Practice Observations: Running Game (8/12)

So far this fall up front, it has been about the defensive line. While the offensive line has had its moments, it is Dante Fowler and the defensive line that has been the most disruptive unit on the team in fall camp.

That didn’t change on Tuesday.

Just like in the spring, Dante Fowler doesn’t get many reps because he has been such a menace to guard while playing on the edge. They are now really moving him around a great deal with three-man fronts in front of him and he can line up anywhere of the three linebacker positions behind that front.

When he is on the edge, it doesn’t matter who he goes against, he wins almost every single time.

The good thing on Tuesday for the defensive line is that while Alex McCalister is out a little bit for a minor injury, red-shirt freshman Jordan Sherit stepped in behind Fowler and did a really nice job forcing several plays on the day. Sherit has elite quickness and has gotten a little bigger where he can handle the long strong arms of the tackles he is going against. I would say he has probably played better than McCalister at this juncture in fall camp so far.

Jonathan Bullard was a hoss as well as freshman Gerald Willis at the defensive end position. At this point in time, I just don’t see anyway Willis doesn’t get playing time on defense this year. Both made multiple plays in the backfield on the day.

Of the defensive tackles, Joey Ivie got a lot of playing time with Leon Orr out and played well. He is an ox and holds his ground well allowing linebackers and ends to come in and make plays. But, to me it was Caleb Brantley that I see really establishing himself with his quickness and tenacity and becoming a play maker. On a couple of 1on1’s, Brantley just blew right by the guard trying to block him. Both technique and quickness were apparent in the maneuvers. Then in the passing game he blew up at least one play in the backfield and would have likely had a sack.

The outside backers got their chance to go 1on1 with the OT’s in pass-pro drills and didn’t fare very well. Neiron Ball and Jeremi Powell both got manhandled on a couple of snaps each when the linemen got ahold of them.

Antonio Morrison made a few plays to day as did Michael Taylor. The short passing game and screens were on display and the two sniffed out a few of them and made plays on the ball.

D.J. Humphries is fine at his craft until he gets matched with Fowler. He just has not been able to get that number yet. Otherwise, the quick-footed Humphries usually wins his battles. The best play on the offensive line is coming from center Max Garcia, right tackle Chaz Green, and his backup Roderick Johnson. Green had to take some time out of the middle of practice to hydrate and that allowed Johnson to show off. He isn’t the tallest player, but he has great strength and long arms. He uses his strength to stand defenders up. Garcia repped against Darious Cummings a few times and won. On one play, Garcia absolutely stoned Cummings and didn’t give an inch of ground. With Trip Thurman out a day or two more with a bruised shoulder, big Trenton Brown played ok inside. He needs to get better, but is such a load when he does get hit hands on someone. Tyler Moore won most of his reps at left guard.

The second unit OLine is still the issue but we have consistently talked about Brown, Johnson and David Sharpe as being the best three there. Muschamp said as much on Monday, but Sharpe had some issue today and just could not keep up. He was visibly hurting or dragging or just not able to do everything that was asked of him. He was scolded by OLine coach Mike Summers at one point and removed from the practice, but he returned to play a little better later. He could be hitting somewhat of a wall right now with all the constant practicing they are doing. It is something to be monitored.

We saw a little bit of Travaris Dorsey at left guard today and I love his build, but he is the shortest lineman on the team. He looks more like a squat DT, but he gets some power up under his legs and can really move people.

Mack Brown got the start because Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor missed practice. I don’t know if it was the rain or not, but I saw him drop the ball twice and I am pretty sure Brown has never had a fumble in any game he has played in. It could be something to watch when it does rain, because they like to use Brown when they need a tough yard and can’t afford a turnover. He did have a couple of nice runs otherwise.

Brandon Powell continues to impress although he found things a little tougher today. It did look like he was letting the game come to him a bit more. On one carry on the left side he took the ball wide and moved forward, but not too fast trying to allow a crease to open up and dart through. The defense covered it well, but it was great seeing that patience from a guy with such quicks.

Since we are talking about the running game, I should mention Treon Harris. The freshman quarterback from Miami was wearing a blue contact jersey so he was live when it came to tackling. They had him running several wildcat running plays in short-yardage situations on the field we were closest to. He got the first down all three times I saw. On time he was scolded on a 3rd and 1 because he wasn’t riding the tail of the lead blocking running back, yet he picked up about four yards.

Other Observations:I will reiterate Cody’s comments. Harris looked sharp throwing the ball on Tuesday. Roper had a designed curl-flat route combo on the left side, a Spurrieresque route combo, two plays in a row and he hit the right guy both times with sharp passes and no hesitation. He seems to be catching up… J.C. Jackson keeps making plays on the ball. He is a tough and physical player and perfect complement to Hargreaves on the other side(who was still out from injury). I think Jackson is a starter by game three… Ahmad Fulwood had his best day that I have seen, that needs to happen… Driskel executed a couple of extremely nice screen plays that went for big yardage, another welcome sign… There are too many tight ends on the roster (8 scholarship), five seniors and guys that may be able to contribute somewhere, although I am not sure. I think I would do something with them differently than is being done…. Two red-shirt freshmen to watch IMO are Caleb Brantley and Jordan Sherit and there should be more, but those two were big on Tuesday.

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