May 1, 2008

Step up, step down

Over the past few weeks, I've read various articles about how too much can be made about a player's performance in the Spring Game. That might be true. However, it's one of the only opportunities that the coaches have to evaluate their players in a game situation in the spring. With that in mind, here are the top five players that stepped up in the spring game, and the top five that didn't.

Top five to step up

Brian Toal - Perhaps not handing over the weak side linebacker starting job to Toal was simply a motivation ploy by the coaching staff. If so, it worked. The senior linebacker was the best defensive player on the field Saturday, playing at a higher level than anyone else. Toal looked like a NFL player thrown into a spring game. When the next depth chart comes out look for Toal to be the only player listed in bold under weak side linebacker.

Razzie Smith - One of the tightest competitions of the spring is for the starting cornerback job opposite DeLeon Gause. Smith is in a fierce battle with Roderick Rollins, and at last check Rollins was getting slightly more reps in practice. Of course, that last check came before the spring game. After Smith's 100-yard pick six return that was more eye popping than Arie Gold's new girlfriend, you have to figure at the very least Smith got the attention of his coaches.

Chris Crane - As a writer, there's nothing juicier to write about than a good quarterback controversy. As much as I'd like to pretend that the job to succeed Matt Ryan is an open audition, it's just not. Crane put together another solid spring performance, going 18-of-35 for 155 yards and a touchdown.

If you didn't see the spring game, your first reaction is probably to think that I'm crazy for thinking Crane solidified himself as the top signal caller after an average performance like that. However, it was clear that Crane had the offense running much smoother when he was in the game compared to how things went when one of the other quarterbacks was in.

Max Holloway - The defensive end's performance in the spring game was a microcosm of how he's performed the entire spring. Holloway has gone on rampages where he simply dominates for three or four straight plays, and the spring game was no different.

Rich Gunnell - In the first two scrimmages of the spring, Gunnell was very quiet and wasn't much of a factor in the offense. All the talk around wide receivers was about Justin Jarvis, Ifeanyi Momah and the injury to Brandon Robinson. Gunnell's touchdown and 53 yards receiving reminded everyone that he led the team in receiving yards last season, and is poised to do the same this year.

Top five who didn't

Dan Mulrooney - It might not be fair to lump Mulrooney in this group, because in fairness to him he didn't have a ton of space to run through. However, for Mulrooney to show the coaches that he was the undisputed man for the job to backup Josh Haden, he had to either break a few tackles or make some defenders miss. Unfortunately for Mulrooney, he wasn't able to do either of those things in the spring game, and thus doesn't have much momentum going for himself into the summer. This isn't to say Mulrooney doesn't have a shot at backup running back still, but he has his work cut out for him.

Paul Anderson - The BC coaches are hoping that Anderson will bring some senior leadership and stability to the starting strong safety spot. Unfortunately, that's not what they got out of Anderson on Saturday. The senior was very late coming over in pass coverage on at least two occasions, which has been his Achilles heel in his career.

One spring game won't lose Anderson his starting spot. However, don't forget that defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani has the option of moving Marty Bowman to strong safety, and then starting Wes Davis at free safety, which in turn puts Anderson on the bench.

Wes Davis - Of course, if Wes Davis wants to start, he has to make some plays in his own right. Dropping possible interceptions in the end zone that are thrown right to him is not the way to show that you're the man for the job!

Ifeanyi Momah - For the past few weeks leading to the spring game I've been raving about how well Momah's been playing. On que, Momah was not a factor at all on Saturday. Until the wide out can start making big plays in games and not just practice he's not going to be getting much playing time.

Jim Ramella - With the dismissal of starting defensive end Brady Smith, the Eagles have an opening on the line. The most likely candidate to take that spot seemed to be Ramella, but he didn't do much in the spring game to solidify his position.


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