THE SECOND WEEK OF SPRING PRACTICES

The second week of spring practices was met with lots of spring rains which washed out Monday's practice, which was to be a scrimmage, and postponed it one day and moved it to Waco ISD's impressive stadium only a few miles away. This was done to protect the grass fields on the home turf, and since the turf on this stadium's field is synthetic, it wasn't harmful at all to it. Due to the change in days, several of the athletes were not available, being in class instead. QB Greg Cicero was one.

March 19
Greetings from WISD stadium - site of the 2002 BU team's first real "head-knockin'."

These coaches are still working their behinds off! Today, even Doug Fertsch got into the act and probably for good reason. Today also, keep in mind, that with yesterday's practice being washed out, this was not the normal practice day - that would have been yesterday, so some of the players normally in attendance had Labs, etc., that kept them away. Greg Cicero was one such casualty. Anyway, today the #1 OL was as follows: LT-Outland, LG-Bickel, C-Fields, RG-Murphy, RT-Helmcamp, TE's-Groth/Williams/ and (get this) DeLeenHeer, who wears #85 - a good looking athlete who "walked on in October" from baseball. John Erickson and Ryan Gillenwater were in the stands today and provided that bit of information.  The quarterbacks today were Karas - Vinson - Zachry, in that order. 

Remember how I was touting the speed of Randy Davis the other day? Well, today's scrimmage evidently brought him more problems than did those coverage drills I spoke of before, as will become apparent as you read some of the Receiving Highlights of the Day: During the 2nd series of today's scrimmage, Bobby Darnell gets "waaay" behind Randy Davis and catches a bomb from Davon Vinson. Of course, that closing speed was no joke, so now it is first and goal at the five. Anthony Kreig takes the hand-off, and scores over left guard, standing up. This was against the #2 defense. Then, during the fourth series, Reggie Newhouse also is able to get open deep and catches a fifty-five yard bomb, this time from Aaron Karas. Not 100% sure, but it may have been Randy Davis again on coverage. Didn't notice much else about receiving today. Keep in mind that first scrimmages are almost always dominated by defenses, so there weren't going to be a lot of offensive highlights you could hang your hat on.

Starting defense, plus primary alternates - CB's - Bobby Hart and Matt Johnson, SS - Amendola, FS - Cash, DE's - Collier & Mann (Kari Long and Dominick Cravens, with Joe Simmons, DT's - Ethan Kelley and Kevin Stevenson (Lorenzo Davis - Eric Jackson, and Mike Gary, SAM - Sepulveda (Wallace) MIKE - Wade (Allred/Tolbert) WLB - Garrett (Crooks).
The best running performance of the day was probably turned in by Anthony Krieg. He had three great runs into/thru traffic against the #2 & #3 DL's. No one running back appeared to be consistently good because the #1 DL dominated the OL all day. If the next scrimmage looks this way, either we have something to be worried about, the OL, or we may be finding out that the #1 Defense is really that good. I want to tell you right now that Greg Wade was all over the place! Wade, John Garrett, and AC Collier were scary they played so well, today!

"Great character and fire" award of the day happened on the second play of the scrimmage. Charles Mann, who later sprained an ankle a bit and had to leave the field, tapped Aaron Karas' passing elbow just as he released ball. This caused a "bloop" pass which was intercepted by Derrick Cash, who immediately headed for the goal line which was about 40-yards away intercepted. Ten yards into the return, a yellow streak, who had figured out exactly where Cash's return path would take him and set out to intercept him, collided head-on with Cash, knocking Cash forward, head under heels as he took his feet right out from under him.  It was Aaron Karas, who showed that he doesn't tolerate interceptions very well. The whole team seemed to take note of Aaron's "fire.". They put those yellow jersey's on the QB's to keep them from being hit, but I don't guess it keeps them from being "hitters."

Davon Vinson continues to be impressive with his running ability. He also threw a fine block to clear Golden for a scrambling TD later in the scrimmage, but alas, a ref's offensive holding call wiped that TD out, though. Shane Williams caught a "throwback TD" from Vinson, too, at least we think it was Vinson.

Some Primary Impressions"
1) The plays weren't being 'signaled & read' like last year. We're using the 'no-huddle', though, so the plays must have been scripted.
2) The OL appears to be the 'weakest segment' about the team right now, but again, some were absent. Also, keep in mind that the number two OL had to go against the #1 Defense, so that is a bad news, good news scenario, and it is still very early.
3) The deep bomb coverage must improve. 
4) The first team DL & LBs looked quite good. 
5) The practice contained lots of coaching discipline, physical requirements, and shouting is going on, constantly. 
6) Aaron Karas throws a gorgeous pass. His excellent thinking is obviously, downfield and his quick feet and constant balance are most impressive. 
7) Davon Vinson does seem more like a 'leader' out there (compared to last year). His voice is strong, and he pulled the #2 DL off sides at least three times with his cadence. Coach Steele was incensed by those defensive linemen for it, too. Davon Vinson's confidence just seems so much improved. His passes are more on target than in games last year, and there is definite progress about him. His running, this spring, is something else to see!
8) This year's team is definitely in better physical condition, over-all, than last year's. They need that quality to constantly improve, of course. At the end of practice, Coach Steele was personally requiring very disciplined sprints across the field by position groups. It was all business, folks. The 2002 Bears won't lose because they aren't trying to improve. That much is obvious!

