John Clay has an article today that discusses in a matter-of-fact way that this year's crop of freshmen is not like those of recent years, and that they appear to be an a good position to replace some of the older players on the traveling squad:
Speaking of Newton, he seems to be performing well:
"There will be a lot of faces on this football team that traveled with us last year, that are battling to travel this year," head coach Joker Phillips said on Friday. "That's a good thing."
"Morgan’s handling himself really well," coach Joker Phillips said. "He has really good command of the football. He threw the ball down the field with some authority, put it right over the receiver’s head. … I’m really pleased with how he has grown up and how he understands how to prepare to be a quarterback in this league."
Newton is a big, talented kid, the kind of quarterback who can really give even SEC teams problems with his athleticism and mobility. It doesn't hurt that he has a good arm, and if he can get that arm sharp and accurate, he is going to be a real problem for defensive teams. Unlike Mike Hartline, Newton can run the ball powerfully and with good speed, and can take a hit on the move. His near-linebacker size is invaluable when it comes to durability.
On the defensive side of the ball, Phillips is impressed with the speed of Rick Minter's defense:
Phillips said the defense, which had multiple stops in red-zone situations Saturday, has improved its tackling and routinely swarms to the football in Minter’s new scheme. Speed, apparently, will be that unit’s calling card this fall.
"We’re as fast a defense as we’ve had around here," Phillips said.
I hesitate to get too excited about that, because I've heard it before. My main concern this year is the same as it was last year -- can this group tackle and put offensive players on the ground? Speed is valuable, but if your players can't tackle, a la last year, it doesn't help much.
To sum up, the good news so far seems to be that Newton is playing well, the defense is fast, and the freshmen are better than expected. The bad news is that most of the offensive line is dinged up and did not play, we've lost a couple of talented players in Jerell Priester and Qua Huzzie, the skill positions are young, and the fact that freshmen are pushing so many returners can be both good and bad.