The quarterbacks have looked pretty good for the last couple of days. Saturday saw more of a positive turn for the signal callers, especially starter Jeff Driskel and true freshman Will Grier. Driskel showed off his strong arm a few times hitting 10-15 yard pout passes from the opposite hash to the sideline and getting the ball there very quickly and able to keep it away from defenders. It is absolutely easy to see that new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is all about getting the ball out of their hands quickly and to the receiver as fast as possible. Driskel can do that and unlike day one, he has been on target for the last two days.
It is hard to argue that those weren't some of the best throws on the day; they certainly are throws that professional teams would consider quality plays from a quarterback. But, Will Grier hit two long throws that were the best plays of the day. On opposite sidelines he threw a 40 yard fade to Chris Thompson and although a little bit underthrown, Thompson made a great play on the ball coming down with it even though blanketed by star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. On the opposite sideline, walk-on receiver Ryan Parrish ran a double move past freshman corner Jalen Tabor for another 40-yard bomb that would have gone for a touchdown. It was a beautifully thrown ball right on target from Grier.
I think when we are talking about the quarterbacks one of the things we should mention again is the number of short passes. It appears that Roper loves the screen pass. We actually know we have some receivers that can block and of course we haven't seen them practice much in the last few years so we don't know how much they work the screen, but we have seen a ton of bubble screen plays in practice and it appears they actually like to tell the defense it is coming to fight through the defense even harder and become more proficient at pulling it off.
Another pass we saw late in practice three out of four plays in the 3rd down drills was the slant pass. Just 5-7 yard slant passes that hard to cover and easy passes for quarterbacks. All three went for first downs and were well thrown by Driskel.
The receivers played well for the most part, but you could tell they got tired as the day wore on as the first time in pads. I saw drops from Quinton Dunbar, Demarcus Robinson, Valdez Showers, Ahmad Fulwood, and Chris Thompson. I know there were more.
Chris Thompson had a great day overall though. He is getting a lot of work and he has taken advantage of that. He is the fastest player on offense and you can really see they really want to utilize any speed they have on the offensive side of the ball. Thompson had a drop and fell down late in practice, but he was flat worn out from all the use he was getting at that point.
Dunbar, Robinson, and Fulwood are the top of the heap though. Robinson can really do some things with the short pass and he can make DB's look silly with just a couple of yards of space. Demarcus Robinson made Duke Dawson look silly on particular short pass. Before the rep, defensive back coach Travaris Robinson bet D-Rob 10 pushups that he wouldn't beat his guy Duke. T-Rob owned up after the rep.
With just myself to cover the practice on Saturday due to the tournament, it is hard to watch both the running game and passing game going on simultaneously at points in practice, but we did catch a few glimpses. I was able to peer over in time to watch Kelvin Taylor make a couple of terrific "kelvin Taylor type" moves for big plays. On the first, he took a handoff for an inside run, dipped inside and quickly jumped outside to the right and a wide open field. On the next play he followed his blocking beautifully on a power play over the left guard and ran untouched into the secondary.
We did see Adam Lane get more work today. He looks to be able to catch the ball well and get down field quickly after the catch. Also I liked the look of Mack Brown for the second day in a row. Brown looks to have slimmed a little, maybe a little faster. That is what they need more out of their dependable short-yard guy.
One other thing that is very noticeable in practice is the use of Hunter Joyer as a flexed out player. Maybe as an H-back, I am not sure, but he has spent a lot of time in pass routes and he has made the best of it catching the ball over the middle. I would bet Chandler Cox in attendance likes what he sees with what Joyer is doing. Backup Gideon Ajagbe has been missing from drills with an undisclosed injury.
