Note: David Helman watched the offense today, while Jeremy Kenny watched the defense.
Perhaps due to tomorrow’s full-team practice, today’s outing looked much different from the past three.
Quarterbacks Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee began their day with a much different pass routine, as they took turns heaving the ball from their 15-yard line to the opposing 45. Each pass reached its destination, but the 40 yard throws seemed to be about the extent of Hatch’s arm strength.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers then got together for fade routes. Things got off to a slow start, with Brandon LaFell and Jared Mitchell dropping the first two balls. Coach McCarthy set things straight, however, by implementing a five-pushup penalty for drops.
Tolliver, LaFell, and Byrd followed up with nice catches, and Ricky Dixon made a particularly nice catch in which he lost the ball in the sun, turned himself around, found it again, and then caught it. Tolliver gave up on a partially overthrown ball, prompting the line, “don’t be afraid to catch the ball now,” from McCarthy.
The unit warmed up with eight-yard out routes, with the passes being on target and the receivers making their catches. Chris Mitchell made a nice diving catch, while Trindon Holliday suffered the only drop.
The wide receivers and quarterbacks got to work on flag routes, which had not previously been run while the media was present. It started off rather ugly, as both QBs’ timing and placement was off on this particular route. After about four incompletions, things picked up as the balls finally started getting there on time and coming over the receivers shoulders.
Meanwhile, the tailbacks were across the facility working in the I-Formation. The group got some warm-ups with footwork and tackle-dodging, then they got together and ran under center.
Keiland Williams was the first tailback with Quinn Johnson as his lead blocker in the “I”. For the second day in a row, Charles Scott served as Richard Murphy’s lead blocker instead of as a tailback. This presents many interesting options for the offense, as Scott could fill the bulldozer role of Jacob Hester while still getting carries from the tailback spot.
The offensive line was at work without Brett Helms for the second consecutive day. Ryan Miller is serving as the starting center for now and looks to be a solid reserve. The main focus of this morning’s session was the second line though. T-Bob Hebert served as the center and was impressing Coach Stud. The other four joining Hebert were Ernest McCoy, Josh Dworaczyk, Will Blackwell, and Trey Helms from right to left.
Midway through the session we were allowed to watch, Hatch and Lee split up with two different units.
Lee joined the tailbacks and began working on options and shotgun option reads, while Hatch joined up with the tight ends and worked on post routes and buttonhooks. After about five minutes, the two switched spots.
The wide receivers headed off and worked on upfield blocking with McCarthy, while the tight ends worked on the deflection drill they had been working on yesterday afternoon.
Both quarterbacks eventually made their way over to the tailbacks, where they again worked on throwing to the flat. This time though, they added a rollout so the quarterback was throwing on the move. Despite throwing on the move, both guys were accurate in their passes and the tailbacks showed off nice hands.
As the media left practice, the offensive line came across the field to work with the skill players. Ciron Black got a big laugh and continued to show off his leadership skills as he drove his linemen down the sideline, neighing as if they were a team of horses.
On the defensive side, the only player missing from practice once again was defensive tackle Charles Alexander.
Coach Miles said at his press conference yesterday that Alexander has a minor injury that’s not at all related to his knee injury from last year. Cordian Hagans was again at the morning practice. Kellen Theriot was in a green non-contact jersey again, and Ace Foyil was not dressed and watched practice from the side again.
The focus of the defense for the majority of this morning’s drills was stripping the ball and causing fumbles.
On the defensive line, Coach Lane and Coach Robinson had the linemen doing a drill that worked on chasing the quarterback down and stripping him from behind. Later on they added a variation to the drill where a ball would be thrown on the ground after they did this and the lineman would have to fall on the ball and cover it up securely.
Tyson Jackson and Drake Nevis were the two quickest players on the drill and got to the quarterback pad the fastest. It was also good to see none of the linemen really had any trouble falling on the live ball and covering it up. Granted this is not a live game situation and there was no real confusion or disorientation when trying to jump on the ball, but how many times have you seen a player jump on a fumble with nobody around him during the game, and the ball somehow squirts out from underneath him? After they finished the ball stripping drills, the linemen headed over to the pit area to hit the blocking sleds and work on pass rushing moves under pass rushing racks.
Coach Mallory had the defensive backs’ version of the ball stripping drill focused on chasing the ball carrier down from behind and punching the ball out from underneath. They then had to scoop the ball up and return it to the sideline. Again it was encouraging to see nobody having much trouble scooping up the loose football. After they finished these drills they worked on their back pedaling technique for a little while. Then they split into cornerbacks and safeties again and worked in those group drills from yesterday.
Then the two groups combined again to work on communication in nickel assignments. The left side of the secondary in this formation was Chris Hawkins at cornerback, Harry Coleman at safety, and Danny McCray at nickel. Although we never saw the right side lineup, it’s safe to assume, given the players that were out there, that side would have been Jai Eugene at cornerback, Curtis Taylor at safety, and Chad Jones at nickel.
Coach Peveto and the linebackers’ ball stripping drill was literally just them stripping the ball away from the ball carrier. After they finished these drills they went to a footwork drill where they had to shift their feet based on the direction Peveto pointed the ball. During this drill you could see a distinct difference in the footwork of Darry Beckwith, Kelvin Sheppard, Perry Riley, and Jacob Cutrera in terms of precision and quickness as compared to Kellen Theriot and Shomari Clemons.
After they finished the footwork drill they went to work on shedding and taking on blocks with the blocking dummy and with someone holding a pad. This time it was Darry Beckwith that clearly stood out from the rest in terms of strength and quickness hitting the dummy.
That’s all from this morning’s practice but there will be player interviews later today as well as the afternoon practice session, and TSD will be there to give you coverage from both.