Occasionally in the UWDP writer slack thread we organically have long discussions that provide enough material for a roundtable. This is one of those times.
Aaron Sieverkropp- Assuming we play this year- who is your breakout player on O and D (not considering the QB cause they will of course be one). Here is mine- Davis on O (him and Newton will be 1-2 backs) and Ah You on D
Andrew Berg- Does Ulofoshio count as breakout?
Gabey Lucas- Ooh I’m gonna think on that.
AB- Him and Latu on defense for me. I think Puka, Bynum, Newton, and Otton end up being our top 4 skill position guys. Not sure if any of them qualify. I’ll say Kirkland playing LT.
AS- I was gonna go with Latu but he’s gonna split time and I’m not sure he’s gonna put up huge stats.
GL- On defense I could see ZTF becoming somewhat of a presence too. Maybe not enough to be “breakout,” but he has some really impressive leg drive and there were a few moments last season that made you go “Oh he could be good.” I don’t think he’ll super stand out for another season or two as we always knew he’d be a relatively late bloomer and the depth chart all the sudden is decent at that position, but I think he’ll have the opportunity this year (if this year happens) to stand out in some situational moments.
AS- I also think Turner at Safety could be big for us as well (I liked him better than Williams, he seems like a good tackler with good range).
GL- Also giiiiirl Kirkland became a “breakout” player a while ago that’s cheating. And agree about Turner.
AS- I would love to say Osborne or Spiker but I don’t know, Osborne may transfer (his skill set seems like more of a bigger slot) but Spiker if he can gain weight could be a good combo with Jones for size in the red zone and against smaller DB’s
GL- I hope he doesn’t transfer, it’d feel like such a waste if either of those two didn’t turn into something on the field.
AS- I agree- Spiker in particular. He was great in high school but in college I don’t see anything that wows me from a skill set (I hope he gains some more weight) and becomes more of a physical wideout.
Kirk DeGrasse- If you remove QB as an option I think the answer on offense has to be a WR. I’m just not sure which one. We’ve all seen how sometimes one QB-WR combo will gel while another won’t. Bynum came on last year but will he have that same connection with whoever wins the QB battle? Puka, Bynum, Spiker, Osborne, McMillan, Odunze, Jones - all of them have enough raw talent to be a guy that really breaks out this season. If forced to choose I guess I’d go with McMillan - dude has an extra gear we haven’t seen since Ross left to make the “wow” plays that catch everyone’s attention, and with a new OC in place that might level the playing field a bit more for a true frosh to come in and make an immediate impact.
On defense I think it will be a linebacker. Tryon made enough strides over the 2nd half of last season that I don’t think he’d count as a “breakout”, but I think he’s most poised to really capture national attention. So I’ll go with a sleeper in Ah You. His injury his senior year in high school kept a lid on his hype, but everything I’ve read about him suggests he’s a guy to watch out for, and now with close to 2 seasons past his injury I think he’s a guy that could sneak up and make an impact. Might not be immediately, but I could definitely see him starting in the 2nd half of the season and impressing.
GL- I’m excited in general for the inside linebackers. I know as they’re young they won’t be perfect all the time, but there’s so many shiny toys in that group and no mediocre seniors in front of them to complicate things. There’s not really a single guy in the redshirt frosh and sophomores there who I’d be surprised by if they broke out.
God I miss football.
Max Vrooman- On offense I think it makes sense to say a WR given that we lost over 1,200 snaps at the position due to graduation from last year. It’s kind of cheating to pick Puka since he has a clear cut inside track to be a starter and was phenomenal whenever he was on the field as a freshman. But if you just use the definition of who is going to put up drastically better numbers than he did last year that’s a clear winner. It’s probably most accurate though to pick an offensive lineman. If you’re going for a sleeper pick then I’m going to say Victor Curne. I only credited him with 1 negative play across 71 snaps last season and think he could step in and be pretty good right away along the line.
