Crootin 2014: Way Too Early Preview

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Who Plays and Who Redshirts?

Greetings, peeps! The annual circus that is recruiting has officially wrapped. By now, you know who the Dawgs signed. WMD's personal favorites in this class are Elijah Staley, Jordan Harris, Cory Thomas, Darrion Hutcherson, and Logan Cooke. Methinks those guys have big futures ahead of them.

But let's take a way too early look at what we all REALLY want to know: Who will play this season and who will redshirt? I'll go player-by-player and take my best guess, along with my thoughts on the player.

QB:

Nick Fitzgerald: Play. Fitz is a dual threat QB and a big kid at 6'5", 210. He's a gifted runner, but very raw as a passer. He started his HS career as a WR before moving to QB and was in a run-heavy offense. Think Chris Relf, but further along than Relf coming out of HS. I think Fitz plays because he was an early enrollee. He's already been through the bowl practices with the team and made an impression. And he'll get Spring Practice under his belt, too. I think it'll be close, but I look for him to win the 3rd QB spot.

Elijah Staley: RS. This was a HUGE steal for the Dawgs. This kid is a true dual threat QB in the mold of Cam Newton at 6'6", 231. He's very developed as both a runner and passer. He was very underrated due to only playing a few games his SR season. But with his upside, I think we try to RS and develop him further. He's more polished than Fitz, but I think all the practices that Fitz will have had before Staley ever steps on campus will help him just barely edge out Staley for QB3 this fall. But don't be shocked if Staley wins QB3 and Fitz redshirts. I put this at 50/50 right now.

RB:

Aeries Wiliams: Play. This kid is the total package you want at RB. He's well built at 6'1, 200. Runs very, very hard and is a true power back. Seems to lack top end speed, but has what I call "football speed." When the pads are on, you don't see him getting caught from behind very often. I think he'll be RB3 behind J-Rob and Shump. I hope that Nick Griffin will be moved to FB this spring.

Dontavian Lee: RS. Another big back at 6'1", 211. Has a good 40 time at 4.5 and ran track, so he's got some top end speed. He's a solid back, but with an already crowded RB rotation, he's certain to sit this season.

WR/TE:

Jesse Jackson: RS. He's another big WR like we've been signing the last couple of years at 6'2", 201. Should play outside and be a solid possession receiver in the future. Coming off an ACL tear that cost him most of his SR year. With a WR corps that didn't lose a single player, a redshirt is almost certainly in his future.

Jamoral Graham: RS. Graham is a slot WR at 5'10", 165. Coach Gonzales says "extremely explosive, great speed, great change of direction." Like Jackson, he looks to be the victim of a crowded WR rotation. Unless he can crack the depth chart on STs as a returner, which I personally don't see as likely with Tubby & Holloway on the roster, he seems sure to RS.

Darrion Hutcherson (JUCO): Play. You don't sign JUCO players to sit. I'm a big, big fan of this signing. Hutcherson is huge at 6'7", 250. He initially signed with Auburn out of HS, but went to JUCO and re-opened his recruitment. He's a complete TE who's very good both blocking and receiving. Fits the mold of the modern NFL TE that's tall with good hands and creates mismatches. I expect him to be a huge part of the offense next season, particularly in the red zone.

OL:

Jordan Harris: RS. I really like this kid. He's 6'5, 299 and can move. Played his HS football in GA, so he'll be much more developed than the typical MS HS OL we sign who's a project. That said, OL is the toughest position to get onto the field early. The best programs generally redshirt all their OL signees and hope they don't have to play until year 3. It takes time for them to learn technique and develop the strength needed to go against the grown men that are SEC D-Linemen. It's the rare freak of nature that is ready to come in and play the OL as a true freshman.

Ronald Cochran: Greyshirt. Let's start with the obvious: Cochran is a project and has already announced he'll greyshirt. He's light at 6'4", 255. Apparently he only played 1 year of HS football and was primarily a basketball player. He wants to use his time as a greyshirt to get his weight up before enrolling. Personally, I like taking the gamble on this kid. Coming from a hoops background, he'll have good feet, which is crucial to playing the OL. And it's easier to put weight onto a light player than it is to get weight off a heavy player. He's essentially a blank slate for Coach Hevesy to mold. This could wind up being a huge reward in terms of upside.

Deion Calhoun: RS. Another large, powerful OL at 6'3", 325. Coach Hevesy compared his makeup to that of Gabe Jackson, Justin Malone, and Jamaal Clayborn. Played in Alabama, so like Harris, he'll be a little more polished. Just another solid pickup to play G in the future.

