By Jared Green
Daily Planet Staff
For a man with a year left on his current contract and an extension just waiting for his signature, Tom Holmoe doesn’t seem too secure. He has repeatedly stated that he considers this season his last chance to show some improvement in the standings, and his minimum goal is to reach a bowl game. This would be a surprise to most, as most prognosticators have the Bears finishing no higher than eighth in the Pac-10, which has six bowl spots.
If the Bears are to exceed expectations and reach a bowl game, they will have to lean heavily on two sophomores, quarterback Kyle Boller and tailback Joe Igber. Boller is coming off of a difficult freshman year, during which he completed 38.6 percent of his passes and was ended prematurely by a separated shoulder in his eighth start. If he can make a leap similar to that of former UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, who struggled as a true freshman but became a great quarterback and leader, the Bears will definitely improve.
Igber had a productive freshman year with 694 rushing yards, but was also hampered by injury, playing with a bum shoulder during the final five games. But his slippery moves and instincts for hitting the hole make him a dangerous back if he can stay healthy.
The receiving corps is a mess, as newcomers battle the two remaining lettermen for playing time. Boller desperately needs one or two of them to step up and become reliable pass-catchers.
Injuries have made what should have been a veteran offensive line into a question mark going into the season opener against Utah. The top two right guards, Scott Tercero and David Hays, are both out with injuries, and veteran center Reed Diehl is struggling with an injured snapping hand.
The defense lost several veteran starters, including three linebackers to the NFL, but should again be the strength of the team. The defensive line has the potential to be the most dominant in the conference, with seniors Andre Carter and Jacob Waasdorp teaming up for a fourth year. The six new starters behind the line will struggle early, but should come together as a unit in time for conference play.
The kicking game is a mystery except for pre-season All-American punter Nick Harris. Mark-Christian Jensen has looked great in practice, but he had little success last year. The return game looks solid, but Iwuoma has to prove he can be a game-breaker returning punts and kickoffs.
It all comes back to Boller and the receivers. If they can connect and make opponents respect the passing game, Igber should have more room to run. Boller has the talent, but can he find the magic that great quarterbacks have? Holmoe is anxiously awaiting the answer.