The day we (or at least, I) have been waiting eight months for has finally arrived! After plenty of speculation and tea-leave-reading from practices, we finally have the first official depth chart of the season. Voila!
Let’s break this down:
No surprise here. Connor Bazelak is QB1, Brady Cook is QB2. There’s plenty of people who will be clamoring for Tyler Macon to be higher but a.) he technically gets the “OR” designation at two (for whatever that’s worth), b.) he’s a freshman who hasn’t seen live game action in over a year, and c.) Cook has been in this system for a full year and played well in the backup time he got last year. This is what it should be, this is what it will be. Tyler will see the field, no question, but the quarterback battle with him won’t happen, realistically, until next year.
Again, no surprises. Tyler Badie one, Elijah Young two.
With Maclin definitely out and Cooper “probably out” we’ll get some prime opportunities to see Chance Luper and Dominic Lovett in action, with their “OR” designations as primary H-receiver and X-receiver, respectively. Don’t rule out Cooper finding his way onto the field if he’s actually good to go; however, I’d prefer to not see him in this game in order to make sure he’s fully recovered for the Kentucky game.
Keke Chism and Tauskie Dove return as the “Key” receivers on the outside. See what I did there? With their names ending with the “key” sound and using “key” as in “of paramount and crucial importance”? Yeah, ok, I’ll keep going...
...oh and Mookie ends with “key” as well! Ok, yes, fine, I’m going...
As expected, Daniel Parker, Jr. and Niko Hea get the “OR” starter designation, with DPJ being the primary blocking tight end and Hea mostly featured in the passing game. For what it’s worth, Messiah Swinson is the next tight end off the bench.
This was the position I was most curious in seeing the depth chart for. We had heard from practice a possible starting rotation and it came true: Javon Foster-Xavier Delgado-Michael Maietti-Case Cook-Hyrin White. The interesting part is Connor Wood, listed as an “OR” second-team left guard with Luke Griffin AND an “OR” starter at right tackle. Also of note, first-year freshman Connor Tollison is an “OR” second-team center with Drake Heismeyer. So that should give us a good idea of who is coming off the bench first (Wood) and the probable backups. We’ll see if that rotation holds true throughout the year.
Steve Wilks’ version of the 4-2-5 is scrapping Ryan Walter’s 3-4 line alignment for a traditional two end, two tackle defensive line. As expected, Trajan Jeffcoat and Akial Byers are clear-cut starters at one end and tackle spot while Isaiah McGuire and Kobie Whiteside will be “OR” starters with Chris Turner and Darius Robinson, respectively. I guarantee all of those guys, plus others, will see the field throughout the year. Shoutout to young Johnny Walker, Jr. getting the “OR” designation for the backup end spot with Jatorian Hansford.
Still two linebackers and they are the two guys you thought they would be: Blaze Alldredge and Devin Nicholson. Chad Bailey is again the backup for what is now designated as the M-linebacker while special teams thumper Jamie Pettway gets the nod as backup to Nicholson.
Ish Burdine and Ennis Rakestraw are starters on the outside. Surprised? The Tulsa Transfers are listed as backups for now but, just like every other position on defense, you can expect plenty of rotation and seeing them on the field. Coach Wilks is fully embracing the Nickel Corner in his 4-2-5 alignment, giving converted receiver Kris Abrams-Draine and Chris Shearin the “OR” starter designation.
Martez Manuel once again gets the starting nod at strong safety while Jaylon Carlies gets the “OR” starting designation with Jalani Williams. Of course, Carlies was penalized for targeting against Mississippi State last year so, while he sat out the second half of that game, he now gets to complete that punishment by sitting out the first half of this year’s opening game. That’ll teach him! Right?
Grant McKinnis at punter and, of course, the return of our Thiccer kicker. With Cooper and Maclin out Elijah Young gets the first shot at returning kicks for 2021 while Kris Abrams-Draine will, once again, try to crack the code of effectively returning punts.