The Participation Report is back! The non-conference portion of the football schedule wrapped up on Saturday evening with a 34-23 win over Ball State under the lights of Carter-Finley Stadium. Let’s take a look at who played and how productive they were.
Before we get started, you’ll noticed I changed the format a bit. I’ve included a quick summary of the snap counts for offense and defense for those who are solely looking for that information. Let me know if that was helpful or if it just makes the post more cluttered.
One-third of the way through the season, we all hoped the QB situation would be settled by now. Instead the Pack is headed into ACC play (@ Florida State) with more questions than when the season started.
Four games into the season, Bam Knight seemed to have taken hold of the starting RB spot with Ricky Person being rotated in for long spells, but then Bam tweaked his hamstring against Ball State. The big surprise has been Jordan Houston who continues to make a big impact every time he comes into the game. In fact, he has almost as many rushing yards as Person on half the attempts.
Heading into this season, the WR group was seen as the strength of the offense, but a season-ending injury to C.J. Riley and shaky QB play has limited their impact. Emezie has shown flashes of Kelvin Harmon and Thayer Thomas and Tabari Hines have both shown big-play capability. It’d be nice to get the ball in their hands even more - especially with Devin Carter struggling to fill the void left by Riley’s absence (only 6 catches on 200 snaps). Lastly, true freshman Cecil Powell has just been switched from defensive back to WR. It’ll be interesting to see how the staff uses him going forward.
This hasn’t been a banner week for the tight ends. First, Dylan Autenrieth - starting TE, team captain, and reliable run blocker - was lost for the season due to injury. Angeline and Parham played 32 snaps each in Autenrieth’s absence and neither put any stats in the box score.
Four week in, Gibson, Fedd-Jackson, Sculthorpe, and Witt seem to have established themselves as constants on the offensive line with McGirt and Ekwonu splitting time at OT and Speas rotating in at OG. To this point their play has been a bit of a mixed bag. This offensive line has helped make the running game a strength, but they’ve also been more prone to penalties and mistakes than in the past - even among the more experienced o-linemen like Fedd-Jackson and Witt.
Murchison has had a strong start to the season, but otherwise the numbers for the defensive line are not encouraging. Some of that is due to injury and some is due to the move to a 3-3-5 formation. I’m sure he’s having an impact on the game, but Val Martin’s numbers (or singular number) are/is especially discouraging. Xavier Lyas, on the other hand, has stats as good as most on the d-line despite more limited playing time.
The LB group has also been a bit of a head-scratcher after four games. The talent seems to be there, but they don’t seem to be having quite the impact that you’d think with the switch to a 3-3-5 - especially Isaiah Moore who was the third leading tackler on the team last year as a R-Fr. Maybe everyone is still adjusting to the new formation. One player that has been impressive is Payton Wilson who is currently the third leading tackler on the team despite playing less than 100 snaps so far this year.
Four games into the 2019 season, it looks like Tyler Baker-Williams may be giving Stephen Griffin a run for the starting nickel spot. Regardless of who is playing, it does seem like the the nickel position is in a more solid place than it was a season ago.
One-third of the way into this season, the safety position isn’t what I expected. On the good side, Tanner Ingle has been a monster in his new role and is by far the leading tackler on the team. On the disappointing side, Morehead doesn’t seem to be having the best start to his senior year. Last season’s second leading tackler is currently eleventh on the team and, after rarely leaving the field last season, is splitting time with De’Von Graves this year. I don’t mind the splitting time, but there have already been a couple of games where Graves has played significantly more snaps. It makes me wonder if Morehead is healthy. That’s not a knock on Graves. You just expect a guy like Morehead, who was one of the bright spots on the defense last season, to be making more of an impact.
Cornerback is another position that seems a little unsettled heading into ACC play. Chris Ingram has really taken a step forward this year, but an injury to Nick McCloud has brought questions about who will be Ingram’s partner. Based on last year, Teshaun Smith would seem to be the answer but he got a DNP in week 4 while Kishawn Miller has been getting the bulk of the time (and seems to be the target of opposing offenses). One positive development this past weekend was Taiyon Palmer getting his first significant playing time CB at 26 snaps.
If nothing changes, it looks like we’ll have seven players burning their redshirt against FSU.
In summary, I don’t think any of us are feeling great about the way the team has played so far. Some of it is youth. Some of it is system changes because of new coaches and old coaches in new roles. Some of it is a leadership void on the field - the first four games have not been kind to the four captains (James Smith-Williams, Jarius Morehead, Nick McCloud, and Dylan Autenrieth). Hopefully, the Pack will start to look better once some players return from injury and a few questions get answered position-wise.