March 20  (not available)

March 21
There was a scrimmage Tuesday and another one will happen tomorrow (Friday) inside Floyd Casey after the team first warms up on the practice fields. There will be high school coaches present from the coaching clinic taking place on Friday.

There was a modified scrimmage today (tackling techniques limited to a heavy hit, then release). Prior to that a heavy contact "inside drill" featured quite a bit of smash-mouth style football. On the other practice field at the same time, the QB's took turns passing to receivers with live DB coverage. They also trotted back-and-forth down to the other field to take turns on hand-offs there. That first one we'll call the "skeleton drill," in honor of what it was called back during the John Bridger's era (1960s), for you "history buffs" out there. The 'skeleton drill' involves only passers and eligible receivers (both wide-outs and running backs ) against DBs. Sometimes this will include LB's and DE's who are in pass coverage, as well. As a matter of fact, most of the time it does. The coverages are tight and bumps are real, but no full tackling is allowed. Rushers pull up or 'tap' the passers if they "get to them," but passes are then allowed to be thrown anyway, even though every one knows it would have been a sack. There are times when two passers throw on the same play, with one throwing to the right side and the other throwing to the left side of course. Today, however, it was just one quarterback at a time.

The last thirty minutes got to be very spirited and violent (despite the handicap placed upon the defenders) as a "quarterback audition drill" occurred. The order was 1) Cicero goes 6 plays 2) then Karas goes six 3) then Vinson for same and 4) Zachry for his six. No-one really stood out head and shoulders above anyone else. Greg Cicero did hit Fields for a good pass which stood out, and also hit the quick look-in passes (to Newhouse, Draa, and Golden) a bit better than the others it seemed. However, note that no QB scrambling was allowed - the QB's could not run around. To be fair, also, a very powerful cross wind was sweeping across the field making all passing work more difficult.

The OL #1's are now LT-Outland, LG-Pearcy, C-Fields (though he left the field early during the last thirty minutes and headed in...maybe for a class, giving way to Chris Sipes), RG-Murphy, RT-Helmcamp, TE-Shane Williams, who caught a nice pass. Luke Groth is the 2nd TE. Later in the scrimmaging, Bickel hurt his left hand (he thinks it's broken), A C Collier aggravated a slightly sore lower back strain and had ice being applied to it as practice ended. He may or may not be in tomorrow's scrimmage. Andino kicked field goals at the end...but the wind was a big problem.

What stood out? Again, it was coaching intensity! The players are also more intense than last fall. The coaches are much more intense than last fall. It is really an important change, IMO.  Chedrick Ricks, Eron Haynes and Ryan Long were 'AWOL' running backs today. It was probably due to classes, although Eron has been missing since the first of last week. We're certainly not going to wear out our welcome by asking too many questions about where this player is and where that player might be. 

The funny event of the day occurred during Tommie Frazier's "passes-to-RB's" drill, when a hard pass drilled one of the RB's right in the "how do you do's." He squalled like a youngster while writhing and laying on his back "holding on" for quite a while as everyone else tried to keep from laughing. It was especially difficult on the "lady manager" who at the time was Coach Frazier's center. Well, it was funny for all except the injured party, but since we aren't going to use any names, we don't think he'll mind.

March 22
 I arrived at the stadium at about 4:25 p.m. The team had already moved into Floyd Casey stadium and had begun practice. Initially, they began a six on eight - that's six offensive players against eight defenders, a mixture of linebackers and defensive backs - no linemen on either side. The first line of scrimmage was on the 15 yard line and the object was for the QB to hook up with a receiver and either score, or get much closer in. A lot was number one's against number one's, a scenario that would be played out much of the days. The four quarterbacks, Cicero, Karas, Vinson, and Zachry, in no particular order, rotated in and out so they might be working first team against first or second team against second, and each got plenty of work with both. There were some highlights and lowlights. Most of the lowlights had to do with passes being dropped that should have been caught. Newhouse had some of those, and I also heard him chastising himself and other teammates on the sidelines late in the practice about how they were practicing like kindergarteners out there, dropping passes and missing routes. Coach Steele, after the practice mentioned that there were many mistakes being made by the offense, but that they had had a lot of "stuff" thrown at them in the past week. I suppose he meant by that that most of the offense has been unleashed. In any event, there were several good catches and moves with good running after the catch by receivers. There was also some great coverages. Depending on who was throwing, who the target was, and who was defending had a lot to do with the outcome, but every quarterback had good plays and a boner or two. Some had more than two. 

