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State of the Hogs:
Here are the players that I see making a move this spring. Now, remember, I don't see everything. I'm sure I've left off some guys doing extremely well. I try to move around at practice and listen to what others think, too, but this is not meant to be a complete guide to what has happened so far. I always have a better idea after it is over and I have spent an hour with every assistant coach. Then, I have a sharper picture of what happened. The practice is divided into so many segments and spread over the field, that it is hard to see everything. I've spent most of my time watching the QBs with Roy Wittke, and the D-line.
Ryan Sorahan and Matt Jones ... both have improved a bunch. Ryan looks more confident, happier and his arm is stronger. Matt has done well at whatever he's tried this spring, whether it's been QB or WR. He appears more confident and is starting to mesh with Wittke. It appears to me that Matt's time with the WRs has helped that bond, and that will pay big dividends when he's at QB, too.
Jason Peters and Jared Hicks have been the big stars so far. Both can and will block like O-linemen, and now they are catching most everything thrown there way. They are getting a lot of passes thrown to them, too, and have made some nice catches with contact around them. I feel confident we have two very good TEs now.
Zac Tubbs, Dan Doughty, Kyle Roper, Jerry Reith, Bo Lacy, Mark Bokermann, Tony Ugoh and Gene Perry all seem to be stepping up in every drill. They continue to develop. What I see happening more than anything else is an improvement in the pass blocking. They seem to mesh a lot better. The intensity has picked up in those pass block sessions. I think the groundwork for that has been built in meetings over the past three months, and now you see it happening on the field. I saw four of the O-linemen stay after practice for 15 minutes Thursday to work on their pass sets. I see these guys getting better every day.
De'Arrius Howard and Cedric Cobbs ... both appear to be quicker and lighter, although I'm not exactly sure if Howard is lighter, just looks quicker. Dedrick Poole appears faster and quicker, too.
Carlos Ousley appears more confident in his route running, and mainly just more comfortable. David Thompson will help this team. He is a solid player. George Wilson is as steady as ever. Matt Jones has been spectacular at times. He's had enough time with James Shibest now to understand better the techniques for getting off the line and how to break off his routes without just rounding them off like he was doing before.
Mark Pierce has hamstring problems and has been a non factor this spring. In his absence from a lot of situations, Brandon Kennedy shows that he is a hoss and can help this team even more than he did last year. Kennedy is a good SEC player. His hands are good and he has speed to go with strength and size.
In the line, Scott Davenport, Jayson Johnson and Elliott Harris have stepped it up. Reggie Banks needs a good summer in the weight room. He lacks strength, but has athletic ability and will be an SEC player when he adds some strength both in the upper and lower body. Banks appears to be committed to making that development in the weight room. If there is a concern, it continues to be at end where Keith Turner has some serious work to be done in the class room. I'd say he's a long shot to retain his eligibility. It's not impossible, but he's going to have a hard time doing it. Jeb Huckeba has been the bright spot at end. His quickness and desire to become a great player offset his lack of true size. He's still undersized at 235-240.
At linebacker, Marcus Whitmore, Sam Olajubutu and Brandon Holmes are good players. Clarke Moore and Caleb Miller are good players and they are getting better. Caleb is finally healthy and getting the work in the spring he missed last year. That will help him. Holmes will play a lot at middle linebacker. He is quicker than Moore, and just as tough. Moore has been solid this spring, too, and has the look of an experienced SEC linebacker in everything he does.
At outside linebacker, Desmond Sims has been one of the true bright spots so far. He has the knack for making plays. He'll stick his nose in there and understands pass coverage because of his days of playing WR. Of course, we know that Tony Bua is a player there, too, but he's sitting out with a injury rehab. Lo Robinson can help there, too, but he's got an injury rehab, too.
In the secondary, there are good numbers and ability. We've finally got some experience to go with the ability. Because Batman Carroll and Eddie Jackson have chosen to come to football practice most of the time (instead of working at the track), they are getting a good taste of the changes (back peddling and alignment) that Bobby Allen has implemented. Bo Mosley gives the Hogs some talent and experience, too. Vickiel Vaughn makes some rookie mistakes in pass coverage ... he's gotten beat a couple of times ... but will hit and is improving on his coverage reads. Jimarr Gallon plays so hard on every down and that is contagious during the practices. There has been a noticable drop in trash talking. If there is anyone doing any talk during secondary workouts, it is Bobby Allen. He's been one tough hombre on the practice field this spring. He's loud and has a meanness that reminds me of Wilson Matthews. Of course, as soon as practice is over, Bobby is quick to make sure the players know he still cares for them ... but he's definitely provided the discipline that the DBs seem to be aching for over the last two seasons.
The kicking game has been covered early in every practice. Much time has been spent on punt protection. Marvin Jackson is back, but not cleared for full contact. He's been making plays in the pass skeleton portions, but that's about his limit right now until he's cleared for full contact.