We finally have a final copy of the depth chart for this year's team heading into the Southeast Missouri State game on Saturday. I'll go over the changes and surprises after the chart
|De'Andre Mann OR
|Andrew Bolton OR
First, there aren't a ton of changes from the pre-camp chart to the current one. It's impossible to read whether that's a positive sign, meaning that the starters lived up to expectations and held on to their jobs, or a negative, meaning that the young guys weren't able to go up and grab spots from the more iffy starters. I won't try to dissect that for now, and rather focus on what we can see.
A big (but not necessarily surprising) name that we don't see here is Kevin Short. As I mentioned in last week's secondary preview, Short has been enigmatic in his time here, and despite coaches raving about his natural ability, it seemed like there were always concerns. Today it was announced that he has left the team (though apparently not for academic reasons, which held him out of play last year). Another member of last year's "dream team" bites the dust without playing a snap. Fortunately, Tevin Shaw has been moved from backup safety to the 1st string at Short's nickelback position. Shaw was a sought-after recruit, and is supposed to be a hard hitter with a mean streak. Given the nickel's role near the line of scrimmage in our defense, I'm eager to see how he looks in the new position. Greg Allen was demoted to second string from the first incarnation of the depth chart, but I never really expected him to stay there.
Another note on the defensive side is the tackle position. TJ Semke has apparently worked his way up to the "OR" label with Andrew Bolton. It's a little unnerving that a former walk-on new to the position finds himself as a possible starter, but Steven Johnson was once a walk-on, so I'll stay hopeful for now. Andrew Bolton was another famed member of last year's dream team and still figures to play prominent minutes there.
Last note for the defense is on true freshman Kyron Watson. Weis said last month that Watson was likely to see the field this year as a true freshman, and it looks like this will be the case. Watson, previously listed at the BUCK spot on the roster, now finds himself Ben Heeney's backup at the MLB spot. Granted, Heeney won't be sitting much (barring injury), so this slot doesn't look to earn Watson big minutes, but it does say something about the confidence Bowen has in him. He unseats Schyler Myles, who once took over the second-string MLB spot as a true freshman himself. He's no longer on the depth chart.
Offensively there are no real surprises. True freshman Derrick Neal finds himself listed as Nick Harwell's understudy. Neal is smaller (similar to Tony Pierson in size), but camp reports say he has quick feet and a natural ability to make tacklers miss in space. He took Tre Parmalee's spot on the chart, which should come to the surprise and dismay of no one.
Michael Cummings earned himself the #2 role at the quarterback position, which surprised me quite a bit. It's not shocking that he was able to beat out relative-unknown TJ Millweard, but given Cummings' size and skillset, and the fact that the staff tried him out at running back in the ISU game last year, I really thought he would be given a shot at the RB spot given our newfound depth problems there. Running back is currently an "OR" spot, with both De'Andre Mann and true freshman Corey Avery in the running for the top spot.
As far as special teams go, true freshman John Duvic has unseated Matthew Wyman. Wyman was big man on campus after hitting a long field goal as time expired to beat Louisiana Tech last year, then proceeded to shank and hook his way to the bench. It's hard to say what we have in Duvic, but as long as he can reliably kick field goals from 35 yards away and closer, he'll be the best kicker we've had in five years.
Jacorey Shepherd and Nick Harwell look to handle kick returning duties, while Isaiah Johnson and Derrick Neal will handle punts. True freshman wideout Bobby Hartzog, though not appearing on the offensive chart, is listed as a third return man as well