The next set of plays found the line of scrimmage moved back 10 yards to the 25. From here, with a bigger field of play, things opened up a bit more. TE Luke Groth caught several passes, as did Shane Williams, Billy Crawford, and Chris DeLeenHeer.  It is fun to watch big TE's like Groth and DeLeenHeer catch and run, but don't count out Billy Crawford - he may be shorter, but he can be a "big play" guy out there. Shane Williams is also improved over a year ago. J Fields and Marques Roberts were very impressive, and Ray Harrington accounted well for himself. Bobby Darnell even got into the act a couple of times with some impressive catches over the middle. Frankie Draa looked good catching the ball and running the ball, but most of the time he was in there, so were the back-ups, so it will be interesting to see what he does if given a shot against the first or second team defenses. 

After the coaches were satisfied with this aspect of the practice, the team moved into scrimmaging. High School coaches were all over the field, but out of harms way, mostly behind the action. I was on the field during the first part of the scrimmaging watching from the backside, but soon moved into the stands, all the better to see from. Krieg ran hard, as did Golden, but today, at least, I was mostly impressed with Jonathan Evans who "bowled over" some first team defenders on occasion. He is beginning to show some things that could make him a big asset come fall. He goes down hard. There were some great passes and there were some not so great, but a couple of long touchdown passes certainly created some anxiety with players and fans. Frankly speaking, however, there were some infractions like holding, etc, going on at times that did have the potential to have the plays, at least some of them called back.

One thing I have noticed that, well, "it's about dad-gum time." When we are at the line of scrimmage, Cedric Fields uses his peripheral vision to keep eyes on the defensive line. If one of them steps across the line, then he immediately snaps the ball and the QB goes down on a knee. If the QB sees it, then he somehow signals Fields and the same thing occurs. I can remember, even going back into the Teaff days when the other teams would jump off sides, and we would seem to just sit there, and wait patiently until they re-set before hiking the ball. Evidently Baldwin will take the yardage anyway the defense will give it up, and well, "it's about dad-gum time."

The end of the practice came on one play. The ball was placed on the one. Evidently everything was on the line - first team vs. first team. The offense snapped the ball, the QB headed to his right, and lobbed the ball over defenders towards the open receiver, but a big hand, at the last minute, batted the ball away - it was John Garrett and the defense won the day. However, the thing about the play many of you are going to like the most is how the offense lined up - Two TE's on each end of a five-man offensive front line, the QB under center, on receiver wide to the right, and the full back lined up right behind the QB and the tailback lined up right behind the full back in the "I-formation." Yep, I know I just heard some whoops and hollers.
Now, for someone else's point of view of the practice: OL = LT-Quintin Outland, LG-Derrick Pearcy, C-Cedric Fields, RG-Antoine Murphy, RT-T J Helmcamp, TEs = Shane Williams/ Luke Groth/ Billy Crawford/ Chris DeLeenHeer. Helmcamp injured a wrist, and Glen Oskin spelled him.

The running game was more successful than last Tuesday. Frank Draa was especially successful with his 'always churning-never quit' runs to the weak-side. 

This observer's primary 'impression' from this scrimmage was that the team's enthusiasm is growing. There was consistently lots of support from teammates when one player would do something good. At least the white jerseys (offense) did that for their guys and the green jerseys (defense) did the same for each other. 

Greg Cicero hit Roberts on a fine long pass for a TD. Vinson looks great as a runner and his poise is obviously improved over last fall. Karas is a marvel with his footwork and ability to spot open receivers away from his original looking spots.
The defense is still 'ahead' of the offense, but not by as much as a few days ago. MLB Greg Wade and FS Matt Amendola are playing very, very well. Amendola has remembered how to hit. SS Derrick Cash made some fine plays of note. Good and tough hitting scrimmage...though not of an awesome quality. Better than last fall's, though.
Personally, I would like to see a QB (maybe two) dominate the defense on a drive marked by several completed passes. Occasional bombs are fine, but not the mark of a "good' offense." If more than two QBs do that, then the defense becomes suspect!

Today swing passes to RBs out of the backfield were called more often than last Tuesday's scrimmage. Use of J Fields 'in motion' and the 'trips' (3 receivers close together on one side) formation are being worked on a lot by the offense. Jonathan Evans seems eager to be an effective "big back" runner. Krieg looked fine, though not spectacular. RB 'award' of the day goes to Draa, although, to keep it in perspective, he was not going against the better defenders.. Best receiver overall was Marques Roberts, IMO. Best QB? No clear cut winner yet in this battle.   The best part of this practice was that there were no serious injuries resulting from this "battle," so far as I could see, and that's great!


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