to be accurate up to 60 yards.
Jemal Williams(LB)-Along with Lealie’e, Williams kept the 2019 offense afloat, and provided some much needed balance, showing surprising ablility for a converted linebacker. He now returns to his original position.
Chris Dascher(TE)-Freshman who showed surprising ability and promise in the fall game. Looks to take his place among great Lion tight ends like Vincent Hobbs and Tyler Guice.