New pieces on defense and “Bowl or Bust”
With holes opening up in the linebacker core as key players like Bright Ugwoegbu are sidelined during spring practice with a lingering injuries, younger players are stepping up and taking bigger roles for the Beaver defense. Notably redshirt freshman Doug Taumoelau and sophomore Andrzej Hughes-Murray, who both caused pressure in the backfield throughout practice, something the Beavers had been lacking last season.
“(Hughes-Murray and Taumoelau) are extremely athletic, we need them to be a little more stout in the run game, but on pass rush they do some really good things,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Clune.
The defense played well for the first portion of practice stopping pass plays for short gains and batting down balls thrown in the middle. Senior linebacker Manase Hungalu made his presence known in the middle of the field batting down balls and breaking up passes throughout the scrimmage. But they lost steam in the final portion, when the offense was able to drive down the field seemingly at ease.
“I think what you saw today was a good solid practice for the defense for the first two thirds of it, but they didn’t finish off at the end so we’ve got to get that continuing through a whole practice,” Clune said.
And that could have to do with those same younger players. Though they are making big plays and stepping up, Hungalu said that it was important for the defense to slow down and make sure that the newer players were learning the playbook in and out, to make transitions easier.
“I think most of that (the loss of steam) is that they’re having a hard time figuring out the offensive formation. That’s all coming with learning the playbook and being quick with play calls,” said Hungalu
“On the dark side, the defensive side, you have to be aggressive. I like (Wallace’s) aggressiveness. I like how he’s doing,” Arnold said.
Looking forward to the season for the defense Arnold finished by saying that the defense was improving, but still not where they wanted to be and “there’s always room for improvement.” He also talked about the “Bowl or Bust” attitude on the team.
“I installed it on the second day telling everyone I wanted a Rose Bowl. I don’t want just a bowl I want something that's going to be legendary, something that's going to have legacy,” said Arnold
When we first got into practice today Jake Luton was finishing off a drill with a skeleton team, no offensive or defensive lineman, where the line was replaced by ladders he had to throw over. He looked great completing seven passes in a row working on short passes on drag routes across the middle, with three of them going to the highly regarded freshman recruit, Isaiah Hodgins.
Conor Blount also had three throws during this portion. He completed two but was almost intercepted on his first throw down the sideline.
Once the full scrimmage started Luton worked in rush plays with Jaylynn Bailey getting most of the carries. Luton also completed a pass on the run to Noah Togiai, and showed off the speed option breaking for a decent chunk of yards. The offensive and defensive units seemed shuffled around as Luton was at one point working with the first team offensive line, but not the first team receiving core or Ryan Nall; and the defense was shuffled with Hungalu and Wallace on the field, but not Xavier Crawford.
McMaryion took the field after Luton and completed three passes to Hunter Jarmon, who looks to be taking over for the graduated Victor Bolden at the top of the depth chart. All three were great catches by Jarmon, dragging his toe three times in a row to stay in bounds. The two seem to have good chemistry working together and are confident.
Garretson was the third quarterback to take reps. During his time Garretson took two quarterback draws and had a pass that would have been completed if not for a pass interference. Xavier Crawford and Christian Wallace were working together to take away Garretsons options throughout the whole set.
All of the quarterbacks were wearing knee braces on their plant legs, most likely as a precaution as none of them seemed hampered by it in any way.
Also Seth Collins, who missed the end of last season with an illness he is now recovering from, was in the practice facility for the first time in street clothes watching his team and talking to players.