Tevin Westbrook has continued to be the most used tight end on the field. Like I mentioned yesterday, he looks slimmed down and ready for a better role as a flexed out tight end. He has been a target a few times in the middle of the field and usually comes up with the catch. I saw a couple of nice grabs from freshman DeAndre Goolsby as well. He continues to get a lot of reps and is an odds on bet to play a lot this year in my opinion. The starting offensive line is still tackles D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green; guards are Trip Thurman and Tyler Moore, and center Max Garcia. I asked Trenton Brown about his weight and he told me he was down 14 pounds and is headed for another 20 more. He really looks good out there. If I had to pick a lineman looking the best it would be Chaz Green, His footwork is exceptional right now after trimming down a bit.
Offensive Player of the Day: He made a couple of late mistakes, but Chris Thompson was really good today. They like him on the crossing routes like Patton used to run with all of his speed. But, he also showed the ability to go down field and make the deep catch even when covered like a blanket from Hargreaves. If he had a little more muscle and stamina, he would be even better.
One thing they have to get settled is the field goal kicking. There is nobody on the field kicking medium and long range field goals very well.
The one kicker that has been ultra-impressive has been punter Kyle Christy. The junior senior punter who had an All-American type year in 2012 struggled last year and lost his job to true freshman Johnny Townsend. Well he has hit three punts in the last two days that all traveled 65+ yards in the air and hasn't had a bad punt at all in that time. He has been killing the ball.
It looks like Vernon Hargreaves might be the best punt returner. He can make someone miss in a phone booth, but there will be some competition. One guy that wants a piece of the action is Brian Poole and he very well could get a chance as a junior. I think another one that could be very good is Alvin Bailey.
They practiced punt coverage today with some drills and Antonio Morrison was surprisingly good at being a gunner. Another surprise in the coverage was Bailey. It really looks like Bailey wants it this year; he is stepping up all over the field.
Of the young guys, Joey Ivie made a couple of big plays including the hit of the day on a toss to running back Mark Herndon that Ivie smashed him on. The thud was loud and everyone in attendance yelled "oooohhhhh!!!" on the hit. Ivie is stepping up. Bryan Cox looked good again today.
I didn't like the body language of BUCK Alex McCalister the first two days, but thought it was better on Saturday. Still, he struggles because he needs more size and strength.
Caleb Brantley and Jaynard Bostwick continue to make strides and are getting their fair share of praises from the staff.
At linebacker, we are seeing more and more of Daniel McMillian. The sophomore just has to get the mental aspect of the game and things will be fine for him. He is as physically gifted as anyone out there.
Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor are the guys that are playing the best overall. Neiron Ball has missed a couple of days with some injury. Jarrad Davis was big on day one, haven't noticed him much in the last two days.
Vernon Hargreaves is so confident, even when he gets beat, he is doing everything he can to make the play and someone just makes one over him. But, his confidence oozes all over the field and hopefully to the other guys. He also likes to talk some smack.
Before one rep Hargreaves was all over Demarcus Robinson telling him, "You must have dropped some balls because the quarterbacks don't want to throw to you."
Marcell Harris made more really good strides on Friday. He ends up getting words from the staff a lot, but it is because he is going full speed, or trying to. Trust me, they like it when that happens. He has been all over the field in last two days.
Marcus Maye got the only interception I saw on the day. Walk-on Christian Provancha finally got a rep in 7on7 and was being rushed by the staff. He stammered on his throw to Tevin Westbrook, underthrew him and Maye stepped right in front of it for the INT.
This was probably the roughest day for freshman Jalen Tabor. He was burned deep for a TD from walk-on Ryan Parrish liked we mentioned earlier, he also just looked tired. Maybe this first week has caught up with him.
There was a funny exchange between Joker Phillips and T-Rob. Phillips was on the DB's about something they were doing and T-Rob ribbed him about his babies. It was a very humorous exchange when it happened.
Player of the Day: He was picked on during the first day, but I am going to go with redshirt freshman safety Marcell Harris. He had a few pass break ups and more often than not he was in the right place at the right time. He clearly looks like any worry about his injury is behind him.
That is all for now, we will be back at it on Monday.