I'll first say that the University of California-San Diego has a beautiful campus. It's also pretty darn big. Huge in fact. I used my trusty GPS to get me to the front door, basically. But then it's all up to you to find a field where the team is practicing.
And did you know that UCSD doesn't have a football team? They have a great soccer tradition, but no football team. Lots of space though.
Anyway, I get to the field, and it had once again been raining all night. Not the monsoon-like deluge they got just a few days ago. But for a part of the state that gets about 11 inches of rain on average per year, the seven-plus inches they recently got had yet to completely dry.
So, when you walked out onto this field, I thought I was walking into some reenactment of Lord of the Rings, as the brave group trudges through the Dead Marshes on their way to Mount Doom. OK, maybe not that bad, but not great either.
The team started to show up, and the condition of the field wasn't lost on most almost the instant they set foot on it. Now, this is one of those things where the conditions aren't great, but hey, it's not your field, another team is gracious enough to let you use it and all that. So, you probably don't want to go hacking on it too much, even though Navy was actually practicing on this field prior to their bowl game at Qualcomm. They only lasted a day before they left.
Head Coach Bo Pelini said after practice today that they were staying, and he tried to sound positive about it, saying that it wasn't that bad.
But back to the conditions, this is the most rain this field has seen in perhaps its lifetime. So, it's going to be swamp like.
But on to practice, the first thing I noted was that for the first time I can recall, senior quarterback Zac Lee didn't have some sort of wrap either on his elbow, which he had surgery on in the off-season - or his wrist, which he apparently hurt on someone's helmet during a practice.
As for Taylor Martinez, the first thing I looked at were his ankles, as he has had those sometimes taped up so much you had to wonder how he would even move. Not that I am any sort of expert on how much tape players put on their ankles when hampered versus how much they are taped when they aren't - this looked like about "only" four rolls of tape. I have seen his ankles where I thought he had that on one foot alone.
Watching Niles Paul come out, not seeing him in uniform basically told me, at least at that point, that it would be a serious stretch for him to make the game. But what do you know, he did a little stretching, and while he didn't participate in the entire practice, I saw him running pass routes. He looked quick off the line, and I didn't see him limping noticeably before the drill over after. So, I'd say that's a good sign, though, you have to take into account how little he's worked out due to the injury. I wouldn't call him a full-time guy, so to speak, as his stamina has to be an issue. And there is bound to be a certain amount of rust. But at least right now it looks good that he will be in the game. We just don't yet how much.
On the other side of the ball the secondary was looking good, especially now that all of them have cut off most of their hair. The movement was evidently started by running back Roy Helu Jr., and it then caught on with a number of the other players, including Eric Hagg, Prince Amukamara, Mychael McClure and Brandon Kinnie, just to name a few.
As most if not all of you know by now, junior corner Alfonzo Dennard said that he was going to be coming back. If you saw the interview with secondary coach Marvin Sanders, you will see that not even he knew what Alfonzo was going to do. But from some of the stuff he said, it seems he would have been shocked if he did opt to come out early.
The big reason Alfonzo said he was going to stay was that his mom was doing better as she got a better job and things were going pretty well. If she hadn't, it sounds like Alfonzo would have came out early, and it really sounds as if he didn't care where he went, just as long as he went in the draft. I am glad for him that he stayed. He wants that degree, and I think this close to it, it's a good plan to stay and get it. Plus, he said his mom really wants him to get it. But it seems he was more than ready to come out if he thought it would help his mom in the end.
I was really surprised when talking to Lavonte David that he hadn't put his name in the pool of guys who just wanted to see where they might go if they were drafted. That's kind of a common thing to do, and it sounds like Jared Crick might do that once this bowl business is in the rearview mirror. It's not really because they want to go, but they just want to see where they shape up right now.
Crick had a solid year, which was more quiet than anything. I think much of that had to do with the success of David as well as the early success of Taylor Martinez on offense. Plus, unlike last year when the defensive line was getting all the publicity and the secondary was kind of the also-ran, I think the shoe has been put on the other foot, at least in regard to what most people have been talking about this year.
From what little we got to watch of the practice, and this kind of goes back to the field, the conditions were such that receivers could run good routes, not great routes. The running backs could make some cuts, but nothing ankle breaking, or if they did, it usually meant they were going to bit it on the surface of the mini-swamp. Depending on how fast this track dries out will dictate just how efficient practices can be from that standpoint. But the good thing is, the bowl surface is, of course, natural grass. And while it should be in relatively good shape, we are supposed to get some rain on Wednesday night. That could leave the surface once again a bit damp, but the Huskers will be more than ready for a bad surface once the game arrives.
By the way, a young man I was talking up pretty good at the beginning of the year, who ultimately redshirted, is safety Corey Cooper. I said after that photo day that this kid looked the part already, even without taking a collegiate snap. Well, don't take my word for it, as you can see for yourself, if looks equates at all to performance, this kid is going to be a monster. He already looks like one right now.