Going into every football season, we have the guys who we know are going to make an impact in every game they play. Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline and Derrick Locke were our most obvious every game performers who departed at the end of last year. Now we have a new crop of players who will make an impact (good or bad) in every game. Danny Trevathan, Winston Guy, Morgan Newton and Larry Warford will all be players who see significant snaps in every game and determine the final outcome with their play. However, every season also has its handful of pleasant surprises – guys who might have been talked about at the beginning of the year, but without the expectations of their more accomplished teammates. Last season on offense, both Chris Matthews and Jordan Aumiller were pleasant surprises, with Taylor Wyndham and Luke McDermott making an impression on the defensive side of things. Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke were very pleasant surprises as freshmen. Now with a new season only a week away, who could step up and be this team’s pleasant surprise?
On offense, guys like Matt Roark and Nick Melillo both have a chance to step in and do some good things this season, but in different capacities. Roark has a the prototypical big wide receiver body – he’s 6’5 with big hands – and a chance to shine in a receiving corps that has only one surefire contributor in King. Roark has a chance to be a big play guy in the redzone, especially if defenses key on his more experienced running mate. Melillo, on the other hand, wouldn’t display his production in the box score. In what has been a highly contested tight end position battle, Joker said that if the decision had to be made at the end of spring ball, Melillo would have been the starter. As the old man of a group of talented, young tight ends, Melillo can make his impact by doing the dirty work to help out his first year quarterback.
On defense, look for a guy like Avery Williamson, who mostly played special teams last season, to get a shot in Rick Minter’s new, more aggressive front seven. Williamson won’t get a ton of minutes just because of the more experienced players in front of him, but when he gets in, he could definitely be a pleasant surprise. Winston Guy could also end up being a pleasant surprise for this team. I know that I listed him as an impact player earlier, but Guy has a great chance to make his impact much more positive than it has been in his first three seasons. The staff now has him in his natural defensive position, where he can do more blitzing off the edge to remove the quarterback’s head and less coverage. He’ll also be returning kicks with greater regularity, which could be a lot of fun to watch when you consider his combination of size and speed, not to mention his dreads.
In addition to the returning players, the expectations for the rookies are very high going into the season. Josh Clemons, Daryl Collins, Demarco Robinson, Glenn Faulkner and Ashley Lowery are all new guys who look to get some significant playing time this fall. They all definitely have pleasant surprise potential as well.