It was a hot day in the valley, and the punting went a lot better on Wednesday from the day before. The punters consistently got good distance on their kicks, but with an occasional knuckler as well. John Hekker delivered the punt of the day.
Justin Kahut has been rock steady in camp and he continued to kick well on Wednesday. If he missed one, it wasn't seen by this reporter. Matt Barker seems to be getting more confident in his kicking -- he's more accurate than he was when camp started and he's always had the big leg.
The defense on Wednesday morning concentrated on one-on-one coverage drills and polishing up on technique.
SURE, WE WENT A LITTLE OVERBOARD ON THIS ONE, EXPRESSING AS AN OIL PAINTING SAMMIE STOUGHTER'S LEAPING CATCH ON WEDNESDAY, BUT CAN YOU BLAME US? AFTER ALL, HIS PLAY THUS FALL IN FALL CAMP HAS BEEN WORTHY OF A WORK OF ART.
Lyle Moevao, simpatico with Sammie Stroughter since fall camp kicked of, hooked up a couple of times to get things started in the skelly. Keenan Lewis made a good defensive stop in the secondary. Justin Engstrom connected with both Aaron Nichols and Damola Adeniji. On Nichols' catch, a crisp route contributing to besting Tim Clark on the play. Over the last few practices, Nichols has begun to turn in more standout plays, unlike the first week where the receiver was relatively quiet. On the second rotation, Moevao connected with Darrell Catchings and Taylor Kavanaugh -- Catchings' grab probably would have gone to the house had it been "live".
11 vs. 11
The defense and offense each had their share of good plays. Stroughter started it off, with a leaping catch high off the turf. The offense missed on a couple of open receivers but nothing was underthrown and were usually in a spot where only the receiver was going to catch it -- they were "good misses", as much as a miss can be good. Later, Bryant Cornell read the play correctly and tackled Jacquizz Rodgers for a loss. It looked like a clean hit and to his credit, Cornell slowed down considerably towards impact to make sure he wasn't going full contact when it wasn't in the coaches' plans. Ryan McCants and Jacquizz Rodgers were the featured backs and saw a lot of work here, and in all different types of scenarios -- despite their height and size, neither Quizz nor McCants are the types of runners confined to one particular type of run.
The defense came out stronger in the second round of the skelly, dishing out a few knock downs in the secondary. James Rodgers uncharacteristically drop a bomb from Moevao than had paydirt written all over it. Rodgers had the defense beat and would have had an easy run to the end zone but it looked as if he took his eyes of the ball just a little bit and that's all it took. A few plays later, Damola Adeniji was seemingly in the same situation, but Brandon Hardin recovered just in time to knock the pass down. Both Adeniji and Rodgers each had catches later on in the drill. Greg Laybourn pilfered another pick, adding to his camp tally while diving and hitting the ground hard in the process. Moevao's pass looked to be slightly overthrown but a very smart, athletic play from Laybourn nonetheless. More on that in a bit.
11 vs. 11
The scrimmage mostly concentrated on the short passing game and the run. Jacquizz Rodgers and McCants each busted off a couple of good ones, McCants in particular courtesy of a serious plant and cut. It's difficult to stay with him on defense when he breaks one of those out -- and with power and speed. McCants also made a nice catch later on. Victor Butler beat the o-line and jumped high right about when Moevao was letting one fly. Butlet got enough of it so that the deflection was safely corralled by an alert Slade Norris. Suaesi Tuimaunei had a couple of nice defensive plays towards the end of the scrimmage.
Offense-specific, Defense-specific drills
The offense and defense returned to their respective areas to work further on drills as a unit, the wide receivers focusing on their blocking packages and responsibilities. The wideouts seemed to have fun crashing into the blocking pads held by their teammates. Riley was encouraging them to go strong at it, and that a completed pass is probably just a good block away from being a TD. Meanwhile, the defensive backs practiced their zone coverages and making the right decision based on where the throw went. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker reminded his charges not to take foolish risks that would see them burned more often than not. The DBs also worked on some of their other coverages.
Play of the day
Greg Laybourn's pick of Moevao. The strong safety made the right decision and moved to help the CB who was beaten by the tight end, and he came up with the pick off a low pass. Had the throw been more on target, Laybourn still would have been in textbook position to make the tackle on the TE or even possibly to knock it down. A good play all around by Laybourn.
Norris looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself during the o-line vs. d-line drills.
Jeremy Francis sat out for a second straight day, along with Jeremy Perry, who had got in some scrimmage work the day before.
Aaron Nichols is slowly making a bit of noise with some good plays lately but there reamins a whole lot of proven talent ahead of him in the receiver corps.
Sean Canfield was a non-participant in scrimmages and skelly work on Wednesday.