Spring Flingers: Quarterback Position Among Red Wolves Pressing Conundrums

The end of the Spring football season provided answers and questions headed for the Summer

At 6’2″, 209 pounds, Jaxon Dailey looks the part of a college football quarterback, calmly surveying the gridiron, his eyeblack shaped into a cross on his cheek, his demeanor focused and stoic. In the pocket, he throws a left-handed ball that at times bears both accuracy and sizzle – and sometimes his passes find nothing but air and turf. It’s spring. He’s still working out the kinks; still mastering his wide receiver routes.

On the opposite sideline, The Kid, Jaylen Raynor, the 17-year-old wunderkind who should be picking out a prom boutonniere rather than spending his days studying the playbook. Raynor laughs with his teammates, a smile permanently ironed onto his youthful face. The Kid has wheels. The Kid can make big throws. The Kid makes freshman mistakes.

The Kid, Jaylen Raynor looks to be in a three-way battle for QB

The Invisible Spector hovering over both athletes: J.T. Shrout, a former 3-star recruit with valuable playing time with Tennessee and Colorado. Shrout’s not perfect; he missed the 2021 season due to a torn ACL. Last year, for a terrible Colorado team, Shrout tossed more picks (8) than touchdowns (7). He finished the season the lowest rated quarterback in the Pac-12.

But Shrout can hurl the rock, per people familiar. At 6’3″, 215 pounds, he bears that classic image of a QB that Butch Jones covets. Coach Jones despises turnovers, however. While it is widely acknowledged that Shrout’s stats at Colorado was more a team-wide issue than a QB issue, Shrout will have to prove he can move the ball without losing it.

That gives Dailey and Raynor an opening – and incentive to get up early for work in the summer.

Keyron Crawford Looks Like A Bad Ass Defensive End

Crawford joined Arkansas State as a freshman last season after fielding offers from Nebraska and Iowa, among others. Now weighing in at 6’4″, 240 pounds, the sophomore defensive end looks ready to resume to mantle of awarding winning defensive ends established by William Bradley-King, Ronheen Bingham, Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and Chris Odom.

Call Keyron Crawford (red jersey) the Bag Boy because he loves to sack.

But the defensive end position itself isn’t deep enough for Coach Jones, who has expressed interest in trolling the transfer portal for a couple more bigs. Curiously, the only other DE who played on the starting defense in this year’s Spring Game was Brandon Rowe, a 6’1″ 220 pound redshirt freshman who I know nothing about, except that he has a LinkedIn page.

Players currently on the roster who could provide a challenge or backup to Crawford are Blayne Toll (6’6″ 252 pound Jr), Thurman Geathers (6’2″ 224 pound rSr) and Dennard Flowers (6’2″ 239 pound rSo). Even one more guy would be greatly appreciated.

It’s Jeff Foreman, Corey Rucker and “Come On Down” at Wide Receiver

After several seasons of enjoying ridiculously deep receiving rooms, the 2023 roster could use more weapons at the slot and edge. Courtney Jackson (5’11” 179), the transfer from Syracuse, caught a couple of passes in the Spring Game, and sophomore Daverrick Jenkins (6’1″ 173) had four catches for 66 yards on the second-team offense. The squad is still accepting applicants.

Foreman and Rucker feed off one anther, but who else steps up to the plate?

Incoming freshman 3-star WR Chauncey Cobb looked fine with 73 yards receiving, but the guy who I find most intriguing is highly touted sophomore TE Miller McCrumby (6’3″ 211), who collected 9 passes for 67 yards in Spring Game action. Replacing Seydou Traore (who transferred to Colorado) is a tall task, but perhaps McCrumby is up to it.

Two guys to look for are veteran wideout Regan Ealy and QB-turned-receiver Wyatt Begeal, who looks much beefier at 201 pounds. Neither first-team wideout did much in the Spring Game, but the time for both to provide significant contributions is now.

At Last, Linebackers Might Be a Strength

East Carolina transfer Cruz Temple didn’t make a big impact last season, but he looks every much a big time contributor now alongside quiet surprise Chris Wiliekes, the rJr transfer from Michigan State. The Cruz & Wiliekes combo accounted for four sacks in the spring game, while second-team linebacker Javante Mackey collected three sacks of his own. Steadily improving linebacker play has been key to the Red Wolves growing ability to stop the run.