Let’s take the gloves off and be brutally honest. Upon arrival, Mark Stoops inherited a complete mess. I have stated before that his original roster was equivalent to an upper level OVC team or at best, mid-level Sunbelt. I stand by that statement. Just how that happened is debatable. The direness of the team’s personnel and attitudinal situations are not. The “how” came through a series of recruiting misses and deficient player development all while forming a losing mentality.
This is part one of a two part series. First we’ll take a look at Stoops’ inaugural starting offense and compare it to the unit that is projected to start on September 5. Just like all my posts, I’m not professing to be all knowing. You decide for yourself.
August 31, 2013 vs. WKU
WR – Daryl Collins
WR – Demarco Robinson
WR – Javess Blue
TE – Jordan Aumiller
OT – Darrian Miller
OT – Jordan Swindle
OG – Trevor Eatmon-Nared
OG – Kevin Mitchell
C – Zack Myers
RB – Raymond Sanders
QB – Jalen Whitlow
September 5, 2015 vs. Louisiana Lafayette
WR – Blake Bone
WR – Garrett Johnson
WR – Dorian Baker
TE – Darryl Long/CJ Conrad
OT – Senior version of Jordan Swindle
OT – George Asafo-Adjei/Cole Mosier/Kyle Meadows
OG – Ramsey Meyers
OG – Zack West/Nick Haynes
C – Jon Toth
RB – Boom Williams
QB – Patrick Towles
First, let’s examine the skill positions: WR, TE, RB, and QB.
The receiving trio of Daryl Collins, Demarco Robinson, and Javess Blue are no match for the much deeper 2015 group with projected starters being Blake Bone, Garrett Johnson, and Dorian Baker. Depth also has to be factored by having the services of Timmons, Snodgrass, Badet, Williams, and Alexander. This positional comparison is an open and shut case. To be fair, some of the current players were freshmen on that team so there is cross-over. I follow the program as closely as anyone and I don’t even remember Daryl Collins.
Next the tight ends. Jordan Aumiller/Anthony Kendrick/Steven Borden vs. CJ Conrad and Darryl Long. Experience and depth would go to 2013. Talent and potential lies heavily in the current players. The rookies are more skilled, but the unknown makes this comparison more difficult. But, from what I’ve observed in open practices, and remember from the overall lack of 13 production, I’m going with the youngsters.
Running back Raymond Sanders was not elite by any stretch of imagination. Enter Boom Williams. The sophomore is on national awards watch lists and is considered an SEC rising star. I’m not overly intelligent, but I think I’ll take Boom here. If Dyshawn Mobley would have been the starter and had the majority of carries, I may have to pause before naming Boom the preeminent favorite. But, I’ll still go with Williams. He’s going to be special.
Jalen Whitlow or Patrick Towles? Again, I’d take the current. Whitlow has since transferred and is experiencing relative success at the 1-AA level. I actually thought Jalen was talented and would develop into a respectable SEC quarterback. Today, Patrick Towles is being mentioned by Network talking heads as being a nationally ranked, pro-style quarterback. I’m taking Patrick Towles.
Now let’s look at the big fellas up front. Starting at Center, I’ll take Jon Toth over his current backup Zack Myers. As my 2014 offensive MVP, I think the world of Jon. Jordan Swindle was a rookie at the time, so I’ll take the older version of him who is now playing left tackle. Darrian Miller was an undervalued player who has a chance in the NFL. He would be my only holdover. I do think Asafo-Adjei will eventually develop into a much better player. At guard, I’ll definitely take the obvious upgrades of Ramsey Meyers/Nick Haynes/Zack West over Trevor Eatmon-Nared and Kevin Mitchell.
Summarizing, current skill position players are at a total different level than when Stoops and company took over. As it should be. Same can be said of the offensive line. If we add the 2016 monsters to the equation, the comparison is as lopsided as the UK vs. UCLA basketball game. Please remember when analyzing players, it’s not personal, its personnel.
Mark Stoops has flipped the roster in three years. From start to present and considering present environment, I’d grade the Stoops’ regime as an A in both recruiting and developing. Are the 2015 Cats as skilled as Alabama or Florida State? No, but today’s talent level is a heck of a lot further from Tennessee Tech or Georgia State.