Spring Practice Reaches Mid-Point

Thursday's practice was the mid-point of the spring schedule… 7 down, 7 to go, then the spring game on the 30th. On a cool but dry afternoon, the team assembled on the Pape/Kilkenny field complex.

The offense remained focused on the elements of the spread attack being implemented by Coach Bellotti and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton though some of the offense was run with the QB under center and more passing plays were included in drills against the defense. As has been the case since the start of practice, the good was offset by the fumbles. Despite a pre-practice routine that had each quarterback and center on the depth chart working the shotgun snap, the first live play from scrimmage found the ball on the turf. There would be more before the session was complete.

Of the good, Kellen Clemens completed a nice 20-yard pass to Brian Paysinger, Dennis Dixon and Demetrius Williams worked a nice completion with Demetrius extending the gain with a stop-on-a-dime reverse of field.

The coaching staff was vocal in their instruction both as the play was lining up at scrimmage and after the play was whistled complete:

Crowton to Dixon after an option pitch hit the turf: "No!! Inside!" "Listen to me, if he comes wide, pitch inside. If he comes hard, pitch wide. Don't let him play both guys."

Bellotti to TE Dan Kause: "You got to put the fear of God in him (the defender) that you're going deep. If you let him set up like that you won't get any space to make the play"

The full punt return and kick return teams worked on their game. Returning punts, Jackie Bates and Justin Phinisee each were able to spring a long return, Bates' for what appeared to have been a TD had the whistle not blown the play dead. Cameron Colvin also broke a 20-yard return to the right side of the field.

The only injury noted was Marques Binns, who pulled a groin. After returning to the sideline in his street clothes he stated, "I'll be OK". J.D. Nelson missed the session with what was termed a strep throat type illness.

No.1's on defense for most of the day: DL: Matt Toeaina, Haloti Ngata, Victor Felipe and Darius Saunders. At LB it was Anthony Trucks (though listed as a SS in the new terminology implemented this year), A.J. Tuitele, and Brent Haberly. Phinisee, Demetrius Spates, Ryan DePalo and Aaron Gipson were the DB's.

The offensive unit was too fluid, especially within the receiver corps, to identify a particular eleven as the No. 1's. Ian Reynoso, Palauni Ma Sun, Shawn Flanagan, Enoka Lucas and Geoff Schwartz garnered most of the snaps at offensive line.

After the practice Coach Bellotti spoke somewhat forcefully to the team. Asked later what points he had offered, he acknowledged "I wasn't as excited with our pre-practice conditioning. I thought some guys dogged it and I told them that. I challenged a couple of people and said you either respond to the challenge and dig down deep or you give up on yourself and your teammates. I said (to them) I hope you prefer to challenge yourself." He went on to note the message hadn't been presented in "quite in those words."

How was the message received? "They understand what I'm talking about. The majority of this team wants to be very good and wants to put last year behind them, wants to gain back and earn back the respect we lost. I think that the first thing you have to do is admit that you didn't do everything you needed to do and the second thing is to do something about it."

A mid-term progress report: "I think we're about where we expected to be. We're not where I want to be – the ball is on the ground too much offensively. We're probably not evaluating our linebackers as we need to. We are trying to do that with a variety of drills with more traditional sets. At this point in time offensively we've got to just jump in full go with this thing and sink or swim. At this point."

"Now we can retrench after spring and say ‘OK, what do we like, what do we need to do' but we also need make sure we prepare our linebackers on how to play all the various things they are going to see. That's the difficult thing about this. Are we where we want to be? No. Are we getting there? Yes. Is it slower trip than I thought? Yes."

As part of a coaching clinic the staff is hosting this weekend, the next practice is scheduled for Saturday. A limited scrimmage will conclude the session. Look to eDuck.com for the latest spring practice reports. Additional coverage can be found weekly in "Quick Quacks".

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