SPRING: Running Backs vs. Linebackers

The one-on-one tackling drill was one of the more intriguing moments during yesterday's practice session. I focused solely on the match-up between the linebackers and running backs.

This has always been one of my personal favorite drills. The coaches handed the ball off to a back ten yards from the linebacker. The ‘backer takes a step back and quickly turns toward the line of scrimmage to cut off the ballcarrier. He has to square him up and make the tackle. The opponents usually meet in the middle at the five yard marker. There are boundaries on each side so the ballcarrier is forced to engage the defender.

Victories were few and far between for the ballcarriers. Only DeShawn Wynn came away with an acceptable 2-1 record. Wynn was tackled by Brandon Siler on the drill's first play. However, he later put a spin move and used his strong legs to elude a tackle by Earl Everett. Later, Wynn got by Brandon Siler who bit on a wiggle.

Markus Manson also recorded a pair of victories. Manson made a terrific cut that fooled Siler and ran to the endzone. Near the end of the drill, Manson rolled Brian Crum with a spin move and once again ran to daylight. Unfortunately, Manson was also hauled down on four attempts. Many of those included plays where he shouldn't have gone down so easily.

One player the coaches were seemingly eager to watch was true freshman Chevon Walker. He had six attempts, which tied Manson for the most attempts. Walker didn't fare well today. He missed on each and struggled against Eric Sledge, Darryon Robinson, Ryan Stamper, and Brian Crum in the drill.

The only other backs to record victories were Eric Rutledge and tight end, Tate Casey, who participated in the drill. Rutledge made a cut on Stamper, who was totally caught off-guard. Several of the offensive players belted out a chorus of "Whooo!" in unison.

Casey got by redshirt sophomore linebacker Jamaal Deveaux for his score.

Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that none of the linebackers were able to lay a pop on the ballcarrier. That happened one a few occasions where the receivers and secondary were working on the same drill just few yards away.

The line worked on stunts in two-on-two match-ups across the field early in the session. It appears that would be something to focus on while watching Saturday's Orange and Blue game. Many of the younger linemen had difficulty picking up the stunts, which is not altogether unusual in the spring. That is especially true of the reserves. Obviously, Steve Rissler and Phil Trautwein miss working alongside Jim Tartt, who is out with a shoulder injury. Simon Codrington has stepped in, but has not been as effective.

The lines also worked man-on-man. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Maurice Hurt, who tallied a pair of back-to-back wins over Joe Cohen. Cohen patted Hurt on the helmet after the second attempt. Cohen actually seemed a little tired today. But, truth be told, most of these guys are ready for the spring to end.

It's nearly impossible not to see the improvements made by Drew Miller, who beat Derrick Harvey in this drill rather handily. Traut also beat Harvey, but seemingly had a much tougher battle on his hands.

Reserve center Eddie Haupt schooled defensive tackle Vernon Shelton twice in this drill. Haupt struggled a bit in the two-on-two drills against Clint McMillan and Lutrell Alford. However, he seemingly took out any frustrations on Shelton later.

One of the more dominant blocks was Jason Watkins win over Javier Estopinian.

In the early scrimmage session, Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey reigned supreme. Moss was praised several times during the day. Coach Mattison yelled out, "You're getting better every day Harvey!" after he trashed the right side of the line of scrimmage and forced the back to the inside where the linebackers were waiting on him.

The tackle best suited to get after Moss and Harvey is Miller. While Traut has looked good, Miller appears to be the best at matching up with either of them. Look for that match-up on Saturday.

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