Our NCAA teams have now moved out of the
not remotely voluntary portion of the preseason and into the official practice portion. There will not be a great deal for them to report about their progress over the next month or two other than groundbreaking stories like “The team is coming together really well” and “We’re excited about the season.”
But for our purposes, it’s time to start familiarizing ourselves with the freshman on each of the top teams so that we can have our utterly arbitrary opinions about how they will perform solidified and gathering mold well before the season begins.
I’m starting with Georgia, where (in addition to being reliable workhorses in the all-around) the hardest job for incoming standouts Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers will be finding a way to mitigate the loss of tenths on bars. Kat Ding and Gina Nuccio were bringing in 9.900s every week and showing their teammates what sticking looks like. Chelsea Davis will be expected to take on that Kat Ding responsibility this season, but both Jay and Rogers will need to prove worthy of late lineup positions to ensure there is not a major drop off from last season. Otherwise, they will be looking very 49.200 on an event where they will need 49.400s.
Jay has spent the last three years as one of those solid second-tier elites who lacked some precision and difficulty but who could excel in NCAA because she is talented, has a high skill level, and is relatively injury-free. She has the potential to be the gymnast they were hoping Tanella would be (9.875-y on multiple events).
Vault has been her signature event in the past, and even though it was weaker in 2012 than it had been before, she is capable of putting up a nice late-lineup Yurchenko 1.5 or full that could help make up for the loss of Ding.
Under the elite code, her execution scores were often low on the other events, but many of her major breaks were on skills she wouldn’t have to perform in NCAA. There is certainly some leg and foot form in places that I will harp on, and she’ll need to improve consistency on beam, but she could be a vital all-arounder.
Rogers had been written off by many after some extended injury breaks, but she returned to be a standout vault and bars worker on the Canadian Olympic team, and that’s where I expect her to be strongest for Georgia. But as we can see from these videos, she’s not hopeless on the other events. I don’t expect her to lead the team, but she could make lineups. They may need some 9.800ishness from her on each, which I can certainly see happening.
She won’t be joining the team until January, but if she’s in shape to compete right away, expect her to be a significant performer. The talent is there. Whether she can bring the team out that Noel Couch/Kaylan Earls/Sarah Persinger 9.825-9.850 territory remains to be seen.
Unick isn’t coming in with as much attention because she wasn’t a top international competitor for Canada. When she was recruited, Jay Clark touted her bars skills, and while her Tkatchev is high, I’m not ready to pronounce her a major contributor there. That’s a wait-and-see routine for me.
I’m actually way more interested in her beam routine and that skill selection, which I hope (and know they won’t) maintain. Don’t discount this one.
Mary Beth Box
Box is a walk-on this year with similar strengths to Mariel. She doesn’t have much difficulty, but she could put together an efficient enough routine on floor to be a backup. She recently had knee surgery, so it remains to be seen if she will contribute in 2013.