* DL Hugely: Gotta say, I was pretty surprised by the performance of the defensive line, which looks markedly improved from last season, particularly in the middle. After a rocky start to spring camp, Cassius Marsh looked great for most of his reps, and as he continues to put on weight, he’ll be a force. But the veteran trio of Nate Chandler, Justin Edison and Donovan Carter makes it appear that the defensive tackle position can go two-deep with relatively little drop-off, as a guy at 100 percent is usually better than a guy at 70 percent. Joe Tresey talked extensively about using heavy rotation, and I think he has the guys to do it. Look, it’s pretty simple: If there’s any possible way to redshirt Kevin McReynolds or to use Sealii Epenesa and him on the scout team, you do it. Get them the reps against the first team, and you start getting that depth at the position, churning players in and out yearly. Very important.
* From the Outside in: I’m still not sold on the F-back position as a whole, and a bit confused as to what they’re doing with Anthony Barr. So much of Barr’s usage toward the end of spring ball was in the backfield, yet they called mostly outside runs for him. I get using him as a running back, and I definitely get the idea of getting the ball into his hands often, but he’s an upfield runner, and the line – particularly the second unit, or the first unit, when three guys are hurt – is not good enough to get the edge. I cannot remember a single outside run of his that made me raise an eyebrow, but at least four or five times he showed real moxie up the middle. I mean, the first time he ran outside I said to myself, ‘They shouldn’t do that again.” Use Damien Thigpen or Franklin or Jordon James to hit the edge. Makes no sense to me.
* Running on Full: Jim Mastro told me emphatically during spring ball that he needed four running backs to execute the Pistol properly, and he just might have that. Derrick Coleman was a force in his limited reps, and like Franklin, he doesn’t get enough credit for what he did last year. Look, 5.9 yards per carry is good ANYWHERE. He and Franklin will form a very potent 1-2 punch. I expect the rotational enigma to be improved – tell me again, why did he have just one carry in the second half against USC? – and for the carries to be more situational. That being said, James and Jones looked great toward the end of spring, and they should get some meaningful action in every game.