Top Five Surprises of Fall Practice

With less than two weeks remaining until the season opener against Texas A&M, CUTigers.com checks in with the top five surprises of fall practice.

#5. Cory Lambert is Ready
After not playing football for the last year and a half, it seemed logical to assume it would take freshman offensive lineman Cory Lambert time to re-adjust to the game. No so. Lambert has immediately established himself as a legitimate option at right tackle. In fact, don't be surprised to see him push Marion Dukes for playing time early in the season. "Freshmen wise, I would say that I would continue to rep Cory Lambert," offensive line coach Brad Scott said. "I'd say he's got some ability."

#4. Running Game Ahead of Schedule
There is cause for optimism, but don't get too excited just yet. Sure, the Tigers rushed for over 200 yards during Saturday's scrimmage, but let's wait until the team proves itself during the regular season. Some general observations: Reggie Merriweather seems to have picked up where he left off at the end of last season, James Davis has more talent than any of the other backs on the roster but still must master the offense to see the field, and all four backs, including Davis, Browning and Coleman will play this year. So far, the addition of new offensive coordinator Rob Spence, who is known for getting his teams to be able to rush the football, appears to be paying dividends for the Tigers' offense.

#3. Defensive Reserves Need Work
Maybe this isn't the biggest surprise, but it is an issue that continues to linger with less than two weeks remaining until the season opener. Simply put, there is a significant drop off in the secondary from the first to the second team. There is also a significant drop off at defensive end between the first and second team. The good news is there is talent at these reserve positions, the bad news is there is little game day experience. At safety, Mike Hamlin appears to be settling in and should provide sound support behind free safety Jamaal Fudge and cat safety C.J. Gaddis. At cornerback, Chris Clemons and Sergio Gilliam continue to battle for the starting spot opposite Tye Hill. But who will back up Hill? Who will become the fourth safety? At defensive end, freshman Phillip Merling is holding his own behind Charles Bennett and Cortney Vincent continues to back up bandit Gaines Adams. "Obviously, it's never as bad as it seems and never as good as it seems, but just like in the spring, there's a big separation between our ones and our twos," said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "We're trying to sub a bunch of twos in to get them experience against the fastballs."

#2. Groover Falling Back
Why is Donnell Clark running with the first team? Good question, and only Cory Groover has the answer. Not to take anything away from Clark, who has had a great preseason, but Groover needs to re-assert himself to get back with the first team. The team needs his size up front, not to mention his emotional leadership. "We've got some good competition up front. Cory Groover is the guy that needs to elevate it up a notch," head coach Tommy Bowden said last week. "He's got the talent to do it, but right now we've got some other guys ahead of him."

#1. McDuffie ... on Offense?
First it was learned that Chris McDuffie was moving from defensive tackle to offensive tackle. Seemed logical at the time as there is little experienced depth behind starters Marion Dukes and Barry Richardson and McDuffie has played the position before. Then, just two days later, Tommy Bowden announces that McDuffie has been moved to left guard. What? Aren't there enough viable options at guard already? What about Brandon Pilgrim, Roman Fry, Nathan Bennett and Chip Myrick? As it turns out, Fry has been moved to center, leaving a spot open for McDuffie. And to the staff's credit, McDuffie seems to have played well at the position up to this point.

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