1. I cannot imagine how awful it would have been to have held practice later this afternoon. I'd say it was pushing the 90's mid-way through practice. It was hot even in the shade. Thankfully, for the fans, the hill was completely in the shade this early. It made watching the practice bearable. Thanks to our players and coaches for working so hard for themselves and for us through these tough conditions. I spoke to several parents and many players today and they do keep up with reports such as this and I want to start off by thanking them for all of their hard work.
2. As has already been reported, Drew Little and Chris Jackson were in attendance today. I spoke to both for the first time in person and they are top-notch 100% Tech material. Unbelievable looking athletes too. Drew is a monster height-wise and he's only a rising sophomore (almost Drew Bledsoe-looking). Chris looks like he could go out on the field today and contribute. He kept a smile from ear to ear on all practice. Such a treat to speak with.
3. They weren't the only recruits there. "The Ambassador," a.k.a. Kyle Jackson, was there and I had the pleasure of meeting him in person for the first time. He's quite a character, as you would expect. He spent time talking with coaches, players and even guys like Jackson and Little.
4. There will be more practice pictures along later but here are some of my first impressions of our newest players… First off, let's hope Osahon Tongo is okay. He got injured and was down a while. It looked like it could possibly keep him out for a while so let's hope it's only something minor. Demaryius Thomas wears #8 and looks like Damarius Bilbo too. Both are big boys and great looking athletes. Thomas looks initially like a more natural receiver, where DBo had to work at it and warm up to the position for a while. Byron Ingram is tall and very rangy. He's very raw right now and kind of deer-in-the-headlights but that's to be expected from most freshman QBs. He's got some good physical skills to work with but it will be a while probably before he comfortable back there making decisions. Correy Earls, as others have stated, is an athlete. He looks taller than I pictured he'd be. He has very good wheels and will just need to consistently catch the ball first before possibly earning a role in 2006. It's very possible for him to see the field but we have several good receivers right now so the competition for playing time at WR could be as good as it's been in a while this year.
5. More on the new players… Jamaal Evans sat out the team drills, minor injury I'm guessing. I didn't see a lot of play out of Laurence Marius but I did meet him. He's tiny; a thin athlete who looks fast and seems like a confident guy. I look forward to seeing what he can do. I'm not sure he'll break in the depth chart right away like some hoped but it's really too early to tell. DeRon Jasper is very physical looking. He's built well for a Safety. Like Earls, I was almost surprised to see him in person. I wasn't expecting someone that big. He looks like a hit-man! Dominique Reese; didn't get to see much from him yet. A frosh walk-on WR named Miles King (5'10", 177, Landmark Christian) caught my eye in receiver drills. He dove for everything and, like Andrew Smith, seems to be a walk-on with good hands who we'll hear from again down the road.
7. More on new players… Quincy Kelly is stout. He seemed slightly surprised about moving to LB on the first practice but wasn't upset about it or anything. We talked about a conversation we had back during recruiting when he told me he'd be fine with either position and he said that was still the case. He says he loves playing LB too and he's there to do his job. I spoke with Trevor Bray before and after practice. He's one I've been looking forward to meeting all along since his folks have been very good to me about supplying me with information on his throughout the recruiting process and through the camps. He comes from top notch folks and is a tough-nosed, serious kid who came to play. I think he may have been surprised at just how hot it was out there. He made a good first impression on me on the field too. On a drill where the coach was throwing the ball kind of deep, Bray made a nice over-the-head catch just after Gause and Choice had missed on the same exact throw. He's built well and seems to have soft hands. I think we'll be in good shape on the depth chart behind future NFL player Mike Cox. The pipeline looks good.
8. More on new players… I didn't watch Sedric Griffin on the field much today but spoke with him. He was so happy to be out there playing ball. He said he was around 220 right now but looked bigger than that to me. Being from South Carolina, he said the heat didn't bother him and that he loved it. Shane Bowen was very active on the field today. He was banged up through much of spring so I didn't really get to see him much. He was on second team today and saw a lot of action at LB. Austin Barrick made a nice catch today in drills and is shorter but thicker than I imagined. He should provide some good depth at TE but with so many upper classmen ahead of him there little chance he'll see the field this year. Expect him to redshirt. Robert Hall was at DE. He's a bit undersized right now at around 225, but has good speed. He'll need some time to bulk up but certainly has a good frame to look a lot different at this time next year. Ben Anderson is another who'll need a year of weights and cafeteria. I think the coaches would probably like to see if he can put on upwards of another 20 pounds. He too is a serious-looking character who is all business on the field.
