Enough with the preseason chatter and lofty expectations, it's time to see what this team can do on the football field. While beating FAU should not come as a surprise, the manner in which we do so will tell us what the preseason accomplished. Last year we heard a lot of talk about new packages and schemes on both sides of the ball, but when they hit the field it was clear that the 'Horns were still tweaking and fine tunings the basics -- blocking, tackling, covering WRs, & reading defenses.
While some of us (me included) are not sure if it will translate in the W column, we expect this year to be different. We want to see the team execute the basics out of the gate. We want to see the same effort every game, and we want that effort to be equal to what we saw in the Holiday Bowl. That should lay the foundation for the team to improve throughout the season and be able to compete with it's toughest opponents.
So while some may be looking at the scoreboard, I'll be paying attention to what is happening on the field, and I'll be looking for the following:
1. The O-line: Colt will likely not see too much pressure this week, but if he does it will be trouble. FAU's line will be missing its best player, so our advantage should be decisive in passing situations. Still, their can't be missed assignments or miscommunication. In the running game, they have to be effective moving the pile - particularly in short yardage.
2. McCoy and Chiles: Colt needs to show he's back to his freshman form. Which means managing the game and picking his spots. It also means stepping up into the pocket, and not out of it. His WR's will have the physical advantage, but he still needs to hit them in the numbers. Against better defenses, he will have to.
The 'horns need to take the tarp off of the Q package and display the collection of talent that they have. This means going to the the Q package early and often. The more teams see it, the more they will have to prepare for it -- give them something to think about and hopefully be afraid of.
3. Ship and Quan: How quickly are they getting off the line of scrimmage, how crisp are their routes? I expect them to be solid, and I expect them to not drop footballs.
4. The RBs - I'm going to be looking for blitz recognition first and foremost. I want to see Fozzy and Cody on the field, but they've got to walk before they can crawl. To GD and Mack that means helping to protect Colt McCoy.
5. The front 7 - Rak, Miller and company need to show they can get to the QB with 3 or 4 linemen. The players in the 3-technique will be critical. If they can't get off their blockers against FAU it won't bode well. The LBs have to play aggressively and smart. Too often they got caught in traffic while the play was going the other way. If Muschamp a success it will be in part to how effectively he can teach the LBs to keep themselves in the play.
1. The DBs - Show that they can bump WRs at the line of scrimmage. Last year, there was too much space, and not enough pressure. I expect Muschamp has been pushing them to effectively bump at the line to give his DL a split second extra to get to the QB. Secondly, the safeties need to give maximum effort. They may not put themselves in the right spot all the time, but I expect to see Thomas, Brewster, Gideon and others flying around the defensive backfield.
2. The wild-cards: Buckner, Williams, Grant, Monroe etc. The key to playing time with GD is fundamentals - no liabilities on the football field. With that in mind, I'll be looking to see how they block downfield and how crisp the routes look even when the ball is not coming their way.
I'm not looking for perfection, just a start.