Some good news on the day was the presence of Reggie Lewis on the sideline. Lewis has missed two or three days of practice and been held in the hospital until they could try and figure out why he became ill at the end of practice earlier in the week. He didn't dress out but was seen on the sideline chatting with fellow players. You can see him in our photo gallery.
Here are just a few notes in special tams as they didn't do a bunch today.
Vernell Brown was the first punt returner out there today, Gavin Dickey the second. Nick Fleming punted first and hit a 51 yarder in the air, I saw Wilbur kick once and it went for 46.
Chad Jackson and Bubba Caldwell were the first two kickoff returners on the field. The next time out, Dee Webb joined Caldwell.
Tate Casey was a notable on the first team kick return unit, word has it that the staff likes Casey a lot as a pass catching tight end and a special teams player. He is really aggressive and plays hard every play.
Matt Leach was perfect on the day hitting all of his extra points and 1 field goal for 33 yards.
Offense and Defense Scrimmage
1st offense vs 2nd defense
The first team offense, when Chris Leak was at the helm, was dominant. They scored on 4 of 5 series and the fifth was a drill to run the clock. They ended that drive at the 14 and with only 14 seconds left.
Chris Leak completed 14 passes on 18 attempts for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns. You name it the sophomore threw it and he threw it well. Two of his incompletes were on purpose as he owned the ball to stop the clock and he threw the ball out of bounds one time because of good coverage and pressure. The difference in this scrimmage and the last is the amount of yardage per reception. In the last scrimmage he threw for only 10 yards a completion and this, for 16. One thing he has even gotten better at this year is that he doesn't throw the ball into coverage.
Leak's top target on the day was Jemalle Cornelius and he did his damage by air and by land. He had 106 reception yards on 5 catches for a spectacular 21 yard average. He combined that with a 35 yard end around that ended just 5 yards from the endzone. On Cornelius' first play from scrimmage his corner route split freshmen Kyle Jackson and Dawayne Grace. He was able to pivot and turn up field for an extra 15 yards as the play went for 40. He also took a slip screen and went the distance on the first play of red zone. In a little crossing patter where he ended up in the flat, Brandon Siler had decent position but Cornelius made him miss. He read two blocks and guided his way to the endzone. In the last two minute drill of the day Cornelius caught passes of 21 and 29 yards on basically the same route. He turned a 15 yard in route into extra yardage when both were wide open.
Dallas Baker had an excellent day as well. His 77 yards on 4 catches computes to over 19 yards per reception. He also scored twice in the scrimmage. The first was a strike on a simple out route. Dee Webb broke on the ball and missed the interception. Dallas hauled it in, turned up field and avoided a hard charging Terrance Holmes to skate into the end zone. Baker came back later and with Dickey at the helm of the first string offense, he caught a short pass and broke two tackles on his way to a 17 yard reception. Dallas ended the day in the 2-Minute drill with a Hail Mary catch in the back of the end zone jumping high over everyone to make the catch.
The running game wasn't quite as effective this scrimmage compared to the last for the first team offense. The backs averaged just over 4 yards a carry compared to the 8 in the last game. The rushing average was helped by the 35 yard reverse by Cornelius.
The second team defense as a unit didn't fare very well, but some players had good days.
Clint McMillan is the first to come to mind. He was a terror in two consecutive series when Billy griffin and Mo Mitchell subbed for Steven Rissler and Mike Degory on the first team offensive line. In the first of the two, he combined with Kenny Parker to sack Gavin Dickey in the end zone for a safety. In the second, he was all by himself on another Dickey sack. McMillan worked with the first unit yesterday when Marcus Thomas was ill.
The first team offensive line did play well, but gave up four sacks on the day. Three sacks when Dickey was the quarterback and 1 in the final two minute drill. True freshman Derrick Harvey beat Jonathan Colon around the end for one sack. McKenzie Pierre beat Colon for another. Colon seemed to hold Stephen Harris at bay most of the day.
Brandon Siler played well for the second team defense. On numerous occasions he took the flair and flat routes away from the backs or stopped them short after the ball was thrown.
1st defense vs 2nd offense
The first team defense allowed just one field goal in 10 series. The field goal came when the ball started just 20 yards from the end zone and after the second team offense only netted 4 yards on the drive.
Joe Cohen came alive today. I had him unofficially at 2 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback sacks on the day. He was solid all day and played extremely hard.
