After more than a week off, the Tigers opened bowl practices on Thursday afternoon inside the Devine Pavilion. This was a great opportunity for many young players to get in a number of repetitions after what was for some a season spent on the scout team or in other supportive roles. This is valuable practice time for the development of players who will be asked to step into bigger roles next season.
After practice, Coach Pinkel addressed the media. "I think overall, it was our first day back. I thought it was a pretty good practice. These practices are organized such that we lean a little bit on the less experienced players. We'll do that for two more practices. They get back to doing our offense and our defense, and they get coached more."
Coach Pinkel said that Jared Perry will have a CT on Monday to check the healing status of his leg fracture. They won't make a determination on his availability for the bowl game for a couple of weeks. He appears to be making progress. Coach Pinkel said that they (coaches) are getting started preparing for Navy.
Coach Pinkel was asked about some of the younger players. He replied, "There's quite a few guys that I think are doing well. I think what's really important here, is that we've done this. It's kind of neat when we get in some of our periods, that the veteran players are also coaching some of the younger players, along with the coaches. We do that a portion of practice. I think it's a real plus for us to get all that extra work with our young people."
Jimmy Costello and Ashton Glaser were getting a good many reps with the second and third units. On the number two offense, Travis Ruth handled the snaps, and Austin Wuebbels and Jayson Palmgren manned the guard positions, with Justin Britt and Jack Meiners at the tackles. Michael Egnew looked good catching passes from Costello, as did T.J. Moe, and Rolandis Woodland. Egnew runs well after the catch, running through contact, and Moe appears to be catching the ball better. I can see all three of these receivers making a serious bid for increased playing time next season. Kendial Lawrence took most of the reps at RB with this unit.
The third offensive unit featured Dan Jenkins at center, J.T. Beasley at guard, and Mark Hill at tackle. This was the first I've seen Hill go full speed, and I thought he looked good. The receivers on this unit are a good-looking, and promising bunch, with Kerwin Stricker, L'Damian Washington, Gahn McGaffie, and Jaleel Clark.
I had a good view of the one-on-one drills involving the offensive and defensive linemen in simulated pass-blocking drills. After Dominique Hamilton drove Kurtis Gregory back into the QB, and Aldon Smith went at it with Dan Hoch, they turned it over to the younger guys. Beasley did a nice job, utilizing very good technique, of keeping George White away from the QB. Chris Earnhardt displayed an explosive rush that overwhelmed an offensive lineman. I think it was Jenkins. Brad Madison got past Meiners with a nice spin move. On the other side, Britt and Michael Sam went at it pretty good. Coach Walker could be heard telling Britt to "finish the play".
After practice, Blaine Gabbert and Jimmy Costello stood on opposite ends of the Devine Pavilion, about 70 yards apart, and played catch with each other. Neither of them appeared to have any trouble getting it there, although Costello's throws were much higher, almost hitting the roof. Speaking of hitting the roof, that's just what punters Jake Harry and Matt Grabner do on almost every punt. Harry was very vocal, exhorting the punt team to pick up and hold their blocks, reminding them how important it is for them to do their jobs well.
As I alluded to earlier in this report, the returning receiving corps are a talented and promising group. Which ones will emerge to see significant playing time next season remains to be seen, but from what I can see, the only real concern is the lack of experience.