One thing I've noticed in reading all the pre-season interviews and watching videos, that that players look and sound genuinely happy. I know this is counter to all the defections we've seen this year. However, to me it seems like the younger class (those who are FR and SO right now) have bonded more than any classes in the past. Chemistry is a crap-shoot. You can't recruit it. But it seems like the Beavers finally might have gotten some luck with these classes. I spoke with SilverStream via email about team chemistry, since he's been to practices and sees it in person. This is what he said:
Yes, I think chemistry is better this year, for lots of reasons.
Last year was weird in so many ways (Quizz leaving in the off-season, James Rodgers working to come back from the terrible knee injury, then Hardin getting hurt in camp and being declared out for the year, the disgraceful opening loss to Sac State, the mishandled benching of Ryan Katz, the mishandled behavioral suspensions, etc.)
Given all of this weirdness, it's not surprising that team chemistry was problematic last season. This was then compounded by inept play at key positions up front (DT and OT, esp. Left OT). Not sure, by mid-season last year, whether the young players who were getting lots of playing time (Mannion, Cooks, Crichton, Wynn, et al) were on the same page as the veterans, either in the locker room or on the field.
I think chemistry also is impacted by expectations. Last season, the Beavers were looking to bounce back from a 5-7 year that was considered an aberration (after the previous two seasons where the Beavers finished tied for 2d in the conference, and had a legit shot at a Rose Bowl berth until the last game). When things got weird early on, and it became pretty clear that expectations would probably not be met, team chemistry took a hit.
This season, few "experts" expect much of the Beavers. That in itself creates a whole different chemistry and vibe — more of an underdog mentality that is a good fit with the relative youth of this year's team. An "us against the world" mentality often provides a boost to team chemistry, and I think this year's Beaver team is already benefiting from that.
So, again, I do think chemistry this year is different and better than last year. But I also suspect that the confidence of this Beaver team is somewhat fragile. The Beavs are fortunate to start this season with two games at home. If the Beavs trounce Nicholls State on September 1, and then play well against Wisconsin (or — fingers crossed — actually beat the Badgers), the team's confidence will skyrocket, and this season may turn out better than any of the experts expect. On the other hand, if the Beavs face-plant in either or both of their first two games, I suspect this team's confidence (and chemistry) may go south quickly.
He's right…I think the walk-on/bad OL not only frustrated fans, but probably hurt team chemistry. We know Quizz threw them under the bus a few years ago, and then the Katz situation (the broken wrist that derailed his career was a result of poor line play). Now that those players are gone, there's levity in the program. I'm not sure how this will translate on the field where execution matters most, but I don't see how it can hurt. Chemistry is one of the more important intangibles and rarely acknowledged (by media or fans) as a component to a successful season.