Palsgrove’s Points

Welcome back to Palsgrove’s Points. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen that college football is back underway here on the Mountain, and it’s about time. So, for today’s column, I’m going to discuss three less-discussed Flames football players that are primed for breakout seasons.

QB Kaidon Salter 

Is this cheating? Possibly. Do I care? Absolutely not. I’m not going to pass up an opportunity to highlight Salter. For the last few weeks leading up to the Flames’ debut against Bowling Green, all anyone talked about was the battle for starting quarterback. Those who knew things knew that there were signs pointing to Salter becoming the starter, and after his latest outing, we all see why. 

In game one, Salter had 143 passing yards in 11 completions, two of those being touchdowns. Both touchdowns were genuinely perfect. Something inexperienced or immature quarterbacks struggle with is throwing at different speeds. A bad quarterback just throws a bullet on every possession to try and whip the ball where it needs to be, but that’s a bad way to play. Like a good pitcher in baseball, a good quarterback needs to have the ability to change throwing speeds on a dime. For the first time in my experience watching Salter, I feel like he’s gained that ability. 

His first touchdown pass to freshman running back Vaughn Blue was dropped into a bucket with perfect precision. Any harder or slower of a pass and Blue wouldn’t have been able to get up for it and keep his foot in bounds. Salter’s touchdown pass later in the game to senior tight end Bentley Hanshaw was similar, thrown with perfect timing and velocity. 

The other thing I saw from Salter that gets me excited for the rest of this season is his pocket presence. He has gotten so much better at reading pressure from the defensive line and moving out of the way without committing to the run. Head Coach Jamey Chadwell and Salter both said that Salter has rededicated himself to watching film and getting better, and it’s already starting to pay off. 

DE TJ Bush 

Bush, a true freshman, is someone that I am heavily intrigued by. The 6-foot-2 edge rusher has earned himself a slot in the Flames pass rush — not as a constant starter, but in the field for a good many of the Flames snaps versus Bowling Green. In game one of the Flames 2023 campaign, Bush didn’t total any official stats, but I watched him put extreme pressure on the Falcons quarterbacks and change the play entirely more than once. 

Bush is already one of my favorite players to watch and one I always make a note of when he trots onto the field. Personally, I would be surprised if Bush hasn’t cemented himself as a fan favorite and tallied himself a sack or two by the end of this season. He’s an explosive pass rusher who already has a great football IQ, and one of these days he’s going to be the best player on the field. 

Just watch him next time. Look for the big boy wearing 23 on the defensive line and watch how quick he gets out of his stance, his brutal strength and his ability to crush a pocket. 

RB Vaughn Blue 

Oh man, Vaughn Blue. This kid has it. I’m not sure what “it” is — no one is — but we all know what “it” is. And Blue’s got it. In the freshman running back’s first appearance as a Flame, Blue ran for 50 yards on just 4 attempts, an average of 12.5 yards per run, which is insane. He also added 2 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown in the air on 3 targets. Oh, and his touchdown was an absolutely gorgeous toe tap over an opposing defensive back. 

It’s not often that a freshman running back comes in and puts on this much of a show in both the ground game and the passing game, but Blue did. I mean, enough about my opinion, listen to the opinion of his starting quarterback. 

“I knew he was special ever since he first got here,” Salter said. “(He) came out and he was killing it. You can tell he was one of the locked-in guys. He wasn’t a regular freshman. He came out, he was executing the game plan in practices. He’s not a mistake guy, and he’s not an excuse guy either. So, he loves to get everything fixed up, and today he came out and executed what coach wanted him to do.”

Blue might be one of the best young running backs I’ve seen come through the Mountain in recent memory, and I’m excited to see what he will become. I predict that within a season or two, Blue will be as beloved (if not more so) than Flames legend Demario Douglas. Ok, that might be a bit of an overreaction, but still, the kid is that good. 

Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *