Because it's tough to come up with a lot of content that's not covered elsewhere until the Cougs actually play a game, Grady and I decided we would tackle one burning question surrounding the team each day until kickoff on Saturday.
Inspired by the release of the team's first depth chart, here's question No. 1:
What's the biggest surprise in there?
Grady: It has to be Andy Mattingly behind Mullennix at RE. Not because Mullennix is starting, but why do the position change on Mattingly if you aren't going to utilize him as a starter? It's especially strange when you consider the linebackers. Of course Trent is at MLB, but I have a feeling Mattingly could beat out Dunn or Evans at either OLB position.
Then again we don't know what Wulff's rotation scheme will be in the game, so maybe Mattingly gets playing time comparable to the starters. But that's a big shock overall.
Another interesting thing is Penner at PK even after we kept hearing how he was in danger of losing his job to Rooney, and then to Grasu. Rooney gets the kickoff job, which basically means that the coaches have the most faith in his leg strength. Kicker is a huge concern overall, and it may be kicker-by-committee all season long. In which case prepare for some exciting fourth down offensive plays.
Nuss: I agree that the Mattingly situation is a surprise on the surface, but honestly, it really doesn't surprise me all that much.
Mattingly burst onto the scene as a freshman only once Doba moved to the 3-4, and that really seems to be the scheme that takes the most advantage of his middling size -- just a little too big to be an every down 4-3 linebacker, a little too small to be an every down 4-3 defensive end. I realize he's about the same size as Evans, but Mattingly doesn't seem to have the kind of lateral speed to make him an elite linebacker. But he does have great explosion off the line, and and can turn that corner with the best of them.
My guess? There's just some concern about whether he can be an every down defensive end, and they're going to plan to rotate him in, both to put him in situations where he can succeed and to keep him from being ineffective at the end of games after being leaned on by a tackle for 55 minutes. And if Mattingly is smart, he'll embrace it, because he's got to know that his money in the NFL will be made on his ability to get to the quarterback.
My biggest "surprise" isn't a surprise in the sense that it was unexpected, but it does make me pause and shake my head every time I see it: The absolute dearth of depth in the defensive secondary. We're all pretty much staking our season hopes on the theory that our secondary will be better after taking some serious lumps last year, but what happens if, A) Experience doesn't translate into performance, or, B) One of those guys gets hurt?
Seriously, we're a Chima Nwachukwu twisted a ankle away from starting two safeties who have played exactly ZERO downs of college football. Yikes.