John O'Korn is unquestionably the most athletic of the quarterbacks. Watch him rollout or throw on the run one tie and that is easy to see. We saw good deep ball touch today. He was fairly accurate in the short passing game, but there were times where his ball placement on said routes was critiqued by the coaches. More times than not the errant throws occurred in tight coverage situations after which the coaches appeared to be talking to him about throwing his receivers open by leading them. It should be noted that he fell victim to a few drops and or poorly run routes. All in all it was a good day.
Wilton Speight isn’t the mobile threat that O’Korn, but during the time the media was at practice he was the more consistent passer. Deep ball accuracy was good, but the distinguishing characteristic was his timimg and accuracy on short throws. He drew praise from Jedd Fisch.
Alex Malzone short ball accuracy was also very good. We didn’t notice him go down the field as much as the others, but he did connect with Bunting down the seam for the play of the day (More on that later).
Jake Butt was great. On one memorable play Jabrill Peppers had blanket coverage off the line, then Butt created a little separation on a post. That little bit of space was all Butt needed. The quarterback threw high over the middle, but within Butt’s catch radius. The All-Big Ten tight end fully extended his arms and snagged the ball in stride for 20 yards. On another occasion Reon Dawson was running stride for stride with Butt on a seam route. Be created some space with his body, the quarterback delivered the ball over the top, Butt hauled it in and housed it. He snagged almost everything thrown to him (we noticed one drop with Peppers covering). About halfway through one-on-ones Harbaugh said “I’ve seen enough of Butt and Darboh.” So had the defense.
Ian Bunting didn’t have as good a day as Jake Butt, but he was close. The redshirt sophomore has terrific hands and showed trait on the play of the day. Bunting ran a skinny post. Coverage was decent, giving Alex Malzone a tight window to throw in. He fired a rope a little out front of his intended target where only Bunting had a shot. The ball was on him so quick that he only had time to extend one hand, but that was all he need to haul in the pass. He did so in stride and sprinted to the endzone to a series of oohs and aahs. It was his best play but definitely not the only one. He fought through contact a number of times to get open on short and intermediate routes… a clear sign of his increased strength.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is also able to fight through contact to get open, but that has more to do with his imposing size than anything else. He looks to be in the 270-280 range, but moves well to be so big. He can box out most linebackers for short chain-moving plays, but he might be 10-15 lbs. away from being more of a downfield threat. All of the throws and completions that we saw go in his direction were of the underneath variety, whereas the other TEs got more vertical. Shedding more weight over the course of the spring and summer is a likely prescription. In the meantime it will be interesting to see what kind of presence he is as a blocker when they put the pads on. He clearly has the size to be a force in the run game.
Zach Gentry is the antithesis of Wheatley in that he needs to add weight… a lot of it. But even in the former quarterback’s slender state his upside is undeniable. His speed makes him a clear vertical threat and at 6-7 he is just a huge target running down the middle of the field. That said, there are two issues in his transition that make limiting expectations the prudent thing to do… at least initially. One is weight, which we’ve discussed. He has to add weight. He has some time to do that during the offseason. If he does so his chances to move up the depth chart receive a major boost. The other consideration is his technique – route running and blocking. Turns out he may be further along in the route running aspect of things than expected. He really seems to be picking things up. He was so on point Tuesday that Jim Harbaugh actually singled him out for his route running.