Because practice was much more low-key on Monday, it was much easier to watch and observe units that typically receive much less exposure. To be more specific, the offensive and defensive lines and the tight end position. The feeling is that there is a lot of young talent and skill, with many veterans being pushed by their less experienced counterparts. Fenuki Tupou is a player that has a great deal of size and talent and should see a significant amount of playing time this year. He is versatile and can play many positions along the offensive line, giving the unit a huge boost in depth and skill. Pat So'oalo has also displayed a good deal of talent, adding another big body to the mix. Through the Spring, this will be huge as both Geoff Schwartz and Max Unger sit out with injuries. Young lineman like C.E. Kaiser, Jeff Kendall, Jordan Holmes, and Bo Thran have shown promise as well. Maybe more than any other young lineman, Jeff Kendall has improved greatly and gotten noticeably bigger over the offseason. He has the size and ability to play several positions along the offensive line this year. The question still remains however, who fill Enoka Lucas' shoes at center? There are many players who have the ability to play there, but the position won't likely become more clear until Fall practices due to the several injured players.
Along the defensive line, a few players have shown bright spots over the Spring. Although sitting out with a boot on his right foot, Dexter Manley Jr. looks significantly bigger and heavier. Over the first week of practice (before his injury), he appeared to be just as quick or quicker than last year. It seems only a matter of time before he reaches his potential and becomes a terror to opposing Pac-10 teams. Victor Filipe has continued his development this Spring, growing into a leader along the defensive line. He, along with Nick Reed, appear to have the starting spots at the defensive end positions. Filipe is probably the most refined lineman of the bunch. Nick Reed earns the award as most crafty however, displaying a great spin move and quick feet. He appears to have gained about five or ten pounds of muscle over the off-season. Another player who will have an impact in some fashion or another this year, whether it be special teams blocking kicks or on the defensive line, is Brandon Bair. As a skinny freshman last year, Bair displayed a long and lanky body and a knack for blocking kicks. Fast forward through the offseason to Spring practice. Brandon Bair has filled out and worked hard in the weightroom, becoming noticeably thicker.
With the unfortunate and untimely loss of Ryan DePalo to a freak terror of the ACL in his right knee, it appears Matthew Harper will step into his role as the starting free safety. Although out of position at times, Harper is a big playmaker. He proved this last Spring in the Annual Spring Game with a pair of interceptions. Players like Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, and Walter Thurmond III will help ease the transition for a secondary that is young, but talented. Keep in mind, highly touted cornerback Anthony Gildon will still be coming in the fall. Because of the lack of depth in the secondary, it is critical that players step up. Willie Glasper has looked much improved this Spring, playing the ball and the receiver more confidently. The knock on Glasper has been that he isn't physical enough on the outside. From all observations, he has become much more solid at the corner spot and isn't afraid to bump and fight for position with the receivers. Upon his return from injury, Terrell Ward should challenge for a starting spot given his exceptional versatility and ability.
At the tight end position, both Ed Dickson and Ryan Keeling have looked solid. The coaches expect big things out of Ed Dickson this year who has the speed of a receiver, and the body of a tight end. He catches nearly everything thrown his way and is a big target over the middle. Ryan Keeling should also become a greater factor on offense this year as the more prototypical tight end, given his size. A walk-on that has surprised several onlookers has been freshman Derek Cowles. He has a thick upper body and great size at 6-5, 240lbs. On one play, a throw from Roper was high over his head but he went up and snagged it one-handed in front of the incoming linebacker. It was an impressive play that had many looking at their rosters to see who #94 on offense was.
Practice continues Tuesday and is scheduled for a 4:15 start.