"Our execution on both sides of the ball was much better today," said the second-year head coach. "Offensively we had better mechanics at the line. We threw the ball much better today."
Offensive coordinator Mike Canales admitted that quarterback Richard Kovalcheck struggled just a little bit on Thursday. Canales said a lot of that was just rustiness due in large part to the sophomore passer missing spring drills with a back injury.
"He said ‘coach I forgot how fast things go'," Canales said.
With so much to see we spent most of our time watching the defensive backs, defensive ends and quarterbacks.
Brandon Tatum is a freak athlete. Supposedly he tested off the charts for the strength and conditioning coaches. We've heard he has a vertical leap that will rival any on the basketball team. The kid is also strong, pushing up 18 reps at 225 pounds.
He looks like he can be a great safety, but he did have one big gaffe. He got beat on a slant pattern, grabbed a handful of jersey and still gave up a big gain to Syndric Steptoe. He'll learn that if you must commit pass interference, do not give up the reception.
Other than that, the ceiling is high on the young Texan. He will compete for a chance to see the field this season, despite a crowded safety position.
Michael Johnson is showing almost no ill affects from his foot injury that kept him out of spring drills. The first thing you notice about Johnson is just how tall he is. He's over 6-3 and looks like a small forward roaming the secondary. He has nice athleticism and speed as well. For being as tall as he is, he moves well and exhibited nice quickness. He got most of the reps with the first team with Lamon Means nursing an injured hamstring.
Although Mike Stoops said he would spend a lot of time with the offense, he has not abandoned the defense. He spent a lot of time with the corner backs working on man coverage and bumping receivers at the line. He stressed small things, a lot of techniques. There is no doubt he is a stickler for details and is stressing those things to his charges.
The defensive line looks to have legitimate depth for the first time in years. The Cats look like they can safely go three deep at each position.
The team is being careful with Paul Phillip and his delicate shoulders. He is working in individual drills, but is being held out of team drills where there will be contact. In his stead is Lionel Dotson. Last season Dotson competed at around 250 pounds and did an admirable job after moving inside. Now Dotson is over 270 pounds and is more than holding his own inside.
Ricky Parker looks like he will be a factor in the middle. He has great size and is pretty athletic for a player his size. He had a bit of a belly when he first arrived on campus over the summer, but that is all but gone now.
One player to watch is Garrett Fields. After he signed in February the coaching staff would not stop singing his praises, which was a bit surprising considering he was not an elite-level recruit. Fields has great size for a true freshman and his motor really seems to be running. He is a player who could see the field.
At this point Richard Kovalcheck is clearly the best of the quarterbacks. He is more consistent than Adam Austin and William Tuitama. He does not have as strong an arm as Tuitama, but he makes more throws and better decisions.
Austin has nice tools and clearly knows the offense. He makes quick reads and good decisions, but he just is not as consistent with his throws as Kovalcheck is at this time.
Tuitama may have the most physical skills to work with, but at this time he is still the No. 3 quarterback. He is slower than the other two in making his reads and still tries to force the ball into situations he probably shouldn't. However, he does have a cannon arm and can make some throws the other two may not be able to.
The future is clearly bright for Tuitama, but at this point he does not seem like a serious contender to steal the starting job in the early part of the year.