Preseason football is just a couple of days away, the time we’ll get to hear (not really see) who is looking good on the field, which freshmen might crack the lineup, and how the depth chart is shaping up.
As we’ve heard several times now, depth may be the single most critical difference between competing in the Big 12 as compared to the Big East.
That makes preseason all the more important in terms of getting freshmen ready and developing players who won’t start but will certainly play.
Players report to preseason on Wednesday Aug. 1, and hit the field on Thursday for the first time.
Coach Dana Holgorsen is scheduled to meet with the media following that first practice, around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
But before we get to that, here is a smattering of storylines that will be sure to garner attention over the course of the next month.
**The offense. This side of the ball is getting a ton of hype going into its first season because of Geno Smith, named the preseason player of the year, and his talented slew of receivers.
This group had several games where they looked anything but a well-polished machine in 2011. In year No. 2 of Holgorsen’s offense this group should be tweaking and perfecting, rather than eking out wins by the skin of their teeth.
** The health of running back Dustin Garrison.
Garrison reported he was nearly at full speed about a month ago, and expected to be full steam ahead by the time preseason opens. He flashed some legitimate talent last year as a freshman before a major knee injury leading up to the Orange Bowl.
** The new class.
Holgorsen alluded that there may be a problem with a few recruits (academically) who may not be able to report to camp on Wednesday.
Both LB Sam Lebbie and WR Deontay McManus are expected to be among those players.
“Surprised if we get 100 percent of them, yep,” said Holgorsen.
** The 3-4 defense.
Will the transition be smooth enough to let this team compete? Will be hard to tell until the game's begin, but preseason will certainly give an indication of who stacks up on the depth chart.
DE Will Clarke said last week: "We're trying to build depth and use a lot of guys. Our coaches told us we'll be rotating a lot, trying to keep as many fresh bodies on the field."
** Shawne Alston.
This is one back that is a little bit underrated, mostly because of his lack of speed. But when asked to name one player who might surprise the Big 12 last week in Texas, Holgorsen mentioned this guy:
“Shawne Alston would probably be a guy that I would talk about. He’s slimmed up a little bit. He’s going to be a fifth year senior. He probably has the loudest voice in our locker room as far as being heard, being respected. He’s the boss, as he refers to himself as. He had a great spring…had a great off-season, great spring. Has had a great summer. Hard to tackle. He’s a big powerful guy that we can give the ball to, to get us some yards, get us some first downs
**And of course, Big 12, Big 12, Big 12 talk.
Holgorsen said he hasn't once uttered "Big 12" to his team last week, considering they get asked about the move from every corner of their universe.
"We haven't allowed it to be (a distraction). I don't think I've said Big 12 to our team. They get enough of it from the media, reading papers, internet, TV. They get enough of it. They know what their responsibility is right now and it's to improve individually and improve as units. Build your team."
** One player unlikely to be talked about a ton during preseason is Ford Childress, since Holgorsen already cleared up what the program will do with him this year.
He said Paul Millard will be Geno Smith’s backup and Childress will absorb and get ready to compete for the job next year.
From the spring vault: “It’s in the best interest of our football team. Paul is so far ahead, because of the reps he’s had. We’ll let Ford absorb it, take a bunch of reps and in a year from now compete. In a perfect world, yes, we’ll redshirt him, but you know how that goes.”