The only players missing from the offensive side of the ball were once again Brett Helms and Jarrett Lee. Alex Russian was back in full pads and practicing normally this morning. Defensively, Charles Alexander was still absent, as was Stefoin Francois and Darry Beckwith. Chancey Aghayere was at practice, but once again sat out with no helmet.
We spent the majority of this morning watching the quarterbacks as they warmed up with the receivers.
Both Andrew Hatch and Jordan Jefferson were on target most of this morning as they worked slant and comeback routes with the receivers. Based on what we’ve seen the last few days of practice, the quarterbacks finally look comfortable and in rhythm on these shorter, timing based routes. What remains to be seen is how comfortable they are with the intermediate and deeper routes, which we almost never get to see while at practice.
One thing I did notice about Jefferson this morning that hadn’t really been happening much before today was that many of his balls came out of his hand very wobbly. This was especially strange because after seeing just about every pass he threw in high school that never seemed to be a problem he had. And like I said, it hadn’t been happening much at all during fall camp before today. The ball was still getting where it needed to go, but just looked really ugly doing so. It will be interesting to see if this continues over the next few days, or if he was just kind of off with his release this morning.
After they finished the short routes, the ball was placed on the 5 yard line and they worked on fade routes in the end zone. The timing was off initially on these, but after a few adjustments by Coach Crowton on both the quarterbacks and receivers things started going more smoothly. They first started throwing to the receivers inside shoulder, which put them more in the middle of the end zone. Then they switched over to the outside shoulder, putting the receiver more towards the corner.
As for the receivers, they were pretty sharp again this morning. The only drops I can recall were when Jhyryn Taylor tried to one-hand a ball thrown slightly behind him, which led to Coach McCarthy getting on him for not using two hands, and Chris Tolliver on another ball thrown slightly behind him. After Tolliver dropped his ball, Coach McCarthy told him to open up his hips and let the momentum of the ball tell him where to go instead of trying to fight it and bring it back with him in the direction he was already moving.
The running backs went to work with T.C. McCartney on catching passes out of the backfield and taking handoffs out of the shotgun. It’s been said before how good the running backs look catching the ball out of the backfield, but it really cannot be said enough. Every one of them, even the fullbacks and walk-on players, look completely natural getting out of their normal comfort zone and catching the ball. Its obvious Coach Porter has these guys working very hard at this.
On another note, just before we had to leave this morning, Coach Porter called Trindon Holliday over from the receiver group to go put some work in with the running backs. There’s been a few people wondering why Holliday wasn’t working with the running backs when that seems to be his position when he comes into games, and today was the first day I can recall seeing him move over with them during practice.
Coach Studrawa had the offensive line working on their run blocking calls again this morning, except today it was the first team getting the bulk of the work. With Helms out, Ryan Miller continued working with the first team at center. And even with Helms missing from the line, I can’t imagine that you would be able to find too many other lines in college football that look more impressive than this group.
In lieu of the brief scrimmage, the defense started their morning off with positional drills.
The defensive line once again started the day with one-on-one defensive stuffing drills.
Drake Nevis and Tyson Jackson led off the group, going against each other. Kirston Pittman and Ricky Jean-Francois once again did not participate in these drills, but I imagine it was more for caution’s sake than anything else, as they were quick to get involved in the subsequent drills.
Across the facility the defensive backs were also hitting in one-one-one situations. This soon moved to a tackle-related drill, as the focus was to backpedal with a receiver before moving forward to get in on a tackle. The order was the same as it has been all through camp, and it’s worth noting that Patrick Peterson has been a second-team corner along with Ron Brooks all week.
Coach Peveto and the linebackers were working on reading the quarterback where Peveto would look left with the ball in his hands, and the linebacker would follow his gaze. When the coach shifted his vision back to the left and threw, the linebacker shifted with him and made the pick.
The defensive backs also began working on interceptions, with the same drill they’ve been using for several days. The backs would back pedal, shift up, and make the pick on the run. The DBs ran about three reps of this and the first through third stringers only dropped one ball. Danny McCray let one go through his fingers, but in his defense it was a bit behind him.
The defensive line moved over to the chute and began work on tackle-breaking. Coach Lane told the guys, “I want good technique, good explosion, and a good punch right at pad height.” Jean-Francois and Pittman got in on this drill, but Pittman missed a portion of it to get his wrist taped up by an assistant. Each lineman took turns crouching under the chute before exploding up out of the crouch and punching a tackling dummy out of the way.
The defensive tackles and defensive ends then split up, except for Jean-Francois, who went with the ends. The tackles, led by Drake Nevis and Al Woods, continued working on block-breaking with defensive tackles serving as offensive linemen. The tackles went two-vs.-two trying to break blocks coming out of the three-point stance. The ends and Ricky Jean-Francois started working with Coach Lane on beating and avoiding double teams.
Tremaine Johnson got a little extra work going against two linemen, who were constantly pushing him outside. I wouldn’t read too much into Jean-Francois’ participation with the ends. I simply think the coaching staff knows the junior will be getting a lot of double teams.
When the media’s session ended, the linebackers started again with option defense. Two linebackers would shift positions and wait to see if the quarterback would handoff or run before they made their move. The goal was always to keep the quarterback inside whether he got rid of it or ran with it. Kelvin Sheppard missed out on a good portion of this, as he de-padded to put on some Under Armour. Shomari Clemons got first-team reps while Sheppard was preoccupied.
The team is scheduled to scrimmage, so there will be no afternoon practice Tuesday but we will have video from Les Miles’ meeting with the media this afternoon.