Spring Report: Quarterbacks

Careful not to repeat last year's musical chairs scenario at his all-important quarterback position, head coach Gary Crowton reaffirmed today that Matt Berry is clearly "the guy" -- even as John Beck shows continuing improvement.

"I think the competition is very good right now. I still think Matt Berry is the guy. I'm happy with his progress because he's handling all situations against the One's (first defense). He's getting better too, and he's got the other guys pushing him.

"I thought Berry had a good practice on Monday. I haven't looked at this one on film, but I saw him do some good things today."

(Pictured is running back Taufui Vakapuna, who is expected to be a significant impact player this year from his fullback position.)

Berry showed good poise in the pocket this morning. Evidently more confident and comfortable with the offensive line, he did not show the jitters or happy feet apparent last season. He has also shown good decision-making skills when his offensive line breaks down.

On one play this morning, Berry quickly checked off well-covered receivers down field, tucked in the ball and ran past a pursuing linebacker for a 16-yard gain. The sideline offensive coaches seemed pleased.

Meanwhile, Beck is also becoming more comfortable with every practice.

Said Crowton: "John Beck had a good scrimmage (Saturday). He was 5 for 5 with three touchdowns with the Two's (second team). I was pleased that he did really well with that group.

"He's still gotta learn the line of scrimmage -- how to handle the line of scrimmage, getting under center, get there and get set and all that. But he has made some good progress and I'm happy with that."

Recently returned from his mission several months ago, Beck said today "we just focus on getting better each week.

"Offense had a pretty good scrimmage last Saturday, but we want to keep getting better. Like coach Crowton says, we don't want to be a good team, we want to be a great team. So each week we just want to work harder.

"For the quarterbacks, we want to get our completions and ratio's up. We have to always try to be more crisp and really try to motivate the offense in the huddle. We have to hustle around and get the football in the end zone. The offense is getting more comfortable and we're feeling much better as a team."

Where the defense completely dominated in the initial weeks of spring practice, the offense now has stepped up to effectively neutralize and counter the vast array of blitz's and other new defensive formations.

A positive signal is watching smiling offensive linemen walking off the field joking and smiling.

During today's brief scrimmage, starting running back Marcus Whalen and Vakapuna looked good taking on their defensive teammates.

Wide receivers Chris Hale, Breyon Jones, and walk-on Matthew Smith also had a good scrimmage today.

On one notable backfield play, Vakapuna made a crushing hit on a cornerback that flew in to make a play. Speeding to the outside with a full head of steam, Vakapuna lowered his shoulder in a collision that left the smaller cornerback laying on his backside. Vakapuna gained 13 yards on the play.

"This week, we are more confident than last week. I'm telling you, man, the team is going to look right. Right now, the team's timing is doing good, but it will only get better. We are just trying to get everything organized and get it right."

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