USAAAB: West Morning Notebook

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The West practice was one of the more lively ones in recent memory, and the defensive players came out and showed its swagger. Check out this feature for a full report on the action.


It was a cold and windy session, so the quarterbacks faced a tough task to even complete uncontested passes. Jake Heaps is probably the most consistent all-around performer. He has a great drop and footwork and does deliver an accurate throw, even in the windy conditions.

Austin Hinder, who struggled remarkably in front of at the Las Vegas 7-on-7 earlier this year, still has a long delivery, but looks to have added some good weight and seems to have the most zip on his passes.

Connor Wood is somewhere in the middle of the other two players. He looks good in his drops and has a decent arm. His biggest positive of the opening session is that he had the least amount of botched snaps.

Running Back:

The running backs did not have much to work on, as the team just was not able to get a hand off to go right. Between the botched snaps and domination by the defensive front, it was nearly impossible for any opf the backs to get a head of steam going forward.

Malcolm Jones had maybe some of the most shining moments. He showed some good cutting ability and got to the secondary on one run, which was probably the most impressive run of the morning practice session.

It was also interesting to note the position changes of Dillon Baxter and V.J. Fehoko. Baxter was initially slated to play receiver and Fehoko, who struggled at linebacker, was moved to play some fullback.

Wide Receivers:

The biggest story was that two of the more unheralded recruits coming in to the game were Nate Askew and Ross Apo, and they made a great initial showing. Apo gets off the line great and looks like a million dollars physically. Askew does look like he is a tweener between TE and WR, but he catches the ball well away from his body and shows good speed for his size.

Justin McCay was slated to play linebacker, where has him ranked, but he has already been moved to linebacker.

Robert Woods is rated as the number one player in the country and he probably had the number one play of the day on a long touchdown pass from Austin Hinder.

It is easy to see that Trovon Reed has some of the strongest hands in America.

DeAndrew White was feast or famine. He had the practices most spectacular catches, including a one-hander that anyone would appreciate, but he also dropped a number of easy ones.

Offensive Line

Coming on to the field and going through the drills it looked like the offensive line was pretty solid from a technique standpoint. One player who really jumped out at you from a physical standpoint was Seantrel Henderson, but he struggled somewhat against the speed rush. He does have excellent feet and by the end of the week he will have adjusted just fine. Nothing to dispute his number one ranking, but it has been an adjustment for him to deal with blocking more talented players than he faced in high school.

Nick Demien played with a whole lot of nasty. He was out here for a reason and that reason is to bash people in to the turf. He never even took it easy on his fellow linemates in the drills.

Jake Mathews, whose father (Bruce Mathews) is an NFL Hall of Fame lineman, made the move from tackle to center and really struggled with the exchange. At one point the coaches had to call a halt the action to take him off to the side and work with him on the position.

The first starting line to hit the field was: Henderson (LT), Trey Hopkins (LG), Mathews (C), Rodriguez (RG) Demien (RT)

Defensive Line

The strength of this team is clearly going to be the defensive front. They were so good that the offense struggled to even get any plays off, most especially in the passing game. All of them are big, quick, and ultra-talented.

Ronald Powell came right out of the gate to show his dominance and on a number of occasions was able to blow past Henderson to blow a play up in the backfield.

On the first snap of one-on-one work between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen Owa Odighizuwa was also able to beat Henderson, but instead of speed he used power and forced the big 330 pound behemoth on his butt. It is clear that the defensive guys look forward to being pitted against the nation's top talent.

Calvin Barnett did not look as tall as advertised, but he is certainly a massive player and looks every bit of 330 pounds himself. He is more of a run gap specialist, but was able to show his athleticism on of the first plays of full scrimmage action as he bowled past Mathews to force a fumble before the quarterback could hand the ball off.

Sione Potoae is also a great player on the inside at defensive tackle and has great burst. He ranking was recently upgraded and he has the skills to justify it.


It was a quiet day for the linebackers as the defensive front took care of the scrimmage action and the linebackers just basically got to sit back and watch the action.

Josh Shirley amazingly got in to the backfield and tipped a pitch from Jake Heaps to Malcolm Jones on the first play from scrimmage setting the tone for the West‘s defensive dominance. He also seemed to be the emotional leader on the field.

Defensive Backs:

Much like the linebackers the defensive backs did not get much action in the scrimmage, but they did at least get the chance to go through seven-on-seven action,, but the biggest problem that seems to be popping up is that they do not have a wide abundance of coverage corners to protect the "field corner".

Mathis shows some good ball skills, but really does not have the ideal size to shut down some of the more talented "big" receivers. And while DeMetrius Wright does have great size he does not seem to have the hips to keep up with the speed guys down the field, that is if they are able to get off of the line on him. Marquis Flowers may have shown the best blend of all the necessary skills and while he is listed at safety he is working out at corner. He may end up being the best of the bunch.

At the safeties Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson look to be a good combo at strong (Jefferson) and free safety (Dixon). Dixon is rangy with good coverage skills, and Jefferson just looks like he could lay the wood when given the chance. Problem is that he has not got his chance, yet.

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