Elgton Jenkins: RS. A little bit on the light side at 6'4", 285. But again, I'd rather a guy be a little light if I had to choose. Very, very raw after playing his HS ball at Clarksdale. He'll need plenty of work, but the upside is there. Played some DL in HS, too, so he should have the all-important "good feet."

Jocquell Johnson (JUCO): Play. Johnson is big at 6'4", 308. Coach Hevesy says he could play any of the 5 positions on the line if we needed him to. That tells me he's athletic for a guy his size. He'll probably get his first action on the right side of the line with a chance to win the starting job at either RG or RT. Personally, I want to see him take the RT job so we can keep Malone inside at RG. A starting 5 of Clausell, Clayborn, Day, Malone, and Johnson would be nasty. That said, we could have that same starting 5 but with Johnson at RG and Malone at RT.

DL:

Corey Thomas: RS. Very, very excited about this guy. He's got good size at 6'5", 273. Should easily be able to carry 300 or more in the future without losing a lot of mobility. Highly targeted by TN and Clemson. Should have a big impact in 2015, but will be the victim of an incredibly deep DT rotation in 2014. Chris Jones, Kaleb Eulls, Nick James, Preston Smith, Curtis Virges, and Nelson Adams will all be ahead of him. Going to be very hard to move past more than 1-2 of those guys.

Will Coleman (JUCO): Play. He's going to have a chance to start at DE opposite Preston Smith. He's a bit light at 6'5", 248. Coach Turner says he played standing up a lot, so look for him in pass rush situations. Like most of our JUCOs, might take him most of the season before the light finally comes on for him. But he won't sit and should provide some quality depth if nothing else.

Grant Harris: RS. He's got good size at 6'3", 270. Coach Turner says he can play both DE or DT, so he's athletic for a big guy. His future may be at DT, but it'll be interesting to see. May have an outside chance to crack the DE rotation, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Braxton Hoyett: RS. I seem to have said this for almost everyone we've signed: "Good size." He's 6'5", 285. Coach Collins says he can play 5 different spots on the DL. See the trend here? Big guy who's athletic and can move. Multiple positions that allow us to give multiple looks and do a lot of different things.

LB:

Gerri Green: RS. He's 6'4", 221 and FAST. Coach Collins compared him to KJ Wright and Benardrick McKinney. Should be able to bulk up to the 240 LB range and maintain his mobility. Very physical at the point of attack. Like some others, likely to be the victim of ridiculous depth at his position. B-Mac, The Browns, and Dez Harris are all in front of him. If Dee Arrington is moving to LB, he could be ahead of him, too. But don't be overly surprised if he sneaks into some PT, even if it's "only" on Special Teams. Big future for him.

Deshon Cooper: RS. A little smaller at 6'2", 209. Very athletic. Coach Collins was high on his camp performance and said he's a "great blitzed, great in space." Like Green, he'll find it hard to move up the depth chart. Gives us another guy at OLB who could get after the QB.

S:

JT Gray: RS. Decent size at 6', 196. Teammate of Elgton Jenkins. Likewise, very raw. He'll need a year to get ready and bulk up some. Physical guy who loves contact and brings the lumber.

Chris Rayford: RS. Very similar to Gray at 6', 182. Track guy with very good speed. Very raw. Coach Townsed says he can play either S or CB, so I put him at S.

CB:

Lashard Durr: RS. Decent size for a CB at 5'11", 181. Another track guy with very good speed. Solid in coverage. He'll RS as there is a ton of depth at CB with Love, Redmond, Calhoun, and Jiles.

Brandon Bryant: RS. A little smaller at 5'11", 194. Like Gray, very raw. Good speed, good in coverage. Coach Townsend says he can play either S or CB, so I put him at CB.

STs:

Logan Cooke: Play. He's a K/P. Strong leg, questionable accuracy kicking. To be fair, it's a very small sample size: 1/3 on the year. Very, very good punting. I think he'll get a shot to kick simply because I have no faith in Bell or Sobiesk. Don't think he'll get a shot to punt this season, as Bell seems to have that job locked up.

Overall, WMD is very pleased with this class. Love the number of small school guys we're adding. They've typically been our best players under Mullen. It's a small class, but underrated with lots of potential. Really fills a lot of needs. I feel especially good about our OL signees. And we objectively got the top 4 players in MS, including Mr. Football Aries Williams. Very, very glad we signed another K/P. STs might be the difference in 8 wins and 10 wins in 2014. Best of all, we're deep enough that the vast majority of this class, minus the JUCOs & A-Train, should be able to redshirt.

That's how WMD sees it, anyway. It's a great day to be a Bulldawg! You guys know the drill with me by now. Fire in the hole!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD

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