Plenty of nuggets percolating out of this annual golf event. Nothing too dramatic or beyond what we have known, but here is the recap of what I think are the most important points. To clarify, I was not present but I have talked to numerous people who were and gotten their opinions and interpretations of the coaches comments.
What is clear is that all of the coaches are concerned about Defensive end--this runs from Swinney all the way to Brooks and Hobby. Shaq Lawson is all-conference and should have a good enough year to turn Pro after the season. Swinney confirmed that he and Dodd will likely play 70 snaps a game. Can Shaq handle that workload and the double teams he will inevitably get because no one is worrying about Dodd. The staff is being forced to think creatively about what needs to happen.
Albert Huggins has had a fine offseason--replacing bad weight with muscle and coming in at 282. Huggins suggested the move inside, which is really good for him (a lot of guys will fight to remain where they want and waste a year in the process). He wasn't going to last on the outside at defensive end longterm and he would have struggled there this year because he needed a lot of work playing assignments and being quick enough to play in space. Huggins is at DT playing the 3-tech right now.
War Daddy DT Christian Wilkins will likely be asked to play some situational DE for us this year. He is that good. His future (as in next year) will be as a starting Tackle but I think they will move him around to provide depth. He is agile enough to play in space and knows how to use his hands. Such a huge pickup last year. He is picking things up seamlessly.
As we have said here before, guys like Martin Aiken and Dane Rogers just aren't ready to compete as redshirt juniors. Hobby confirmed that Aiken is still in the 230 range. Rogers is a tweener (stuck between DE and DT). The loss of Ebo was clearly not anticipated and hurts.
The bright side is that Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell are coming in ready to go. They will both avoid redshirts. Bryant is around 260 and Ferrell is up to 255 (a huge gain from high school) and Hobby thinks they are carrying the weight well. These guys will get a look in fall camp but won't be contributing significantly until the second half of the season in anything more than situational play.
The guy who is turning heads is Richard Yeargin. He has put on good weight and is a chiseled 250-255 pounds. He has put on 30 good pounds of weight (if not more) since coming to campus. Complete opposite of Aiken. Venables' efforts to add him late in the recruiting season two years ago might really pay off. Yeargin still needs seasoning and technique work, but is now physically capable of playing DE.
At DT Brooks spoke about Carlos Watkins getting back to pre-injury form. He is #2 on the depth chart and Pagano is still at #3 but will play a lot.
Mark Fields might start by the end of the year. He will be the guy when Mack Alexander goes to the NFL after this season. Cordrea Tank is doing fine but Fields will provide some much needed back-up and relief if he struggles. Fields is apparently amazing in the weight room. Yeargin and Fields show how important it is to have some late scholarships to grab some much needed depth.
Travis Blanks is looking more healthy and will provide depth at the Nickel/SS position. With Wiggins logging a ton of snaps at Nickel and Dorian O'Daniel emerging in the GT game, it will be interesting to see where the snaps come from.
Venables singled out Kendall Joseph and T.J. Green as the players to watch on defense. Joseph will be needed to provide depth at MLB (I see this as a motivational move to push Goodson to assume more of a leadership role). T.J Green is being talked about like he is a future star, all-conference player. Venables says he is studying hard and maturing mentally and physically. I am not going to go that far just yet--but I have heard some favorable reviews so this isn't just coach speak, especially coming from BV.
When Green was a late Alabama pick-up I was concerned but saw an upside on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, he was put on spot WR and kick return duty and wasted his freshman year. Last year he had to learn how to play Safety and took off during bowl practice. Green needed that redshirt year but looks poised to contribute as a junior. We need someone to emerge if Kearse jumps to the NFL, not a done deal, but highly likely (we are preparing a ton of packages that will allow Kearse to move all over the field and provide another pass rushing threat).
Rod Byers is going to line-up on both sides of the ball but is back working at DT. Consummate team player, but I love him in that blocking role on offense.