WR Sammie Stroughter's still got it. Laying out in between three defenders to grab a 40-yard bomb. Ripping off a punt return for a touchdown. Catching everything thrown his way. Those are just a few of the positive signs that Stroughter is well on his way to becoming one of the top receivers in the nation, again.
S Bryan Payton has a nose for the ball. Last year it was the same, and this year it is no different. It seems that Payton picks off at least one pass each practice. His interception in the endzone against USC was no fluke.
The offensive line is banged up. With Jeremy Perry on the mend, Tavita Thompson out until November and Adam Speer sitting out after pulling a peck muscle the offensive line is missing three starters. Inexperienced players dot the two deeps - a sobering thought if the starters get injured during the season.
Walk-ons are doing their part. The team currently has 36 walk-ons on the roster with offensive linemen Mike Remmers and Ben Motter vying for a starting spot on the offensive line, kicker Justin Kahut handling kicking duties and punters Sean Sehnem and Kyle Harper competing for a starting spot.
OT Mike Remmers is improving. After being thrust into a starting role Remmers is improving as he goes up against the talents Victor Butler and Slade Norris on a daily basis. When Thompson returns, the spot will not be handed to him.
The defense is ahead of the offense. With a banged up offensive line it's not surprising that the offense is having trouble moving the ball against the defense. But it's not just the line where the defense is dominating; it's in the secondary where the safeties and corners are locking down the talented receivers.
OT Tavita Thompson's energy will be missed during the season. Despite knowing that he won't play until the cold days of November Thompson continues to play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He is doing a great job pushing the defense around.
RB Jeremy Francis continues to integrate well with the team. Due to Francis' versatility and soft hands the coaches are now playing around with idea of lining him up at H-back to block and go out for passes. But, Riley notes that he could be an excellent choice for second or third down.
RB Patrick Fuller is putting together another good spring practice. Coach Riley says Fuller is playing the best football of his career. Riley said the same thing last year about Fuller, but that didn't translate into playing time. Maybe that will change his senior year.
Still lots of work to be done in the punting game. With hang times ranging from 2.5 seconds up to 4.4 and no consistency the punting game would be hurting if the season started today.