Shea Patterson

First day of spring football practice nets a few notes and observations

The first football practice of spring was a two-hour, 23-period, high-energy practice with a lot of new moving parts. Since Hugh Freeze had a press conference prior to the practice, we have no quotes, but we did takes a few notes and make some observations.

Random Notes & Observations

* There are five new coaches on the staff: LB Bradley Dale Peveto, WR Jacob Peeler, DL Freddie Roach, OC Phil Longo and DC Wesley McGriff. None of them lack enthusiasm or energy in practice. They are enthusiastic teachers, not yellers and screamers, but they demand performance and intensity and they fly around almost as much as the players. After watching each of them closely for five-ten minutes apiece, it is apparent Hugh Freeze wanted technicians and coaches who teach the finer points of football because that is what he got. 

* Even though this was the first day of spring practice, and certainly mistakes were made (and corrected on the fly), it was obvious the majority of players had taken their classroom chalk talk/film study during the offseason seriously. The offense ran plays off of Longo's hand signals from the sidelines with no verbiage from the QB other than the snap count and an occasional/rare check. And it appeared everyone, for the most part, was on the same page even when they ran tempo. On defense, McGriff and Co. had the guys lined up with very few major mistakes in alignment and assignment. Again, there were mistakes, but not nearly what one would think with two new systems being installed and this being the first day of spring training.

* We realize the first day is usually an organizational depth chart with nothing carved in stone, but here were the ones today on both sides of the ball. Defense: DE Garrald McDowell, DT Benito Jones, DT Breeland Speaks, DE Marquis Haynes, OLB Brenden Williams, MLB Derrtic Bing-Dukes, OLB DeMarquis Gates, FS Deontay Anderson, SS Zedrick Woods, CB Jalen Julius (until he fractured his hand and is now out for spring) and CB Jaylon Jones. Offense: LT Greg Little, LG Javon Patterson, C Sean Rawlings, RG Jordan Sims, RT Alex Givens, TB Jordan Wilkins, QB Shea Patterson, WR D.K. Metcalf, WR Van Jefferson, WR A.J. Brown and WR Markell Pack.

Tre Nixon

* Rod Taylor played with the one offense some at left tackle and some at right guard. . . . Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley split one offense reps when the Rebs went to a tight end set. . . . Myles Hartsfield took out Williams at OLB and the position switched to Star, which is the new designation for the old Husky that Tony Conner played. . . Montrell Custis also played some number one CB, as did Cam Ordway, when Jalen Julius was injured. . . DaMarkus Lodge and Tre' Nixon also figured into the number one offense some at the wideout slots.

* Some bodies have changed since last fall in regards to weight. Here's a few we picked up on. A.J. Brown has trimmed off seven pounds from 225 to 218 and said he is moving better because of it. . . . DaMarkus Lodge is now 199, up from 190 last year, and still looks lean. . . Markell Pack went from 188 to 200 in the offseason. . . . Octavious Cooley went from 268 to 255 and is running better now. . . . Greg Little trimmed off six pounds, from 334 to 328. . . Dawson Knox is now 245 and was 235 last year.

* Surprisingly, TB Eric Swinney did more in practice that we were anticipating, actually running some offensive plays and cutting with the ball in his hands. He will be ready for fall practice. . . . TE Jacob Mathis (foot) is out for spring. . . . CB Kendarius Webster was at practice today, but is out. He is very optimistic he will be ready to play in 2017 despite us being told for several months his injury against Florida State was an 18-month recovery injury. 

* OLB Brenden Williams has a real good look to him. He's long, rangy and can move. He looked a little lost today at times, but when he was tuned in, he looked the part of a player who could help the linebacking corps quickly.

* Ditto on JUCO transfer CB Javien Hamilton. His quickness and speed jumped out today and he was getting praise from CB Coach Jason Jones and McGriff in one on one drills. He's off to a good start. We will keep a close eye on him.

* Right out of the box in team drills, Shea Patterson connected with A.J. Brown for a 65-yard touchdown. . . . later in the practice, Jordan Ta'amu found D.K. Metcalf twice for TDs in the 35-yard range.

* Ta'amu doesn't have as strong an arm as Patterson or Jason Pellerin, but he ran the offense effectively, has enough arm, is accurate, has a good release and throws the ball on time. If he continues practicing like he did today, we will see more of Jason Pellerin at tight end than anticipated.

Donta Evans

* Donta Evans is backing up Bing-Dukes at MLB right now and while the jury was out on his movement last year, he seems to have picked things up this spring and appears to be moving better. We are basing that off a small sample size, but he looked good on two or three plays in chasing the ball down.

* JUCO transfer DE Markel Winters, DE Qaadir Sheppard and DE Chuck Wiley all have the SEC look physically. It's just a matter of time before Roach has them up to snuff in technique and one or two of them will have to be dealt with. Our money, for now, is on Sheppard making the quickest move up the ladder.

* From watching team drills and one on one passing drills, it is very obvious McGriff is back in town and is calling the shots in coverage. Lots of press coverage by the CBs. In fact, today, it was almost exclusively press coverage by the corners. Vintage McGriff.

* D.K. Metcalf looks like a man among boys. He is a real 6-4 and a real 225 pounds, he's chiseled, wide-shouldered and strong. Donte Moncrief was at practice today. Donte is as good physically as anyone. When standing next to D.K., Donte, who is with the Colts in the NFL, you'd pick D.K. every time, and that's saying a lot.

* Freeze has been bragging about the offseason TB Jordan Wilkins has had. It was apparent today that Hugh knows what he's talking about. Jordan is not only in the 215-220 range, he has improved his speed and quickness, especially his cutting ability. Look for him to have a big senior year in 2017.

* Players who made flash impressions today, making a play or two here and there, included, of course, Marquis Haynes, Breeland Speaks, Myles Hartsfield, Javien Hamilton, Octavious Cooley, D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson, Shea Patterson, Jordan Wilkins, Zedrick Woods, Deontay Anderson and the OL.

* The media will get another chance to watch practice and write a report Thursday. Stay tuned.

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