Jeremy Mincey continues to be a beast at the other end spot. He had at east one sack and several quarterback hurries. On one hurry, he caused the quarterback to throw a screen to fast and it netted (-4) yards.
Ray McDonald solidified the middle as running was difficult. They also combined for the first sack of the day on the fourth play of the scrimmage. Later on Ray McDonald wa held and had a sack that the refs didn't call. Still, the hurry to that play allowed Vernell Brown to pick the pass off.
Speaking of Brown, he has continued to play lights out lately and is fending off Dee Webb for that corner spot. I counted 2 pass break ups and an interception. He had stellar coverage all day.
Reynaldo Hill swallowed up Kenneth Tookes on one memorable play. A screen to the left and Hill fought off a blocker and squared up Tookes for a four yard loss. It was one more example of Hill being more aggressive than he was last year.
The safeties continue their remarkable improvement from the end of last week. On one particular play, Jarvis Herring smacks into Kenneth Tookes as the ball arrives. The ball careens off of him and into the waiting arms of Terrance Holmes who was flying to hit Tookes himself. Holmes returned the pick 28 yards. Holmes made another deep break up of a ball intended for Kyle Morgan. Holmes came back later and dropped an interception that hit him in the hands after he baited Dickey into a bad pass in the 2-Minute drill.
Earl Everett had a sack today. He was flying around making tackles and covering the backs in the flat.
Markus Manson was probably the highlight of the 2nd team offense. He had 47 yards today on 13 carries and showed a little bit of what they are expecting of him in the future. On a play near midfield, Markus reads and hits the hole accordingly. A linebacker comes screaming in and he stutters to the right at full speed and kicks it outside. A deep safety was there to stop the true freshman, but his eyes must have been huge when he made the first player miss and only the touchdown was in front of him.
Gavin Dickey is much better than last year. He certainly knows the offense better. His worst trait right now seems to be holding on to the ball too long. Now in his defense he is running with the second team and against the first. It is hard to say if the receivers are open to throw too and it is easy to see he gets more pressure than the second team defense gives the first.offense.
Because they do most of the running plays on the opposite field at practice, I don't much chance to mention Channing Crowder. Well be assured that ole Channing is still flying around out there. He most likely leads the team in preseason tackles and jawing with the man across from him. He did have one series where he made 4 of the 7 tackles.
Mike McIntosh continues to impress on the 2nd team offense, even playing against the 1st team all of the time. Today he played a lot on the third team and had a spectacular play. Totaling 63 yards and a touchdown, the wiry receiver ran a fade on the near sideline. He was bumped way out of bounds before the ball was thrown but continued o run. He established himself in-bounds and caught the Ingram bomb in stride. He made the safety miss and blew by for the touchdown. He has deceptive speed and moves and knows how to play the game. Today he ended up with 4 catches for 86 yards.
MacKenzie Pierre likes the scrimmages. H doesn't get much ink otherwise, but he has 2 sacks in each of the 2 scrimmages and that is with limited playing time.
DuJuan Lawrence led all rushers with 56 yards on 12 carries. The diminutive running back has exceptional speed and quickness. What is the most surprising about him is that he will run the ball straight into the middle amongst the big boys with seemingly little or no fear. Lawrence walked on last season as a regular student, and attended and played at Miami's Carol City High School.
Cornelius Ingram's stats were ok for having only thrown 3 passes. He was 1 of 3 for 63 yards and a touchdown. Its his feet that are gaining some attention right now. The 6-4, 209 pound freshman has shown off his feet by evading tackles and bootlegging outside very quickly. He has gotten himself out of trouble numerous times and gained first downs running the ball.
4 Minute Drill
The staff trotted a new drill out to the scrimmage called the 4-Minute drill. Unlike the 2-Minute drill, where the offense has to come from behind and score, this time the offense has the lead and has to protect it by running the clock down an/or scoring. Funny enough they used the exact situation as the end of the Arkansas game where the Gators got the ball at the 3:11 mark on the clock and a 33-28 lead. The ball was spotted at the 45 yard line, 55 yards away from a touchdown. That's the scenario; this is what happenned:
2nd offense vs 1st defense
1-10 at the 45, Manson off right side for 4, Crowder on the tackle.
2-6 at the 49; Manson for one tough yard, defensive time out.
3-5 at the 50; Dickey hits Eric Rutledge on a flat pass, he looses his balance but stys up by using his hand on the ground. He scoots to the 43 before Everett tackles him.
1-10 at the 43, Manson for 3 again.
