A common theme through the first two days has been how well conditioned the returning players are. Nearly every player back from the 2003 season appears to be in perfect shape. A number of players, such as Kerry Rhodes, Preston Smith and Joshua Tinch have bulked up as well. Amobi Okoye and Montavious Stanley have shedded unneeded weight and are in much better physical condition. Kudo's to Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Veltkamp for the obvious improvements.
While I have yet to watch each newcomer extensively, I have spent a good amount of time watching many of them through two days...Rod Council is the real deal. He has very quick feet and is displaying above average cover skills...Brandon Cox will need to add some strength, but he is likely going to see some time this fall as well...Johnnie Burns is yet another quick linebacker, and along with Lamar Myles, could provide depth this fall...Brian Brohm, while at times looking like the true freshman that he is, has for the most part played impressively. He has shown the ability to throw on the numbers while in the pocket and on the run...tight end Scott Kuhn looked better on Tuesday, making a few nice catches.
POSITION BY POSITION
The pads have yet to be put on, so it is still hard to get a true judgement of how the different units have improved, but here's our thoughts through two days of fall camp...
Still thin, but a quickly learning and developing Brian Brohm will remove that concern. Stefan LeFors has played like the 2003 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and then some. The senior has made numerous impressive throws, including some across the middle and down the field, many times catching the receivers on stride. Brohm throws equally well in the pocket or on the run. Both are displaying excellent field vision, checking off each receiver.
You can't go wrong no matter who gets the ball in this group. Lionel Gates continues to run with authority, showing breakaway speed as soon as he finds a seam. Eric Shelton, every bit of Gates equal, also is already running with force. Michael Bush has shown the ability to run to the outside, as well as up the middle. Kolby Smith, Reggie Bradshaw, Sergio Spencer and freshman George Stripling have all stood out at times each day. I have yet to see much from the fullback position and expect it will see increased attention during the coming days and weeks.
This is also a group with little to no concern. All have played well. J.R. Russell, Broderick Clark, Joshua Tinch, Montrell Jones, Tiger Jones and Harry Douglas could all be first unit guys. Tiger Jones and Russell have stood out through two days, with Montrell Jones looking strong as well.
The first unit is arguably the best first line that have ever played at U of L. Until the pads are on it will be difficult to get a proper read of the reserves.
My impression of the defensive line has improved through two days, but I'm looking forward to seeing them with pads on before getting too comfortable. Depth could be a concern all season, but it may not be as bad as initially thought. Tackles Montavious Stanley, Amobi Okoye and Bobby Leffew are all in great physical condition and it has helped them to become quicker and more agile. While Marcus Jones has one end spot secured, the other end appears to be wide open. Shane Bailey, who looked very promising during the spring, needs to improve his conditioning.
Another area of concern that is looking better than I anticipated. Even without Robert McCune, who could resume full practice on Wednesday, the 'backers have looked good. Preston Smith and Abe Brown have stood out through two days, while Matt Sanders is proving that he still has the ability to be the great linebacker most expected from him before his injuries.
William Gay has picked up where he left off in the spring and is playing well. Gay reminds me somewhat of a young Sam Madison. Antoine Harris, Antoine Sharp and freshman Rod Council have also looked strong. Rhodes summer conditioning is obvious and along with Brent Johnson, J.T. Haskins and Brandon Sharp, should equal improved play out of the safety position this fall.
Sophomore Brent Moody punted extremely well on Tuesday, including one session spent kicking into the strong wind.
Redshirt freshman Harry Douglas had a few visitors on Tuesday, as his father and brother, Toney Douglas visited the Cardinals practice. Toney is a point guard for the Auburn basketball team.