11.Apr.2011 The Lone Positive from Football Practice
Last August, after the second scrimmage, I wrote this:
This is the problem: you need the defense to be dominant this time of year. Not good, not adequate, but dominant.
Because the defense knows the offense's playbook. It's that simple. They practice against these guys daily and know the plays, yet they still can't stop them. The defense has an advantage; they should be stifling.
We know how that season turned out.
In hindsight, it is fairly fascinating to go back and read the comments. Peter Osborne from Beaverblitz visited and threw a tantrum, trying to justify the defense's 700+ yards, yet he never came back to admit he was wrong. Shocker. You can read the entire thread here if interested.
Anyway, I stand by the opinion that as a fan, what you want to see is a dominant defense in scrimmages (for the reasons mentioned above). In that sense, the first scrimmage this year was more promising than any last year.
But, moving beyond results, there is a huge (philosophical) paradigm shift that stands out this year: Riley is allowing, even encouraging, intensity and hitting during scrimmage.
This was not true in seasons past.
The reason for the change becomes transparent once you take a moment to think about it: the Beavers don't have a Stephen Paea or Jacquizz Rodgers on the roster. I don't want to insinuate that those guys were prima donas, but they were definitely coddled by a coach paranoid of losing his best players. Riley did not give his star players enough high intensity reps in practice to be successful once the season started.
I believe this is the prime reason for slow starts. It is unreasonable to believe a team should come out of the gate hitting on all cylinders when they never practiced in that manner. Remember how Stephen Paea and Jacquizz Rodgers were MIA @ TCU? If the same thing happens every year, coincidence becomes an invalid excuse.
This year, since there aren't any clear superstars, Riley is cutting it lose. I'm sure the media will spin this as Mike's personal growth or some other puke-worthy, feel-good crap, but realize the reason you're seeing violence is because the team lacks superstars. Every starter can be replaced with a player of equal talent. The following quote from Riley, taken from The Oregonian, backs up my observation:
The other was by WR Kevin Cummings, who had the ball jarred loose from a big hit by LB Cameron Collins.
“This team has been flying around,” Riley said. “We needed to do this to cut loose. I was just worried about that one hit on Kevin. Those are legal hard hits. That is what we want to be.”
Does Riley really care if he loses Collins? No coach wants to lose guys, but I doubt he'll lose any sleep so long as he has Welch, Akuna, and Te'o on the roster. What about Cummings? Nope, again, there are players behind him who are better. What about Jovan Stevenson? Not a chance. Riley knows the three backups are equally average.
So, you see, by lacking unanimous, all-conference, NFL prospects, the Beavers might actually have a better team come opening day. At the very least, they will be a more prepared team that has hit and been hit.