Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Plumbing the depths | by Pat

One thing that really jumped out at me during the UCLA game was the constant shuffling of players on defense. We've seen multiple combinations along the offensive line, but the defense has more or less been set. That wasn't the case against the Bruins; a number of new faces (and old faces in new places) were in the game from the opening kickoff. Munir Prince in at corner, Jashaad Gaines at safety, and Anthony Vernaglia at inside linebacker were all somewhat surprising.

The newly released depth chart advances that fluid approach. The entire OL depth chart seems to be mixed up, with Thomas Bemenderfer, Dan Wenger, Eric Olsen, and Chris Stewart all listed at new spots. On defense, Kerry Neal is listed as the starter at outside linebacker opposite John Ryan, and ahead of Brian Smith and Mo Richardson, while Sergio Brown is now listed as the backup strong safety behind Zibby.

Charlie clarified how he views the depth chart in his latest presser:

Well, sometimes when I'm putting guys down -- for example, you've got two outside linebacker positions, so because I -- when we did this last night for -- when we use a guy like Brian Smith, Brian Smith, I don't know, I probably have him listed as the second right outside linebacker with Morrice Richardson. But he could be in the game at the left outside linebacker, as well.

But what I do is I try to put them down in the position where I think that they'll probably get on the field the fastest because there's flexibility. For example, Justin Brown could be in the game for either Dwight Stephenson or Trevor Laws. I don't know which spot he'll get in the game first, but he'll be in the game for one of those two guys. But I'll list him probably behind Dwight on one side and I'll probably put Derrell (Hand) and Paddy (Mullen) on the other side. But Justin would go in first.
With Kerry Neal taking his starting job, Anthony Vernaglia is going to continue to moonlight as an inside linebacker.
Well, we moved him inside out of need last week. I think this week he's going to practice at both inside and outside. He'll be listed at one (position on the depth chart). I think I put him as the backup Sam behind John Ryan. I think that's where I put him, as the best backup left outside linebacker, but he'll practice at both inside and outside this week.
One complaint proffered this year (correctly or incorrectly) has been that by not playing many of the backups the past two years, the current team is unnecessarily inexperienced. This year, many more guys have been worked into the mix. And as the players get more familiar with the defense, I expect to see Corwin Brown continue to shuffle guys into and out of the lineup. In addition to giving the starters more of a breather during games, the increased use of backups will help the team in the future as more and more players gain valuable game experience. In the UCLA game, 13 players had at least 2 tackles, and 8 players had at least 1 tackle for loss in a game that wasn't really decided until late in the 4th quarter.

Here's a couple more freshman-related items.

On RB Robert Hughes and his lack of playing time against UCLA.
COACH WEIS: No, we didn't have a string of longer drives. It wasn't like we had a bunch of 13 play drives in there. He was listed right behind James (Aldridge) in all the pounding packages, we just weren't on the field that many consecutive plays to warrant James being that tired to have to go out. Robert is very much in the mix. I really think that the sky is the limit for Robert.
On OT Matt Romine's expected return from his elbow injury.
COACH WEIS: No, I don't think -- he's a little ways away. I don't expect to see him any time soon.
On WR Golden Tate being listed as the 4th "Z" receiver behind Barry Gallup.
COACH WEIS: Well, that's because Golden got dinged a little bit in the game. He got knocked in the head a little bit. Golden will be involved in this mix right here. But it's also BC week. How could I not have Barry Gallup in the depth chart for BC week?