What can we glean from the latest football roster update? We can get an idea of what Matt Gildersleeve and the strength and conditioning staff have been up to with the players on the roster this off-season. Recruiting better as a staff is one thing, but molding players once they arrive is crucial.
As good as the offense was, there was a lack of consistency in the running game that could be improved. When Devin Neal comes out for a rest, the run game needs to still be functional, and after Hishaw went down last season it just wasn’t. To improve this, the run blocking needs to be better. Adding a bit of beef up front could help make the run-blocking more consistent in the fall. So what does the latest roster update tell us about the offensive line? It tells us they are beefing up. Notable changes for guys who should be starting or completing for playing time:
Kobe Baynes +23 now 320 pounds
Logan Brown +15 now 320 pounds
Michael Ford, Jr. +15 now 305 pounds
Mike Novitsky + 10 now 305 pounds
Ar’maj Reed-Adams + 10 now 330 pounds
Dre Doiron +10 now 305 pounds
Dominick Puni +5 now 320 pounds
Staying on the offense, looking at the quarterbacks there are some interesting changes. As spring camp began, there was talk of improving Jalon’s conditioning in a way to make him more durable during the season. This I hope is true, but those efforts do not show themselves in a change in roster stats. Jalon is actually down a few pounds, while last year’s other starter and primary backup, Jason Bean added a couple of pounds. The big change came from what I assume are the 3 and 4 quarterbacks on the roster this spring, Ethan Vasko and Ben Easters. Easter has added 9 pounds during winter conditioning and Vasko has added a whopping 15 pounds to his frame.
Jalon Daniels -3 now 215 pounds
Jason Bean +4 now 195 pounds
Bean Easters +9 now 215 pounds
Ethan Vasko +15 now 215 pounds
As most fans hope for an improved defense in the fall, the changes to those players’ details are also interesting. Looking at the defensive front, tackles and ends are interesting. There are guys making big moves both up and down. New arrival Devin Phillips has gained 20 pounds from his Colorado State days, D’Marion Alexander is up 18 pounds, and DJ Withers is up 8 pounds. There are also a couple of players dropping significant weight on the defensive front, Ronald McGee is down 12 pounds and Davion Westmoreland is down 10 pounds.
Devin Phillips +20 now 325 pounds
D’Marion Alexander +18 now 260 pounds
DJ Withers +8 now 300 pounds
Ronald McGee -12 now 285 pounds
Davion Westmoreland - 10 now 250 pounds
Other interesting changes in weight come from the special team’s section of the roster, more specifically the placekicker and punters. Maybe competition is showing itself here. Most striking to me is the change made in weight by Owen Piepergereds. Late in the regular season and for the bowl game Owen was the placekicker for the team. Maybe it is a typo, but according to the roster update, Owen has added 22 pounds and an inch in height and is now a 6’6” 260-pound placekicker. I say this with a hint of sincerity, does Owen need to be taking reps along the defensive front? Add another 20 and he could be a problem for opposing offenses. In addition to Owen’s gain, three of the other four returning kick specialists have dropped significant weight. Tabor Allen is down 10 pounds, Jacob Borcila is down 11, and Reis Vernon is down 15. Will these changes improve the overall performance of special teams in the fall? Or will the improvement come in the form of personnel changes? I still expect transfer Seth Keller to be the primary placekicker in the fall, but maybe the punting will get a boost from Vernon’s weight loss.
Owen Piepergereds +22 now 260 pounds
Tabor Allen -10 now 190 pounds
Jacob Borcila -11 now 195 pounds
Reis Vernon -15 now 195 pounds
Other notes from the updated roster. First, a couple of guys have gotten taller. In addition to Piepergereds, Quentin Skinner is now listed at 6’5”, up one inch. Kenean Caldwell also added an inch and is now 6’3” and the same 325 pounds. Second, there were a few jersey number changes. D’Marion Alexander was 46 and is now 33, Tanaka Scott has changed from 81 to 3, and Tristan Fletcher has changed from 12 to 19. Third, there have been a couple of players dropped from the roster. Scholarship sophomore offensive lineman Jackson Satterwhite and walk-on quarterback Jordon Preston are no longer listed on the roster. With the late February signing of Golden West College safety Akili Hubbard, the scholarship roster count for 2023 remains at 85.
Again, what can we glean from the changes crafted by the strength and conditioning staff? At this point, not a lot. What we know is the coaching staff identified changes they wanted in certain players and many have made significant changes to their bodies. Will these changes result in a better team in the fall? With the track record built by Lance Lieplold and his staff so far in their tenure, I am betting it will.