Those fortunate few made their "oohs" and "ahhhs" with each acrobatic catch by JC All-American transfer Todd Watkins, who continues to live up his considerable preseason hype. He made a great 50-yard reception, outrunning his defender by at least five yards. He had to reach back for the slightly underthrown ball on the very first play of the practice-ending skeleton drill. Watkins urged even louder fan gasps of delirious joy with a one-handed grab on a flare pass across the middle during the drill.
"Todd Watkins has some ability and we have some other guys with some ability," Crowton said in an understatement. He added that, "We have about 31 guys here on the football team that weren't on the roster last year. There are a lot of new faces that inject talent and energy at a lot of positions. It's exciting to see those guys work."
Other new faces that made their presence known included JC cornerback transfer Greg Lovely, who demonstrated good cover skills knocking down one pass intended for David Gooch along the sideline on a 10-yard out. True freshmen wide receivers Antwaun Harris and Austin Collie also impressed with some nice catches. Harris was leveled by JC linebacker extraordinaire Justin Luettgerodt in the non-contact drill, got up and continued playing as if it were nothing.
Notably, the offense looks much better than they did this time last year. Projected starting safety, Jon Burbidge, had this observation: "These guys are going to be good. They're giving us a run for our money out there. I can definitely tell their level of play is a lot farther along this year than it was last year, but it's not really a surprise to me. I've been working out with these guys all summer and they were far along this past spring as well."
Crowton added, "We're deeper this year, especially at the skill positions. I feel that we have a better understanding about what we're doing. There was very good preparation by the players coming into fall camp. If we can continue to work hard through the next 26 practices, then we'll be ready to go."
The vets also stood out in the practice session. Both John Beck and Matt Berry looked sharp and threw crisp passes to a large contingent of highly motivated wide receivers competing for game reps this fall. Jon Burbidge knocked a pass down at the line of scrimmage and Rod Wilkerson caught several good passes on fly patterns and across the middle.
Wide receiver Michael Morris, who hurt his ankle in non-contact drills yesterday afternoon in practice, spent practice on the sidelines in a walking cast. Crowton said he was hopeful that Morris will be ready to go against Notre Dame. "He'll get a Cat-scan on it today. They don't think it will be broken, so I'm hoping it will be less than two weeks for him to come back."
Paul Walkenhorst skipped practice a second day as team doctors continue to evaluate his recuperation from surgery. "He (Walkenhorst) had surgery on his back last year and we're just doing a thorough check on him," Crowton said. "Everything looks pretty good. We should know on him in a couple of days. We just have to make sure that we get the right people looking at him."
He commented they were also waiting for clearance paperwork on incoming defensive tackles Isley Filiaga and Vince Feula. "We're just waiting on a ruling and some transcripts for them. Those should both be here real quickly," Crowton said.
Another wide receiver in attendance, but did not suit up was Watkins' teammate from Grossmont, Joe Griffin. Crowton said "Griffin is going to get a scope on his knee. His knee has healed up, but they just had a little flap of cartilage that they're going to take care of. He should be ready to go next week."
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