I spent a fair amount of time and consideration trying to get inside the head of Matt Hawkins and predict who he’d tab for his first tour. I even put fingers to keyboard. Good thing I didn’t publish those thoughts, because they were way off base.
Hawkins’ first selections are nothing if not bold. He is going to blood three brand new guys who are currently, or as recently as a few months ago have been, in college – Pat Blair, Ryan Matyas and Stephen Tomasin.
He seems to have thrown out the notion that he gives a crap what anyone else thinks of his selections by picking himself and Tomasin, one of his former players at San Diego State. Tomasin, who just wrapped up his freshman year of college and was apparently overlooked by the U20 selectors for the Junior World Championships, is now going to take part in the IRB 7s World Series. And very few people, pundits or otherwise, will sell you on the merits of having a player/coach.
Then there’s the decision to leave Shalom Suniula off the team. The most experienced halfback in America isn’t going to Gold Coast.
Will Hawkins’ first shot at picking a team be a success? I don’t know, but he certainly will have to sink or swim with the results.
That’s what I think is promising, that it’s apparent all he cares about is winning. He didn’t make the safe picks. He isn’t concerned about perceptions, alienating an established veteran or winning over the fans. It seems pretty clear he picked the 12 guys he thought gave him the best shot at winning.
What concerns me about this team
Hawkins as a player. He’s not Bill Russell. Not a lot of quality depth in the forwards, sure. But I just think it’s best for the program, long term, if Hawkins rips the band-aid off right now and gets to strictly coaching.
Also concerned about the fact that only two true halfbacks are going. What happens if Folau Niua or Tai Enosa, both of whom have a history of getting hurt, get injured? I’m not convinced anyone else on the 12-man roster is better than Suniula, or Augspurger or Te’o, at halfback.
Last season, Magleby had the cover of Luke Hume. I haven’t seen some of the players on this 12-man roster as much as I’ve seen Hume, but I don’t know that there’s anyone who can step into halfback in a pinch with as much confidence or competence as Hume did.
What I like about this team
The inclusion of Miles Craigwell. I’ve been on his bandwagon from the beginning, and for a long time I’ve been saying he needed to be given a shot to become a world-class 7s prop. This is his chance. Magleby liked Craigwell, too, but Miles wasn’t always available. That he’s in camp and selected says to me Craigwell and Hawkins were able to figure something out that might mean Craigwell is available for this team long term (fingers crossed).
The downside of Craigwell’s inclusion is that we again have to listen to announcers ramble on about the NFL, as if they have a clue what they’re saying, every time he touches the ball or makes a play.
Miles Craigwell, Brett Thompson and Carlin Isles playing together. Two DI football players are on the team, along with a DII football player and Olympic track hopeful. Kind of cool, even if I don’t want to be reminded of it every time I watch the Eagles play.
These three guys on the same team also give us some nice speed. Craigwell has played plenty of wing on the circuit before, and now we’re going to see him at prop. Thompson is very mobile for a forward. And Isles is Isles.
Oh, and Ryan Matyas and Pat Blair getting caps makes two more CRC alums 7s Eagles. Kinda neat.