The weather was cooperating once again as the Ducks hit the practice field today at Pape Field. It was the second day of practice, and the team was still in jerseys and helmets. Yet defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti seemed to be in mid-season form. Aliotti was animated as usual, and he used a wide array of words and body movements to show both his displeasure and happiness with his guys.
In spring practice to have the coaches single you out can be both a blessing and a curse in disguise. Botch your coverage or miss a read and coach yells your name. Strip your man or swat a ball and coach yells encouragement. With that being said, players can have a good practice, and they can go through a practice under the radar. However several defensive players had very solid practices today.
The first of which was redshirt freshman linebacker Eddie Pleasant. Pleasant received a lot of vocal kudos from Aliotti in the previous practice. With the exception of one missed assignment in pass coverage today, Pleasant was the recipient of positive feed back from his defensive coordinator. His performance culminated on a play in which Pleasant defended beautifully in a man coverage drill.
"I hope we got that one on tape," Aliotti yelled as he turned towards Mike Bellotti.
Another standout player from today's practice was true freshman defensive back John Boyett. The 5-foot-10-inch safety had two interceptions in the seven on seven drills and had a third go in and out of his hands. Boyett appeared to be a tremendous team player, and today he seemed to shine more in the team drills than in the individual ones.
Boyett was working on overcoming the learning curve in his first spring as a college player. The soft-spoken Boyett plays with a hard-hat-wearing worker's mentality.
"I was just trying to read my keys and make plays today. I'm just trying to learn the defense day by day and make improvements every day," Boyett discussed after practice.
Linebackers were the position of attention in today's practice for this reporter. Redshirt freshman Brandon Hanna and sophomore Casey Matthews both made some nice reads, and the two were disrupting running plays on multiple occasions. Kenny Rowe continued to play linebacker today, mostly in the middle linebacker position. He had some problems in zone pass coverage, but he showed a nose for the ball in pursuit of ball carriers on running plays.
T.J. Ward continued his excellent play at safety today, and he seems to be a realistic possibility as the team's starting free safety.
The team will be practicing again tomorrow, but the intensity will pick up. The team will be in full pads and roaring to go, which is something the players, coaches and spectators are looking forward to.