Our first in depth look at spring practice will focus on all of the positives that we saw during Saturday afternoon's scrimmage.
WR J.J. McKelvey- McKelvey burnt every one he faced in the secondary on Saturday for two simple reasons- because he's tall and because he's aggressive when the ball is the air. McKelvey bullied around Toure Francis and any other cornerback that stood in his way, and romped his way to over 100-yards receving and a couple of touchdowns.
I also was pleasantly surprised by the vocal leadership shown by McKelvey. He is a guy that a lot of players seem to respect and pay close attention to when he talks. He was the guy that let the other recievers know when they did something good and when they screwed up.
With a couple of more performances like that, he'll be on the first team in August. Without question, he reminded a lot of people of Rod Gardner on Saturday.
RB Keith Kelly- Kelly saw most of the action Saturday afternoon at running back and he looked great in doing so. The coaching staff seems to know exactly what they have with Benard Rambert and Rambert looked extremely comfortable out there with Kelly getting most of the spot light. That leads me to believe that Kelly will have to dominate whenever he gets the chance if he's going to overtake Bernard before August 31st.
What impressed me most about Keith Kelly was his versatility. He was able to break lose for a couple of "take it to the house" runs, and he also was able to bull over a couple guys in the secondary to gain extra yardage. He showed briliant determination around the goaline- refusing to go down, even with 3 or 4 defenders taking shots at him. I'm very excited about his potential, and he'll still see a good bit of playing time, even if Rambert is the starter.
LB Rodney Thomas- Thomas looked like the meanest football player on the field Saturday afternoon, and boy was that refreshing. He made several punishing hits on some of the smaller running backs (Tye Hill and Kyle Browning), and he also consistently showed outstanding quickness and discipline. I almost get goosebumps thinking about him and Kelvin Morris, Brandon Jamison, and the other returning linebackers next season. This unit could be one of the top in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Once Thomas punished somebody with one of his brutal tackles, whether it was a running back or wide receiver, he would let them know about it as soon as they got up. Quite frankly, he could be that missing "nasty" element that this defense so desperately needed last season.
RB Kyle Browning- Kyle looks like the Tye Hill we all were expecting this spring. He's got similar quickness, but he is much more polished and built at this point. He seemed to hit the hole unafraid of contact, even though some of those linebackers seemed to be twice his size.
Coach John Lovett- I was very impressed with Coach Lovett and his demeanor out on the football field Saturday afternoon. He did a couple of things that impressed me, and I'll do my best to describe them for you.
It appears that he has installed a new little trick whenever the opposing team fumbles the football. Once that ball goes on the ground, the entire football team is pointing in one direction or another, yelling that it should be there ball- without any hesitation whatsoever. Even the guys on the sideline all get up off the bench and start screaming. I guess he's trying to get into the ref's head or something. If anything it gets the team fired up- which is good in my book.
Aside from that, he's quick to jump on someone's case when they aren't peforming up to par, but he's also quick to tell a player when he's done something right. And he notices everything- from poor form tackling to a player being barely out of position.
The bottomline on Lovett is that he's an excellent teacher, and I think he relates to the players in a very positive way. That fact alone is going to pay huge dividends for this defense next season.
QB Charlie Whitehurst- In my opinion, we should allow this so called "quarterback controversy" to continue until Willie Simmons steps up and shows that he is without a doubt, this team's starting quarterback.
One thing that you have to remember about Saturday's scrimmage is that Willie had to face the first team defense, while Charlie went against the 2nd team- and there is a big drop-off between those two units. That being said, Whitehurst still looked fantastic.
I made it a point to get out to the practice fields early so that I could see Charlie warmup, and I was very impressed from the beginning.
The first thing you notice about Mr. Whitehurst is his poise. He has a natural throwing motion and with his height, he can put a ton of velocity on the football without even trying.
During the scrimmage, he more than held his own, compeleting 14 of his 15 passing attempts for over 220 yards and 4 touchdowns. It must be noted that he was helped out several times by a receiver (like McKelvey) that would go up and fight for an underthrown deep ball, but generally speaking the kid looked dynamite.
He looked very confident in all his passes, distributing the ball out in the flats when his first 2 or 3 targets were covered, and putting a little extra zip on ball on those tough crossing patterns. And of course you know that he's a tall kid- and that just helps him spot the open receiver faster than a lot shorter quarterbacks, and it also prevents alot of those batted down balls from the taller defensive linemen.
FB Clifford Harrell- This kid has a lot of potential and great size. I was pleasantly surprised by his peformance as he wasn't afraid of taking on a big defensive lineman or a oncoming linebacker. He also seemed to move really well. He did miss a couple of blocks down around the goaline, and received an earful from Coach Brad Scott on several occasions, but I think we'll see this kid get some good playing time this fall.
WR Kevin Youngblood- He didn't catch a lot of balls or do anything that stood out, but thats alright in my book. The important thing is that he was on the practice field and running full speed in pads. It will take some time for him to return to his form of a year ago, but I firmly believe that he's getting there.
Altroy Brodrick- This guy may be the top athlete on the team. He consistently displays outstanding quickness and pure speed. Simply put- he has moves that alot of guys on the team don't have, and with all his athleticism, he could be a major force on defense next season.
We'll have more updates on spring practice throughout the next couple of days.
Insider Spring Practice Report
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