I am an optimist. Always have been. It works for me. I have friends who are pessimists. Seems fairly miserable, but to each his own. In the past few days, my stolid skepticism from the off-season is magically morphing into guarded optimism. I am not prone to irrational exuberance, but I am pleased with this emerging optimism which will, of course, on Saturday afternoon explode into an indestructible runaway freight train of bullet-proof invincibility. But for the next 48 hours or so, it will remain as reasonable, logic oriented guarded optimism. Here are 10 points that give me optimism (go elsewhere if you want to find a list of reasons for pessimism):
1. Aaron Murray was pushing the 70% completion mark last season and has benefited from another spring and fall camp. It is reasonable to assume that he has a better grasp of our offense and is better at reading defenses than he was last year. If the game continues to "slow down" for him, then his personal goal of breaking the 70% mark is within reach which would bode very well for our ability to sustain drives and open up the running game.
2. Orson Charles will see more balls this year and will continue to create mismatches for opposing defenders. Despite the fact that AJ Green is gone, I believe that Orson will continue to get open and catch balls in space with room to run.
The same is true for Aron White. Then, as a semi-secret weapon, Arthur Lynch can also catch and run and will likely be overlooked by defenders assuming that he is in the game to block with his imposing 275 pound frame. Lastly, Bruce Figgins can haul in passes on fullback routes, especially screens, and will be a load to tackle at 275 pounds. I have always been partial to tight ends and we have an embarrassment of riches with these four talented guys.
3. Ben Jones. When your center is likely the meanest SOB on the team, it's a good thing.
4. Jarvis Jones has the potential to help ease to pain of losing Justin Houston to the NFL. Justin led the team in tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (11) and Jarvis steps into his shoes at outside linebacker. With his dreadlocks, Jarvis resembles Marcus Howard. Let's hope is play is comparable to either Howard or Houston and if it is, opposing QBs are in the crosshairs. (Side note - am I the only one that keeps inadvertently saying Jarvis Jackson instead of Jarvis Jones?)
5. Alec Ogletree. If you are blind, but not deaf, you will know when Alec makes the tackle. The thud can be heard in the stands or through the television. Think Rennie Curran, only taller.
6. The Brandon/Branden tandem. Speed kills. Speed on the turf kills faster. Boise may not kick it deep to Brandon Boykin, but any time they do, he is a legitimate threat to go coast to coast. Hopefully Branden Smith will be close to 100% recovered from his foot injury. We will need him. I think that the odds are good that one of these guys comes up with a pick six sometime this season, the sooner the better.
7. Strength and Conditioning. Coach Joe Tereshinski can be a scary dude. When players would rather practice with nagging injuries than spend the practice in "The Pit" with Joe T... your S&C program has improved. Plus we added a nutritionist and team tables which means a lot less McDonald's and Waffle House, presumably.
8. Tavarres King averaged 18.67 yards per catch last season with 27 receptions. In his freshman season he averaged 20.94 with 18 receptions. This year he is relishing the opportunity to be the top receiving threat. It isn't possible to replace the impact of having AJ Green on the field, but Tavarres is a legitimate deep threat and Murray can work on his 70% goal by hitting TK in stride on some deep balls.
9. Coach Todd Grantham. You want fiery, you got it. You want intensity, you got it. You want Erk Russell back? Come on, get real. But, if you want a return to the defensive success we had under Brian Van Gorder... stand by because there is enough talent on this defense to make it happen.
(Image by Jim Hipple)
10. You didn't think I would leave him out did you? "Jaws will drop." If you don't know what that means, you soon will.