Coker commented on freshmen having to come in and play well.
"They better," Coker said. "Some of these guys are going to have to play, which is good. That is why they came here for that opportunity. But, hopefully the older guys are good enough and we can redshirt some guys."
Heat Index: 93°F
Wind: 10 mph
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy
Brock Berlin made a variety of nice throws on short, medium, and long routes. It was good to see him off to a strong start. His best throw came during a one-on-one drill in which Roscoe Parrish beat Antrel Rolle and he made a perfect throw in the end zone for Parrish to score. Kyle Wright also had a strong day. He was happy about nailing all three of his throws at the stationary targets under the goalposts—a drill that is harder than it looks. Wright threaded a pass to Darnell Jenkins for a score during the one-on-one drill and made good decisions in the pocket against a full defense.
"The quarterbacks and Darnell Jenkins made some standout plays today," said Coker.
One of the biggest stories coming into fall practices is the health of Frank Gore who is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last October. He did not participate in spring practices and put on some extra unnecessary weight before arriving in the spring. Now, he has trimmed down and wants to contribute as soon as possible. Coker has said Gore is at about 90% right now and he is expected to play in the season opener.
"I thought Frank Gore really looked like Frank Gore at running back and I was encouraged by that," said Coker.
Running backs coach Don Soldinger agreed that Gore looked good in the first practice.
"He is like a thoroughbred horse—he knows what he can do," Soldinger said. "He knows this is going to be his last go-around. He wont rush it and I wont rush him. I thought he looked great. I am real proud of him and I think he has done a great job of coming back."
Soldinger also commented that the three freshmen running backs—Andrew Johnson, Charlie Jones, and Derron Thomas were tired today from their first Hurricane practice.
Talib Humphrey was the first-team fullback although it will likely be a position with committee with Kyle Cobia and the possibility of Quadtrine Hill returning back to the position. Hill ran hard today in all drills and is looking to stay at tailback.
Sophomore Darnell Jenkins is close to his target weight of 190 pounds is proving to be a deep threat this season. He caught some passes today during one-on-one drills and took a slant route the distance during a full team drill.
"Today was hard and it was hot," Jenkins said. "The corner played me outside so I pushed him out and then I ran my route, the ball was there as usual and I ran."
Roscoe Parrish and Ryan Moore are the starting receives, but with the emergence of Jenkins the Hurricanes have a three solid receivers. Sinorice Moss had knee surgery in the off-season, but felt very well today and it showed. Moss showed off his ability to run hard, direct routes and is looking to earn playing time. He will have the opportunity in games to make catches because of how receivers are rotated in and out. Akieem Jolla is another guy that has an opportunity to be a contributor this season.
The tight ends had a very impressive spring showing strong depth at the position. Buck Ortega has been the biggest surprise with his play and size. He has put on weight and is in the 230-235 pound range. Currently Ortega is the fourth tight end behind Kevin Everett, Brandon Sebald, and Greg Olsen. All four will be counted on to produce this season.
Everett made some catches and banged up his shoulder after making a reception in the middle of the field. Sebald participated in all drills after recovering from a separated shoulder (March 27) in the spring.
One of the biggest things for an offensive line to be good is continuity. The line has been the same all spring and the positions appear to be locked in barring injuries. With three starters returning there are only two spots open and LG Tony Tella and RT Rashad Butler have filled in admirably. Tella had a very impressive summer and is working very hard to hold down his position.
LT Eric Winston is the top player on the line and could be an all-American this season was excited about the first day.
"I thought we worked pretty well together today," Winston said. "We were communicating together well. I felt like that we made some mentals today, but we can correct those. We were communicating together well and the fact that we are communicating well early in practices will help us in the future."
The first four units were as follows:
LT LG C RG RT Winston Tella Rodriguez Myers Butler Bain Morse Wollschlager McMeans Wimbs Kunz* Garcia* Rochford Pou Bergman*Walk-on
Probably the most explosive unit on the team got some work done today although it is tough for them to have a productive day without pads. There will be eight defensive linemen expected to contribute this season. There are four strong ends in Baraka Atkins, Thomas Carroll, Javon Nanton, and Bryan Pata. At tackle Orien Harris and Santonio Thomas are the starters with Kareem Brown and Teraz McCray rotating in. If needed, Atkins will move inside thus opening up more time for Alton Wright.
The five incoming freshmen will all start out at the ends, but could move throughout fall practices based on how they perform. There is no dire need for these guys to contribute this season so look for all of them to redshirt.
The linebackers did a good job today covering the field side-to-side. Roger McIntosh and Tavares Gooden showed extreme range on the outside and have a lot of athleticism. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon has a lot of flexibility with having those two. Inside linebacker Leon Williams has been designated as a player that needs to have a strong fall or else he will lose his position. Jon Beason who has switched from safety is trying to learn the position in case the coaches decide to go another route.
All of the freshmen linebackers—Willie Williams, James Bryant, and Romeo Davis—have the potential to play this season on special teams. Coker likes the athleticism linebackers typically bring to the table and there are spots available on special teams. Williams looked impressive out there reacting quick to the ball even though he was not been able to be in football shape over the summer.
Another unit with quite a stir this fall is the defensive backs. Antrel Rolle is the lone senior of the group and is the unquestioned leader. Greg Threat is poised for a breakout season and recorded an interception that he returned for a touchdown in practice. Devin Hester has made the switch from wide receiver to cornerback and will be given a trial period. If he performs well he will stay at corner, if not they will move him back to receiver.
"Coming back to be with my teammates is the only reason why I came back for my senior year to win a national championship," Rolle said.
Hester had troubles at the beginning of practice, but settled in and made solid breaks on the ball including one play in which he almost recorded an interception.
"I slipped and I didn't realize I got up so fast and the ball was right there," Hester said. "I learn from my mistakes and I know now."
The transition from receiver to corner will be tough, but it was a position he played in high school. During his senior season he recorded 156 tackles.
"It was pretty tough switching over," Hester said. "After the first couple of plays you understand how the game is going. It was tough with the one-on-one coverages. I don't look at it as pressure because I know about my ability and I just have to go out here and show it.
Coker will evaluate the practice tapes to get a good feel of Hester's play, but was impressed with what he saw.
"I just like to see him on the field," Coker said. "I think he is one of the most explosive players I have ever been around. We have to get him on the field and teach him the defense. From what I saw he made a couple of nice plays today."
TE Kevin Everett injured his right shoulder after catching a pass in the middle of the field and taking a light hit from LB Willie Williams.
RB Frank Gore is recovering from a torn ACL (October 2) and ran well today despite not going up against a defense in all drills. Assuming the next few days go well he will be in full pads on Saturday with the rest of the team.
CB Glenn Sharpe is recovering from a torn ACL (November 8) and did not participate in all drills. Assuming the next few days go well he will be in full pads on Saturday with the rest of the team.
CB Terrell Walden did not practice due to a torn ACL (April 8) he suffered during spring practices. He will not practice anytime soon and is a long shot to play this season.
Status: Out two to five months
Christopher Stock is a Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.