My apologies for not being around this weekend to cover the Garnet and Black Game in detail. I was out of town at a conference in Florida, and when I wasn't working, I was hanging out on the beach and / or eating fried seafood, two things that I don't get to enjoy in upstate NY as much as a guy from southern AL likes. I'm back now, though, and I'd like to share a few thoughts on the game now that I've had time to digest what happened.
The passing game sans Stephen Garcia is...a work in progress. After reading the stats and watching some of the footage, my impression is that either Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson could be a serviceable QB for Carolina. Both made some good throws and amassed decent stats, and certainly neither reproduced the infamous 2008 spring game where Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher threw INT after INT. However, both need a lot of work over the summer. Shaw could have easily had a couple more INTs than he did, and neither exactly displayed the accuracy of a Drew Brees. Post-Garcia QBing still has some work to do, to say the least. That said, I see no reason for the weeping and gnashing of teeth that we're hearing from some fans. Neither QB looked half bad, and I wouldn't feel terrible about our chances with either.
As Feathered Warrior discussed this morning, however, it appears that chances are better than average that Garcia will be back.
Our running game should be formidable next year, at least if we can field a decent passing game. All may be lost if opposing defenses don't feel that they need to respect the pass against us, but my impression is that year two under Shawn Elliott should see more improvement on the ground. The offensive line looked like it didn't skip a beat with its 2010 departures, as young players like A.J. Cann have gotten rave reviews over the course of the spring. Moreover, we know Marcus Lattimore is good, and Kenny Miles looks ready to fill Brian Maddox's role as the favored backup. Miles played with fire all spring and showed out in the Garnet and Black Game, and if coaches will trust him to at times shoulder the kind of load Lattimore will usually carry, we might not be in such dire straits if Lattimore goes down at times. This is perhaps the best news out of spring camp, in my opinion.
The secondary looked improved. Granted, the guys who will see the field the most--Stephon Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman, etc.--didn't see a lot of PT Saturday, as you would expect. Maybe that was a good thing, though, as I've always believed that depth is our main problem in the secondary, and our backups look improved. Jimmy Legree had some very impressive plays, in particular. I was somewhat unimpressed by Victor Hampton, but I've heard he's looked good at times in practice, so hopefully he'll come around, too. Considering the talent we'll have on the defensive line, if the secondary depth steps up, I could see us fielding a top-15 defense, easily.
That's it for now. I'll be back soon with more on our players' NFL Draft chances.