Defensively I really like the pick of Asa Turner. He looked really good when he was out there doing the game charting and had fewer blown assignments than Williams even though he was also prone to the occasional missed tackle. I’m considering Ulofoshio off the board and don’t have enough confidence at who will be starting at the ILB spot to pick one although whoever else emerges will probably be the winner here. Otherwise, there aren’t enough new holes in the defense to expect someone to emerge as a tremendous option. I’d also really like to say one of the young defensive tackles but with Bronson and Onwuzurike returning it’s hard for me to think they get enough PT to qualify. If you think he fits the bill though I’d also throw out Tuli as a guy that has a chance to take away snaps from Bronson and put up a Greg Gaines like season.
AS- Curne is a good pick- Mele is also another guy on the line I would like to see. Interesting that no one that picked a RB or TE (i.e. Redman who seems like he might get tons of snaps)
GL- Agree with you completely Max. As for TEs or RBs. I feel like those groups are so committee-ized with the current personnel other than Cade Otton who’s already established that there won’t be a single player who runs away with it. I think that’s a good thing though— I love Richard Newton and McGrew has a really important if understated role, and I’ve not been shy when admiring Cam Davis’ high school film.
Also regarding Levi and Bronson, they’re situationally different than Taki and Tuli— the latter two are purely interior guys whereas the former spread out to 3T etc (at least when used properly) just because of their body type. So I don’t think it’s quite right to say Bronson for example would “take away” snaps from either.
KD- I can definitely see Davis having a nice season and surprising people that assume Newton & McGrew will dominate the carries. But I think the potential to really grab the attention of fans is higher with the WR group. Redman will likely get some snaps and has a chance to look pretty good, but I’d expect - barring injury - that Otton is the TE that gets most of the targets.
Letuligasenoa seems like a guy on the verge of making a real jump. He’s got the tools to be a Gaines-level interior DL, and perhaps even better. Another year removed from his high school injury, another year in Socha’s weight program, he could really bust out. I’d love to see him and Levi form one platoon and Taimani + Bronson/Tuitele/Ngalu form another.
I don’t expect to see a lot of either Paama or Bandes, but it would be nice to see both guys showing signs of making strides.
(the talent+depth+youth of our interior DL currently is remarkable)
MV- I would generally agree with you Gabey about them playing a different position along the line but Onwuzurike and Bronson were forced to play a lot of nose last year when they’re more ideally 3-tech or 5-tech guys. Same with Potoa’e although he was more often on the outside of the formation. It won’t be surprising if the starting front is Tuli in the middle with Onwuzurike and Bowman with his hand down to each side and then Tryon standing up on the opposite side of the formation. Then Bronson rotates in for Levi while Taimani rotates in for Tuli. Last year it was Tuli/Taimani were in the middle whenever they were in and Levi/Bronson/Potoa’e rotated through spots on the D-line from possession to possession.
GL- Yah but last year Levi and Bronson were forced more inside simply because of necessity, whereas this year the necessity won’t be there cuz Tuli and Taki are pretty clearly ready to take on that load.
Plus Bandes and Tuitele i fully expect to be kinda this year’s version of how Tuli and Taki were last year.
KD- This is also a situation where it would be great to see Bandes & Paama take a step forward.
MV- Right. But Tuli will be taking away Bronson’s snaps inside even though they should be different positions because Bronson played out of position for much of last year.
KD- I see Tuitele playing less NT and more 3-tech.
GL- Yeah i think you’re right, especially since he lost a bit of weight in the offseason right? With the true NTs of Tuli, Taki and Bandes plus the graduation of Levi next year, it makes sense they’d be training Tuitele in that direction. He was so versatile in high school.
KD- Bandes and Paama are such huge dudes that I think they can form the basis of the primary 0-tech guys moving forward. Tuitele has enough burst and quickness that I could see him playing more of a 3 to 5-tech kind of role primarily.
GL- I think comparing Bandes and Paama is a kinda impossible, Bandes is built much more Gaines-ian whereas Paaama is simply the biggest human being ever. Which, tbf, the last time we had Gaines and a massive physical freak, things worked out pretty well.
KD- Right. In an ideal world Bandes = Gaines, Paama = Vea.
GL- Yeah. Certainly their skillsets and body types work out that way. I think both of them will rotate 0 or 1T individually but for slightly different situations. What will be really exciting though is if there’s moments where you get Paama at, for example, 2i, then Bandes a little wider than 0T, or any variation thereof like when Vita and Gaines were on the field at the same time. Holy shit.
And that seems like a fitting way to end it.