Riley talks Beaver youth, up-and-comers
"This group of safeties is outstanding," Mike Riley said, pointing at a small group of players clad in black as they walked by him. "Right here with Cyril (Noland-Lewis) and Kendall (Hill) – Zack Robinson and A.J. (Hedgecock) – all those guys are going to play." Riley had a smile etched across his face for the entirety of practice, which was effectively cut in half with the starters spending their day in the weight room. But Riley was brimming with confidence this afternoon in regards to his younger players, hence the grin. "They are all great players," Riley said. He gave particular praise to the 2's in the tight ends corps. "Dustin Stanton right there, and of course Caleb (Smith) is already playing and Kellen Clute – all three of those guys will play (at some point in the future)." Riley's praise of the second string tight ends is well deserved - the group has flown under the radar this year, yet thrived under the tutelage of Jay Locey. The squad as whole has shown marked improvement in both catching and blocking. Another player who made a silent but substantial impact at practice today was running back Chris Brown, who slipped out of water cooler discussion since the inception of the regular season and the jump to Storm Woods, Terron Ward and Malcolm Agnew. Brown had a stand-out day, receiving every carry during the shortened practice, and was always giving a second and third effort to gain more yardage. Granted, the defense was not going full bore and attempting to make big hits on Brown, but the freshman displayed great speed and evasiveness on a handful of runs, and looked sharp in the receiving game, too. Riley and running backs coach Chris Brasfield are high on him, and I'm starting to see why. And in spite of all their difficulties blocking for Richie Harrington and Brent Vanderveen today, Riley also threw some praise the way of his younger offensive linemen. The second stringers on the field today showed determination in opening up running lanes, and apparently that's just what Riley was looking for. "This group right here with Josh (Mitchell) and Gavin (Andrews), Grant Bays and David Keller, I think they will all be in the mix." Malik Gilmore and Richard Mullaney had a good outing with the receiving corps. Harrington looked very comfortable throwing in Gilmore's direction, despite pressure forcing both Harrington and Vanderveen to throw earlier than they anticipated on multiple occasions. The defensive linemen duo of Noke Tago and Brandon Bennett dismantled the Beaver front five regularly, making it difficult for the offense to work through the air. Defensive tackle Desmond Collins saw some work today as well, but Riley acknowledged that he is out of football shape and still needs some work before he is ready to play at full speed. Overall, it was just a fun practice for those in attendance. It's nice really, getting the opportunity to see coaches actually coach without there being as much pressure to produce a winning result in a compressed time frame. Subsequently, players were seen asking each other questions more, asking for help understanding certain packages with the help of the more seasoned guys that were running on the 2's. Friday's session will see the return of "the old guys", and more Alamo Bowl prep focused on Texas.