2-7 at the 40, Rutledge hauls in the bootleg pass but Channing is right there for a gain of 1
3-6 at the 39, Manson run for 2
4-4 at the 37, offense going for it, but illegal procedure backs them up 5 yards and they have to punt
1st offense vs. 2nd defense, same scenario
1-10 at the 40, C-4 runs for 8 yards.
2-2 at the 48, C-4 for 1 tough yard,defense calls time out.
3-1 at the 49; Thornton runs a sweep for 3 yards.
1-10 at the 47, 2:10 left on the clock; delay of game offense
1-15 at the -48, Thornton for 5
2-10 at the 47; 1:05 left; Leak rolls out but Pierre is right there in his face a hurried throw gets to Latsk but Siler is there to make the tackle for a 2 yard gain.
3-8 at the 45, screen to Cornelius who makes a juke and breaks a tackle from Siler for 6 yards
4-2 at the 39, :14 seconds left; the offense tries to draw them off sides to no avail forced to punt.
2 Minute Drill
Score is 21-20, Offense has to score a field goal, 1:10 on the clock, ball is spotted 70 yards away from the end zone.
1-10 at 30; Dickey has to scramble nbut manages 2 yards/
2-8 at the -32; Tate casey catches a short pass for 2 yards, out of bounds stops the clock
3-6 at the -34, Terrance Holmes drops an interception that would have ended it.
4-5; Vernell Brown breaks up the pass and screams delighted.
Scenario: 1:07 on the clock, the score is 28-20, meaning the offense has to score a touchdown and a two point conversion to tie. The ball is marked at the 43 yard line, 57 yards from a touchdown.
1-10at the -43; Sklyer catches it behind the line and webb is there to greet him for no gain.
2-10 at the -43l Leak threw a corner pass to Dallas Baker and complete, but his feet were out of bounds on the 15 yard pass.
3-10 at the -43; Jemalle Cornelius was wide open in the idle of the field about 15yards deep, he caught the ball and headed to the endzone for a 21 yard catch.
1-10at the 36; Derrick Harvey blows by Jonathan Colon and gets the sack on Leak
2-18 at the 44; Zep Augustine should have intercepted a pass in the middle of the field.
3-18 at the 44; Cornelius again on the same route was wide open and got 29 yards on this reception.
1-10 at the 15; Leak has to down the ball because the clock is rolling.
2-10 at the 15; with 6 seconds left, Leak was pressured and has no choice but to throw it up to Dallas Baker in the end zone. Baker leaps in the air to haul it in for the TD.
2 point conversion - all the receivers to one side and Leak scrambles the opposite to get around the end for the score.
One of the coolest things for our group to see today was the play of the offensive line and in particular Lance Butler. This line loves to run down field and look for the little bodies on defense to crunch rather than the big ones they have to deal with all game. On the end around run, Butler and Colon were 25 yards down field blocking and Butler drove his man another 15 into then end zone. We all got a huge kick out of that.
Skyler Thornton was a pleasant surprise last year when he was allowed to play. This year he has been as good or better. The speedy back from LaGrange, Georgia may be the best back we have running outside. Even then, Coach Locksley says he is the toughest of the runners we have so he doesn't mind running inside. Thornton scored on a 4 yard outside run when he evaded the linebacker and outran the cornerback that didn't have a good angle. Thornton will get a lot of playing time this year.
One of the more humorous moments of the day was a skirmish between Tranell Morant and Randy Hand. You have to believe that the tempers will eventually flare as these two have lined up against each other every time it is 1st offense vs. 2nd defense. For all the punches thrown, I doubt they did anything more than hurt their own hands.
Eric Rutledge made two nice receptions today out of the backfield. The first, he caught the ball and when he turned up field he was pushed and nearly lost his balance. He used the hand away from the ball to balance himself and maintain his drive to get the first down and it was a show of good athletic ability. Rutledge looks already physically ready to play at the college level.
Dee Webb is on the second team right now and the starters are playing well enough to keep him there. Dee had a good start to fall camp and was a solid starter at one spot. He got injured and missed a few days and it seems as though the guys in front don't want to give it back because they have played very well themselves.
The Paramount Hotel has hosted the team for the last 2 weeks. In the past, the place the team stayed was not all that thankful for the off-season business they were given. The Paramount went out of their way this year to keep the players in the best shape for practice. The RTS busses were also always on call this year and with all of the schedule changes that were made they were superb in their service.