Thursday, October 13, 2005
A 5-1 record is good, not great. A blowout win is to be scrutinized, not reveled in. A close loss at the Rose Bowl is no longer a moral victory. We grade the first half of a season in the new, golden era of
Quarterback: After an 0-for-10 start to his career, Joe Ayoob has settled in nicely. He’s still not the kind of quarterback who can power his team to victory, but he has been fairly efficient in the first half of the season, completing 55 percent of his passes. He also makes good decisions, having thrown only three interceptions. He is definitely still a work in progress but has shown the potential to become a game-breaking quarterback.
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson has validated his hype, having caught 24 passes for 318 yards. While the true freshman leads the team in receptions, sophomore Robert Jordan and junior college transfer Lavelle Hawkins have also been solid and have given Ayoob reliable targets.
Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch alone would make
Tight Ends: Were David Gray healthy, the tight ends may have received a better grade. As it stands, the Pete Alamar-coached unit is the offense’s biggest weakness. Starter Craig Stevens has only had one multi-catch game, and backup Eric Beegun has terrible hands.
Offensive Line: Though suffering from injury issues, the offensive line has lived up to expectations that it would be the team’s strongest unit. Ryan O’Callaghan and Marvin Philip are the anchors of the line that has provided
OVERALL: While the offense is only No. 5 in the conference in total yards per game with 473.0,
Defensive Line: The bright point of the defensive line has been Brandon Mebane, who leads the team in sacks with 3.5.
Linebackers: The linebacking corps have been possibly the most pleasant surprise for the
Defensive Backs: The Bears’ secondary, ranked No. 2 in the conference in pass defense, has performed well. Cornerback Daymeion Hughes already has four interceptions. The unit’s one possible weakness is its tendency to try too hard for interceptions, instead of simply knocking the ball down.
OVERALL: It is hard to complain too much when Bob Gregory’s unit places No. 1 in the Pac-10 in both scoring defense and total defense, beating out USC in each category. However, a big stop at the end of the UCLA game would make the stats seem even better.
Kicking Units: Mediocrity seems to be the theme of the Bears’ kicking units—good, but not great. Tom Schneider is 6-for-9 on field goal attempts and is tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in completion percentage. David Lonie is averaging 40.7 yards per punt, good for fifth in the conference. However, Schneider’s 4-for-4 performance against UCLA was promising.
Return Units: Tim Mixon has been spectacular as a return man this season. His decision-making as been repeatedly praised by coach Jeff Tedford, and he averages 20.8 yards per return. Forsett and Hawkins have been solid returning kickoffs—they combine to average 18.1 yards per return.
Coverage Units: After the coverage team was scorched by the Bruins’ Maurice Drew, the unit was exposed as one of the Bears’ biggest weaknesses. A vast improvement will be needed in the second half of the season, when the Bears must face two nationally ranked teams—not to mention Reggie Bush.
OVERALL: Though Tedford has defended special teams coach Pete Alamar, his units are the primary reason the Bears are no longer undefeated. In an area of the game that can give a team a big boots in close games,
Offense: With new faces at wide receiver and quarterback, Tedford and offensive coordinator George Cortez have done a good job calling plays designed to make the squad comfortable early on. Though at times it might seem like the Bears’ offense runs the ball too much, the coaches should be credited with playing to the team’s strength, Marshawn Lynch. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Defense: With the exception of the Texas Tech game last year in the Holiday Bowl and the UCLA game this year, the
Special Teams: Alamar’s unit has had some bright spots, particularly in the return game. However, Alamar clearly is not doing his job when
OVERALL: Obviously, Tedford is one of the premier minds in college football, and some of his success with the Bears program can be pointed to continuity in his own coaching ranks.