Marve and McKenzie attended but did not practice. Darryl Sharpton appeared to be banged up and did not participate in drills. Anthony Reddick and Romeo Davis suited up but did only limited drills and individual rehab. Damien Berry suited up and fielded punts, but did not participate in contact drills. Interestingly, George Timmons has not dressed for practice the last two days. He has attended and has helped with passing balls to the coaches, but has not suited up. He was hurt during the spring and did not participate then either.
Clearing House Issues Still Unresolved
Coach Shannon said after practice that because the Clearing House is closed on Sundays, the earliest he can get an answer by is tomorrow. Shawnbrey McNeal has not yet been cleared by trainers to begin practice either.
Expanding the Playbook
Practice was basically in the same format as yesterday, but the offense worked on some new running plays. They went over some pitches and offtackle runs today. We also saw the first signs of an ‘I' formation when Dedrick Epps motioned to lead block for Javarris James on a halfback lead play. Jerrell Mabry has not practiced during scrimmages and his punishment after practice indicates he may not be at his required weight again.
Offensive Line Continues to Progress
The offensive line had a good practice today. They were the reason why the offense did so well in the scrimmages. Orlando Franklin remained with the first team, with Andrew Bain on the second team. Franklin has been the focus of much of Coach Stoutland's tutelage, but Bain has also been helping him progress. I noticed that after Franklin would make a mistake, Bain would be right there to help him correct it.
You can really notice the difference in the offensive line by the way they block on halfback screens. Most of them have no trouble running down the field and setting up blocks for the back. On one particular play, Javarris James caught a screen and took it 30 yards behind Orlando Franklin, who managed to pick up quite a bit of speed to get out next to James. The play prompted Randy Phillips to ask his defensive teammates: ‘when did we forget to read a screen?'
The tight ends had a mixed day. At the beginning of practice, Dedrick Epps worked on his hands 1 on 1 with Coach Pannunzio. It seemed as though the quarterbacks felt comfortable throwing to the the tight ends, but during drills and the scrimmage, both Dajleon Farr and Chris Zellner dropped catchable balls. One Farr drop in particular almost cost the offense a turnover, as it bounced in the air a little bit before harmlessly hitting the ground. On the blocking side of things, the tight ends performed well. Before scrimmaging, Coach Stoutland had a few moments with the tight ends to teach them blocking technique. During run plays, sometimes the tight end would slide into a fullback role and lead block for the back.
The backers were hit or miss today. During drills on pass coverage against the backs, they seemed to improve over yesterday. Colin McCarthy picked off an errant throw Kyle Wright while he was in man to man coverage, and Allen Bailey stretched out to make a nice bat down during drills. Bailey is a beast. On one play during drills, Richard Gordon was dragging across the middle and was literally stopped in his tracks by Bailey, who was patrolling his zone. He had to change directions. Then during 11 on 11 drills, he was actually able to get to the sideline to stop James on a stretch play.
Other times, however, the linebackers were out of position. Bailey made a freshman mistake during the scrimmage and let Farr get by him on a seam route. Many times during 11 on 11 drills, a tight end, receiver, or back was left open across the middle.
Offense Produces on the Ground…
The 11 on 11 scrimmages were the highlight of the day. The offense enjoyed all around success. They were able to effectively run the ball. James, Charlie Jones, and freshman Lee Chambers all broke big runs. Chambers was particular impressive because he was able to go untouched for about 20 yards on an off tackle play behind the right tackle. Cooper was running with the second team, but had some slight cramping issues and the coaches didn't want to risk injury. Before that, he had an impressive screen play that he took for a first down.
…And Through the Air
Both Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman took it up a notch today. Their passes were mostly accurate, and neither was afraid to test the defense deep. Both Kirby and Kyle connected on deep passes to Darnell Jenkins and Lance Leggett, respectively, and were very close to completing a handful more. Kyle missed a streaking Kayne Farquharson, who had beaten DeMarcus Van Dyke deep, and Kirby missed Khalil Jones on a deep flag route. Jones had beaten cornerback Tervaris Johnson. Wright enjoyed the most success on 11 on 11 drills, at one point connecting for 4 long passes in a row, 2 to Leggett. However, he was also the victim of the only two turnovers of the day, interceptions to Colin McCarthy during individual drills and an interception to Eric Houston during the 11 on 11 scrimmages. Kirby was nearly as impressive during the scrimmage, and actually looks like he's worked on staying in the pocket longer to deliver his passes.
Armour with First Team
Carlos Armour played on first team at cornerback in place of Glenn Sharpe, whom I actually didn't notice at practice. He was surrounded by Kenny Phillips and Lavon Ponder at safety, and Randy Phillips opposite him. Chavez Grant was the nickel back.
Holmes Stays with First Team, Dixon Still Third Team
Josh Holmes ran with the first team today, and Antonio Dixon, still in the dog house apparently, played with the third team. Dixon had one play where he completely collapsed the middle of the pocket and stuffed the running back, but otherwise went unnoticed.