This was an annual feature until last January got thrown upside down by the coaching chaos. I will look back on the season in four parts. Let's begin with the positive: top surprises.
1. Mike Morrissey
Everyone loves a walk-on story, but rarely does a walk-on work his way into the starting lineup. Morrissey isn’t exactly our “Rudy” though. He was a “recruited walk-on” meaning TOB and company liked him enough to give him a shot to earn a scholarship but offered no guarantees. Having contributed occasionally in his first few seasons, Morrissey broke out this year – just when the depleted LB corp needed him most. Since his father was in the NFL and walk-ons have to work extra hard, Morrissey showed good instincts in coverage and reading Ds. What surprised was his speed. He was good in coverage and outside or some bad tackles in the Emerald Bowl, was pretty reliable all season. Morrissey is not a game changer or have the upside of LeGrande (the guy he split snaps with) but he was a crucial part of the season and did more than expected.
2. Chris Pantale
Pantale was a well regarded recruit and we heard good things coming out of his redshirt year, but he exceeded most expectations. The team's third leading receiver was also a capable blocker. I guess what most impressed me about Pantale, was his toughness and hands. It seemed like he pulled in a bunch of passes with someone drapped all over him. If anything we didn't get him the ball enough -- especially in the redzone. It will be nice to see him mature in the offense and add a little more size.
3. Ryan Quigley
Punters are rarely appreciated, but Quigley was very good this year. 30% of his punts went pinned the other team into the redzone with only 5% rolling for touchbacks. He got 77 punts off without getting blocked once. It wasn't all controlled either. He could boom them when he had to. In an ideal world, he would never punt, but watching Quigley punt this year was a pleasure.