The battle between Chris Relf and Tyler Russell has been heating up the past few practices with Russell finally starting to make some head way. Saturday's scrimmage was their first chance to impress in a real game situation.
Chris Relf had a strong Friday practice where he connected on 24 of 27 passes throughout the day. After starting off slow in the scrimmage, he showed why he is first on the depth chart. Not only did he have a long touchdown run on a zone read play, he also connected on a 60-yard pass to Chad Bumphis in situational work and later connected on a red zone situation touchdown with Bumphis.
Tyler Russell rebounded from a poor performance in Friday's practice to have a stellar day in Saturday's scrimmage. He was 12 of 17 for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The thing I noticed more about him was not so much his stats but his leadership ability and his overall command of the huddle. He has truly improved in that area and is finally starting to show the promise many feel that he has.
Overall, both quarterbacks provided something to be excited about during today's scrimmage. Relf showed why he is currently penciled in as the starter while Russell is starting to state his case for the starting position. Both are obviously benefiting from the competition each is giving the other.
The running back rotation had begun to get fairly settled early in spring practice but today that may have changed as Vick Ballard played big with six carries for 23 yards. Among his carries, he had a few nice gainers and scored in one of the goal line situations.
Robert Elliot, on the other hand, didn't look his best but he did have an impressive 20-yard run where he took a direct hit on the knee but kept moving and broke a few tackles. The 20-yard run from Elliot was what I was waiting to see from him after his knee injury to show he is back 100 percent.
LaDarius Perkins didn't receive many carries but did show excellent speed while taking a screen to the house.
Overall, I think there is a chance that Vick Ballard will open next week's practices number one on the depth chart with Elliot just a shade behind him. But Ballard is starting to look like a true go-to guy. Perkins looks to have at least solidified a role as the scat back. Montrell Conner is currently nursing an injury.
Wide Receiver Development
Wide Receiver Coach Mark Hudspeth has been searching for a third receiver to go along with Bumphis and Leon Berry. And, in Saturday's scrimmage, Brandon Heavens had 5 receptions for 52 yards. The previously day he had 3 receptions.
Chad Bumphis has been emerging as a legit number one option over the course of spring practice, especially Friday when he caught eleven balls. He also had a strong day Saturday, catching four balls, including the 60-yard bomb mentioned earlier in the article.
The receiver position is starting to take shape with Heavens starting to play up to his potential. Coach Hudspeth now has to find a fourth guy out of Chris Smith, Ricco Sanders, and Sam Williams. He will also have several newcomers next fall that could very well figure in the mix in true freshmen Michael Carr, Robert Johnson and Malcolm Johnson.
The tight end position has become one of the deepest positions on the team with Marcus Green, Kendrick Cook and Brandon Henderson. They combined for 11 catches in Friday's practice and continued the good play today, catching six balls for 63 yards.
The offensive line is probably the strongest returning unit considering they were one of the better O-lines in the SEC last season and four of the five starters return. They had a rough go of it today, though, as the defensive line was very disruptive all day. The offensive line's poor play may have had more to do with the strong play of the defensive front.
The only glaring need for the offensive line is the depth at the tackle position where they have Phillip Freeman and true freshman Blaine Clausell, two inexperienced players. The offensive line could get a boost when JUCO linemen Jeff Howie enrolls for the summer. He could play either guard or tackle, which gives offensive line coach John Hevesy some options at the position.
The defensive line was very disruptive throughout the scrimmage. While there weren't any official tackle results for today's scrimmage, you didn't need stats to see how well Pernell McPhee, Nick Bell,and Johnathan McKenzie played. Reggie Odom also had a sack during situational play. Odom's light bulb seems to have gone off under the direction of new defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Odom would add nice depth to a very talented group of starters that has a chance to be one of the better defensive lines in the SEC.
The linebacker position returns as one of the strongest units on the team returning two potential All-SEC performers K.J. Wright and Chris White. Cameron Lawrence has stepped in and at this time secured the WILL linebacker spot.
The depth behind those three is the question mark and Jamie Jones is starting to make a strong case to be one of those guys. He is playing aggressively and shooting the gaps well, a staple of a Coach Diaz defense.
The defensive backfield ended the season with four quality starters but very little depth behind him. But the depth may be starting to take shape with players such as Louis Watson, Arceto Clark and Nickoe Whitley stepping up. The aforementioned players all made plays in today's scrimmage including breaking up several passes and intercepting a few passes. If these players continue to develop the defensive backfield could end up being one of the strengths of the team.
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