i think 8 wins, plus 1 if we get lucky in our bowl game. just too many unknowns as every year. oline
How is O-line an unkown? We return 4/5 of our starters as well as two other players that have some starting experience. Last years team was playing 3 brand new starters and thus it was known that they'd make some mental mistakes. This year, it is known that they shuld be much improved from having all of last year for experience. Sure, it is possible that they defy average expectations and perform below, but then that applies to everything. Will RW3 and Whaley regress to give us a worse run game than we had in 2011? Technically that is an unknown. For me, I expect a big jump from a first year player to a second year and a solid jump from a first year with actual experience to a 2nd year with actual experience and then modest improvement in every other year. The only exceptions to that is if the player/coaching staff has provided evidence to the contrary such as players not getting better from one year to the next or an individual has a history of not improving. For us, I can't think of a single position group or individual where that is the case.
This year was nearly identical in situation to our 2013 OL year, with the caveat that we actually have good depth now and better talent top to bottom. The OL performed much much better than it did in 2013 and it would take a defiance of expectations for a group with 3 brand new starters to not improve as a group that now returns 4/5. So, we should see even better results than 2014/15.
This is an unknown. We return exactly 1 WR (Cornelius) this coming season who has more than 1 career catch. Can't argue that this isn't an unknown; however, I can point out that of all the positions to have first year starters, this is the easiest one to replace. Further, we have third year players who are more than capable of filling these roles with Pettway and Stewart. We have highly recruited Jordan Jones who will be a 2nd year player, and we have the #1 JUCO who is a big bodied player with good speed coming in.
can austin allen be the leader we need him to be and not the guy that throws crucial picks
How is this an unknown? We know he can be that guy, it's already on tape and demonstrably proven. I.e. check out the first half of the season. Now, IMO, where the real unknown is, is can he consistently be the leader that he has previously proven to be? That first half of the season, he was undoubtably the best qb in the conference, bar none. 2nd half, he wasn't as good and dropped to the measly rank of being about the third best qb in the entire conference. A lot of the change seemed to come after the auburn game where he was pulled for a bit after a dirty hit and he wasn't quite the same. Could also have to do with him not trusting his OL to give him much time or the defense to do their job.
This is something that happens to even the best of qbs. Drew Brees had a particularly bad season a couple years ago when they had a historically bad defense. For him, he knew he had to score a td on every single drive just to have even a chance to win the game. Punting was no longer an option for him, so he pressed. Through more dangerous throws that led to turnovers, hurting the defense and creating a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. When the qb has faith in the team around him, those types of things don't happen.
can the defense be better with the new scheme,
Good question. Given how much depth and experience we return this year, it is my opinion that we could hire half the coach that Robb Smith was and the defense would still be better. I think Rhoads is better than half the coach that Smith was. How much better is definitely an unknown and how quickly the defense will respond to, buy into, and learn/execute the new scheme remains unknown.
do we have enough quality LBs to play the 34
Shouldn't be an unknown there. Greenlaw was a freshmen all american. Harris consistently graded out above an 80 by an NFL rubric as a true freshmen. Ramsey showed ability to rush the passer. Eugene graded solidly last year and his play showed it as well. Beyond that, we have very talented youngsters in players like LaFrance and AJB that are more of the traditional LB a la Spaight, Franklin, and Ellis along with some DE's who can rush the passer and have good speed, though whether they can cover the pass is also an unknown.
who helps austin cantrell at the TE position
Another valid question. OGrady came on later and barring a Reed-esque regression should be ready for an even bigger role next year. Coaches seem to be high on Gunter. Gragg was highly recruited and wouldn't be the first player who just took a while to really come into his own. Finally, Patton coming in reminds of a Chris Gragg/Evan Engram type player. We'll see how good of a blocker he is, but in the passing game, he could keep OGrady on the bench.
is special teams any better?
Punting probably won't be better because that was a high bar, but I think Johnson comes in and keeps up the tradition of us having excellent punting for the past many punters. Hedlund improved on fg's last year so lets hope that he goes forward some more this year. Special team tackle/return units I think can be a function of either how good your third stringers are or how willing you are to put your starters in (like the Seahawks).
you know, too many unknowns.
There are several unknowns, though many of the unknowns you listed are not what I would call unknowns. However, the major message of your point appeared to be that we have too many unknowns to win too many games. A lot of that comes from knowing your own team better than other teams. We have fewer unknowns than most. Moreover, while we undoubtably do have some unknowns, we have a lot of knowns, and they are pretty impressive knowns.
1. 5th yr senior qb. As I mentioned earlier, first half of the season, every other qb in the SEC was fighting for 2nd best. Even after Austin's coup de grace, he was still top 3 and that was his very first season starting as a qb. On average, players experience a decent jump in play from their first year as a regular player to their second. I.e. think of how much Mallett improved from year 1 to year 2.
2. OL play: We return 4 out of our 5 starters which puts us ahead of the curve in the SEC this year. Now, many people have some bad memories of our OL last season. However, if you move past feelings and into facts, things look a lot more promising. First, despite the issues on the OL, last season was still was one of the best offenses in program history. We still had one of the top passing attacks and the leading regular season rusher. So, what led to the bad memories? Early in the season in particular, we were missing assignments. Throughout most of the season, we were not often beat 1 on 1, but typically allowed pressure by being confused. Anybody who has competed in any event knows that is the biggest part of the improvement from the first year to the next, the mental part of the game slows down and you don't make nearly as many mental errors. That improved throughout the season as well. Secondly, they didn't have the experience to know how to stay mentally tough at the end of games. That becomes easier too, though not quite as easy.
3. Running backs: As mentioned before, we had the top regular season rusher last year in RW3. He should be even better next year as well. Further, we have Whaley, who is not only getting the first year to second year bump, but is also getting the first year playing a lot to second year playing bump too.
4. Non-linearity: You might think this is a bit of a cheat point, but hear me out. The sum of those three things is going to be greater than the sum of their parts. Think about it, strong run game to help a qb out and help out the new crop of pass catchers. Strong, experienced OL to even greater emphasize the talented running backs. Already that will help out the qb and slow down the pass rush. Fewer missed assignments with that offensive line will basically halve the amount of pressure that Allen was under without our running game being even better next year. So while we do lose a lot with the receivers, they have one of, if not the best signal caller to get them the ball, they have a great backfield to keep the defense honest and from selling out to stop the pass, and an OL to give the receivers (and qb) more time to get open and get the ball.
5. We lose a lot of production, but the guys we are replacing them with are more athletically gifted. The guys most likely to be heavy in the rotation are not green players either. They don't have a lot of experience, but for most of them, they will be in their third year under Enos. And that is something to smile about.
6. We have stud players at every level of our defense. Agim on the DL, Dejon Harris at LB, and Pulley at CB. When I say stud, I'm not just talking about draft pick, I'm talking top 10 at their position by the time they graduate IMO draft pick. Combine that with both depth in numbers and talent at each level and the ONLY issues we should have on defense next year will be coaching and scheme which we've ideally corrected from the past two years.
7. New coach can bring new energy and shake up what opponents know about us. Look at Smith's first year here. top 10 defense. Other teams didn't know what to game plan for, players who had been here a while showed out even more than you would expect from one year's improvement.