Notes From Spring Practice: Day 5

After coming off a rather sluggish and unimpressive Monday practice, Wednesday morning's practice more closely resembled and seemed to maintain the kind of heightened intensity that was apparent in week one and that aims to become commonplace with first year head coach, Chip Kelly, at the helm.

1. Two players, in particular, really stood out during today's practice. The first was sophomore tight end, Na Derris Ward. Ward has continually improved each and every practice, displaying good strength and hands to go along with impressive athleticism for a player of his size. Today was arguably his best practice, and Coach Kelly has taken notice. "I think he's got a sense of purpose," stated Kelly, "last fall he wasn't playing and so he's practiced his tail off." Bryson Littlejohn was another player today who had arguably his best practice thus far. Littlejohn, the junior college transfer from Sierra Community College, demonstrates great speed and tenacity at linebacker, using those atttributes to his advantage Wednesday, intercepting a pass during one-on-one's verses the tight ends and laying a huge hit on Remene Alston during 11-on-11's. "Everyday Bryson Littlejohn has gotten better..." admitted Kelly, "we're excited about him. He did show up today and he's shown up more and more. [Kelly and the coaches] picked him out on film the other day [and] he can really run."

2. Over the course of five spring practices, it appears that the play of the receivers certainly improved from practice to practice. While no clear cut leaders have emerged from that group, it's obvious that the entire unit is very skilled and each player brings something unique to the table. Possibly the most impressive thing today were the receivers' ability to make difficult catches in defender-saturated areas. Specifically, receivers Jamere Holland, Chris Harper, and Aaron Pflugrad have all shown the aptitude to catch the ball in traffic and make plays after the reception. Additionally, Lavasier Tuinei and Garrett Embry had good practices today. Tuinei was seen making some nice grabs and holding on to the ball despite absorbing big hits, and Embry exhibited good versatility running routes, catching the ball, taking end-arounds, and blocking.

3. Jeremiah Masoli continues to play with some inconsistency throughout the duration of practices. Despite having his best practice of the spring last Friday, it appears that Masoli has taken a bit of a step back this week. While he had a number of good short and intermediate passes that went for nice gains -- as well as a terrific deep ball to Holland that went for six during 7-on-7's -- he still seems to struggle somewhat in making heady decisions with the football; all too often forcing action that isn't there or misreading a route and throwing an interception, as was the case during one particular 7-on-7 session when cornerback Kenjon Barner took advantage of an errant Masoli pass. While no one should seriously expect Masoli to lose his place with the first string, he is being pushed, with players such as Justin Roper, Darron Thomas, and Nate Costa looking very capable thus far this spring.

4. Things appeared to move at a much quicker pace on Wednesday compared to Monday's rather sluggish practice. Coaches and players alike were buzzing with the kind of enthusiasm and conviction that was discernible during the first week of spring. "Better energy," said Kelly after practice, "I thought the kids flew around. Obviously, they're still going to make mistakes, but, you know, right from the beginning of practice you could tell that they had a pretty good mindset."

5. Finally, some minor injury news to report on. Andre Crenshaw, T.J. Ward, and Jeff Maehl were all held out today with "lower extremity" injuries. According to Coach Kelly, all three players are day-to-day.

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