After sitting out the spring game, it took less than a week for junior Yvenson Bernard to feel the thump of a real hit and he didn’t take kindly to the pop as he and safety Al Afalava got in each other’s face.
The feisty 5-foot-9 player looks incredible. He is healthy, confident and getting help.
The battle between Clinton Polk and Patrick Fuller for the back-up spot continues. Polk looked better than Fuller coming out of April, but Fuller has turned it on of late. The clash between the two will probably not be resolved for the entire season, but that’s not a bad thing.
Riley has said they will run around 20 percent of their offense with a two back set. Combine that with giving Bernard a rest and the second string back, perhaps the third, will receive plenty of carries.
With this much talent in the backfield and a superb offensive line the running back situation in 2000 comes to mind. Ken Simonton had 284 carries, Patrick McCall had 129 and Antonio Battle had 47. If the Beavers stick to the run, which they should, Bernard, Polk, and Fuller could have similar numbers.
There has been plenty of distractions for the receiving group with the academic issues and the suspensions. Despite the distractions the group is steadily improving and may be five deep with the emergence of junior college transfers Shane Morales and Chris Johnson.
Morales made a strong case for playing time Saturday catching four passes for a team high 65 yards. Riley sounded very excited about him after the scrimmage. Johnson’s 4.4-speed was on display as he blew by defenders, but had trouble holding onto the ball.
Juniors Sammie Srougthter and Anthony Wheat-Brown, who caught a 39-yard touchdown pass Saturday, the first from his flanker position, have been favorite targets of the quarterbacks.
Brandon Powers has also turned in a decent camp with his big frame going across the middle. Ruben Jackson’s eligibility is still up in the air, but all signs point to him being qualified. We will know the results this Friday.
There is probably not a 1,000 yard receiver on the team and not because a lack of talent. The ball will just be spread out more, similar to, once again, the 2000 season.
Senior Joe Newton looks to be in midseason form already despite not lining up against an opposing defense in over a year. At each practice he catches several touchdown passes in the redzone and skeleton drills.
Croom and Reese are the top two battling it out for third tight end spot. Some say Reese has the edge while others mention Croom. Riley says both are smart and tough as well as physically fit for the role.
The competition between Croom and Reese will last until the end of the month and perhaps into the start of the season. But whoever receives that first snap in a game will be the third man on the depth chart while the other will redshirt, barring any injuries.
Senior Matt Moore is clearly the man as Riley has said he is playing the best ball of his collegiate career. He is reading the defense, finding the open receiver and getting rid of the ball.
Redshirt freshman Sean Canfield has firmly entrenched himself as the backup quarterback and while he shows flashes of brilliance he still lacks the consistency that Moore brings.
JUCO Lyle Moevao has been receiving a ton of repetitions. Some have said he has moved into third on the depth chart ahead of Ryan Gunderson, but the coaches know where Gunderson is at and they want to see where Moevao is at to see if they are going to redshirt him or not.
My guess is that they do redshirt Moevao as Canfield is capable of running the offense and Gunderson is an adequate backup.
A lot of hype surrounds the offensive line. They are the second most experienced line in the nation with a combined 90 starts. Their coach has big expectations and so do they.
With all starters returning, along with three reserves, they are a veteran group who should be able to anticipate blitzes or other defensive schemes. Coach Mike Cavanaugh calls it “anticipatory management” and he fully expects this experienced bunch to use that technique to help them excel on the field.
They are a proud unit who takes pride in their work ethic and their physical play on the field. Every player vows that they will not get manhandled by anybody.
Right guard Roy Schuening recently said the unit’s goal is to get Bernard 2,000 yards for the season. If Bernard did reach 2,000 yards he would be only the 12th player in the history of the NCAA to reach that milestone. That is only 153 yards per game this year, a reachable goal.
Not much to report here except Alexis Serna nailed a 47-yard kick Saturday and Ryan Gunderson is his holder giving the team options on special team’s trick plays.