The afternoon practice was moved indoors in an effort to beat the heat on Saturday. The freshmen strapped on the shoulder pads for the first time, and for the media session of the practice it was the receivers who put them to the best use.
First year coach Billy Gonzalez had his wideouts working on blocking in the open field. James Wright seemed to be the most physical, but Jarrett Fobbs, the smallest member of the corps, was able to hold his own.
You can see why the coaches have had Armand Williams and Kadron Boone working in the morning sessions, because the names in the afternoon group are much more inconsistent with their hands.
Two-sport star Zach Lee continues to impress at quarterback during the afternoon workouts. After seeing Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson throw in the morning, Zach’s arm is very comparable. Though we’ve only gotten to watch him for a few days, he seems to have all of the throws. Today’s focus was on timing routes and deep balls over the middle. Lee looked in sync on the hitch routes and had plenty of arm behind the deep ins.
The running backs spent time working on screen pass footwork and ball security. Alfred Blue drew praise from coach Frank Wilson on his footwork, and Spencer Ware looks to have made a seamless transition from high school quarterback to running back. He is very smooth in space and looks comfortable running with the football.
The young defensive backs are easy to get excited about as there was a great deal of talent on display in the afternoon. Tyrann Mathieu has great feet and is very smooth in and out of his breaks. He moves his hips very well, as does safety Eric Reid. Ron Vinson and Tharold Simon – who has great height but needs to add some weight - are very athletic as well.
The defensive linemen continued to work on footwork and wrapping up. Ego Ferguson is a big boy in shoulder pads, and his No. 9 jersey makes him look even bigger. While on the smaller side, J.C. Copeland has a very low center of gravity and seems to be moving his feet well. Defensive line coach Brick Haley gave him a couple of complements in the dummy tackling drill.
I got my first up close look at the young linebackers today, and Justin Maclin is certainly the most physically impressive. It’s easy to envision him putting his hand on the ground on third downs and getting after quarterbacks, especially after a couple of years in the weight room. He’s currently listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, a size comparable to KeKe Mingo, who’s up to 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and will see time at defensive end this fall.
The young guys get thrown into the fire tomorrow when the team will practice as a whole for the first time. Check back on Sunday for a full report of the morning practice.