Around the Horned With Brian Estridge
Oct. 4, 2003
A third of the way through the season I thought it would be good to touch on some random highs, lows and other observations. Fortunately, with a 4-0 start and a top 25 ranking, there are not a lot of "low points" to the season to date. But we will start there.
The only obvious low occurred in the Navy game when the Horned Frogs lost senior running back Ricky Madison to a season ending knee injury. I have talked about it before, not only did the Frogs lose a great runner on the field, they lost a great leader in the locker room. The good news is that Ricky still takes the time to mentor the Frogs' young backs--Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill.
Now for the good news and other observations. Let's start at quarterback, where the last two weeks have been difficult. This was supposed to be Tye Gunn's year--a starter from the beginning of the season. However, an unfortunate shoulder injury has kept him out of the last two games. That could have fallen into the bad news category, if it were not for Brandon Hassell. Hassell, the junior from Arlington, was thrust into the starting role after spending three years as a backup to Casey Printers, Sean Stilley and now Gunn. Brandon waited his time and shined in the limelight. Hassell managed the Frogs to two wins, and in turn, brought a sense of calm to the Frog nation. Because now they know that Brandon Hassell is yet another one of the Frogs under Gary Patterson who will answer the call when beckoned.
Robert Merrill was put in a similar situation. After injuries to Ricky Madison and Lonta Hobbs, Merrill became the starter. And he, just like Hassell, has answered the call. He may have been the most talked about Frog to never have stepped on the field before the Vandy game. Now we know that the hype and speculation were warranted. He is every bit as good as we thought. And coupled with a healthy Hobbs, the Frogs will have one of the most talented young running back tandems in the country. In addition, they both get to benefit from the emerging skill of Kenny Hayter who has taken to his role as the fullback of the Frogs.
The young receiving corps of the Frogs, once thought to be a weak link of the Frog offense, is slowly emerging as a weapon. Led by the star power of Reggie Harrell, Cory Rodgers, Michael DePriest, Bruce Galbert and Quentily Harmon (up until his injury versus Arizona) have shown a knack for the big play, while also taking care of the "little things" such as blocking downfield. We knew the offensive line was talented, but what we did not know was that Zach Bray would step into the right guard spot and play as well as he has. Tight end may be the deepest position on the field for the Frogs with all three players making a difference early in the season.
On defense, the front four of Bo Schobel, Robert Pollard, Brandon Johnson and Chad Pugh have dominated games at times. The linebacking corps of Josh Goolsby and Martin Patterson have made the plays we have all become accustomed to from that position. And the young defensive backfield continues grow. With Jeremy Modkins showing of signs of developing into a dominant safety in this 4-2-5 defensive scheme that even has grabbed the attention of Sports Illustrated (look for a future feature on Gary Patterson's secret weapon).
Then you throw in the successes in special teams, from Nick Browne's game-tying and game-winning kicks last week against Arizona to the dazzling returns that we know are on the horizon from Cory Rodgers. Thats what makes the 4-0 start feel pretty good. Add to the mix the long list of injuries that have forced the hand of this coaching staff to play young players before they would like, and the future of Frog football has the same promise that we have for the present.
From the streets and avenues of North Texas to the information superhighway, I'm Brian Estridge. We'll see you on the radio.