9. On to the rest of the team… I haven't always included a lot of Sam Williams in my reports but he earned a spot today on the all-practice team! He had a pick and a knock-down today in team scrimmage.
10. You guys are not going to like what I'm going to say next but I was not impressed at all with the offense today. Looks like a lot of work to do before being ready for September 3rd. We didn't break off a lot of big plays in scrimmage unless an individual broke a "tackle" and gained extra yardage. I'll, of course, have to give it more time but I thought the offense looked so much better in spring. If this was my only impression of the new offense, I'd have been worried. Neither Reggie Ball nor Taylor Bennett could really get into a good groove today IMO. Tenuta threw relentless pressure at them this early so that part of it for sure. But, for me, I thought we were a little too much east-west. I know we're just working on some base packages a bit at a time but hopefully we'll look a lot better in subsequent practices.
11. Next I'm going to summarize the 6 drives from team scrimmage. We ran 1st team, then 2nd team three times each. Ball and Bennett were the only QBs to take snaps in team scrimmage. I'm going to carefully report on this so as to not give away plays, sequences and so on.
12. Drive 1 (Ball): James Johnson made a short catch and dodged an attempted tackle from Jahi Word-Daniels and took it down the field for extra yardage. A nice dump off pass to Chris Dunlap with everyone else covered. Pat Clark tipped a Ball pass and Jamal Lewis grabbed the interception for a touchdown. K-Michael Hall CRUSHED Rashaun Grant on a run play in the backfield. Joe Anoai also had a big hit on Grant another play. Tashard Choice made a nice pickup block on a play where Kenny Scott successfully defended a pass to Calvin Johnson.
13. Drive 2 (Bennett): Frierson caught a low thrown ball. Sam Williams picked off a pass intended for Colin Peek. Incomplete pass to Xavier McGuire. Gause with 2 runs… one pushed out of bounds for little gain the other a nice 10 yard run. Catch by Andew Smith for short yardage. Timeout called by defense because they were not setup for the right defense. Coach Tenuta kindly asked for the players to "get your head out of your" well you get the picture.
14. Drive 3 (Ball): Tashard had one very short gain; Grant gained 5 yards on the ground but dropped a screen pass. Jahi was caught going off-sides. The subsequent free ball sailed out of bounds. Joe A ran down Ball, who wisely unloaded it out of bounds. Tipped pass, by Adamm Oliver, I think, and intercepted by Gary Guyton.
15. Drive 4 (Bennett): Included a motion penalty on the O. Martin Frierson made a short catch. A pass intended for Greg Smith was batted down by Sam Williams. Another play had everyone well covered and Bennett smartly threw it away. Loyall Gause had a couple runs for about 4-5 yards each. Matt Braman had a tackle on one of them.
16. Drive 5 (Ball): Tashard gained about 7-8 yards on 2 carries. One was a nice cutting run through the defense. All receivers were covered another time when Ball took off for at least 10 yards before being touched. A bad snap went past Reggie for a big loss of yards. JJ had a 5-6 yard catch and Calving caught a 20-yarder that was thrown low to where he slid to catch it.
17. Drive 6 (Bennett): Mike Cox got around the corner and way from Taalib Tucker for a 5 yard run. Frierson tipped a pass several times before losing the handle on it. Marcus Harris batted down a pass. #65 Andrew Folkner had a would-be sack. Two short completions to Bebe from Bennett. Taylor kind of side-armed one of the passed and did that a couple of times today.
18. I'll try to come up with some more impressions later AND answer any questions. I know others want to know about the other QBs but with them not getting scrimmage reps, I didn't get to see much of them. The did get some reps after practice in more drills but unfortunately I didn't get to see enough of Manley or Garner to tell. As I got over there Ingram was taking his turn. I promise to get a report on Kyle and Jonathan in later practices. Jonathan seemed to be moving well after his injury late in spring practice.