RB Ryan McCants looks to be the real deal. The Steven Jackson comparisons abound although he has yet to play a collegiate down. No matter, the redshirt freshman looks fantastic showing good vision in traffic with the ability to use cutback lanes for extra yards - just wait until full contact where he shows his power as well.
QB Lyle Moveao's extra practice with the receivers following the season paid off. The junior looks sharp spreading the ball around accurately and efficiently. He is confident and is the leader of the team.
With an experienced group returning at receiver the variety of receiver formations is versatile and exciting. From quick hitters, to screens, to reverses, to pitch and catches - you name it and it's in the playbook. The deep, talented group gives the offense an immense amount of big play ability and takes some pressure off of the running backs.
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh doesn't mess around. As one of the best and most respected coaches on the team he doesn't tolerate laziness or excuses - even on the first day of practice. Cavanaugh has been intense from day one as he tries and fills two holes on the offensive line while filling out the two deeps.
There's a battle brewing at running back. Even without Jacquizz Rodgers and little game experience the offensive backfield that consists of McCants, Jeremy Francis and Patrick Fuller is probably the most talented backfield since 2000 when the offense featured Ken Simonton, Antonio Battle, and Patrick McCall. Getting all of them playing time is already a concern with McCants looking the part, Francis living up to expectations, Fuller playing well and Rodgers set to play as a freshman.
Right tackle is a major concern. Losing Tavita Thompson until November hurts and the depth chart at offensive tackle shows the loss as walk on redshirt freshman Mike Remmers is working with the first team. Unfortunately, junior college transfer Viliamu Nau was ruled ineligible but offensive tackle Una Smiley quickly took his place on the roster.
Safety Lance Mitchell is going to be a star. Coach Mike Riley has already mentioned his ability a couple of times and Mitchell his backing up his coaches kind words by being in the right place at the right time while picking off several passes throughout the week
The defensive line line is young and inexperienced, but full of talent. Coach Joe Seumalo has lots to work with including an excellent foundation of Polynesian players who are naturally strong and athletic.
Defensive ends Victor Butler and Slade Norris are fit and ready to go. Both of them are in excellent shape and downright ripped. They are helping out their younger counterparts while giving the offensive tackles fits.
Kicker Justin Kahut has the leg, but not the accuracy. The sophomore has long ways to go before he has the accuracy of Alexis Serna or Ryan Cesca, but that's alright at the moment; he has all spring and summer to work on getting the ball between the uprights consistently.
Linebacker Keaton Kristick is going to make an All-Pac-10 team. Expectations have always been high for Kristick as the coaches hope he picks up where Derrick Doggett, an All-Pac-10 player, left off. Riley says he is a blend of Keith Ellison and Trent Bray, two great play making, smart players who were always around the ball - a perfect description for his play during practice this week.
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea may be the steal of the 2008 recruiting class. He is just a sophomore with three to play three but is getting extra repetitions with Pernell Booth on the mend. Paea is a load at 6-foot-1, 301-pounds and is almost immovable in the middle of the field already requiring double teams in from the offensive linemen.
There is great team chemistry and focus. Look around the field at any given practice and you will see Brandon Hughes teaching Brandon Hardin on hip position or Victor Butler showing Tom Hansen how to use the swim move effectively or Lyle Moveao displaying to Ryan Katz how to read the defense. There is a lot of teaching going on and not from just the coaches. And speaking of the coaches, they are focused and intense. There is no goofing around, but the players are still having a fun time.