Spring Practice notes for April 5

The spring practices in this edition have been hard-hitting and intense. Along with the veterans who bring experience and leadership, there are some young players stepping up. Inside Sparta brings you the notes from Sunday's workout.

Inside Sparta spent nearly three hours at the San Jose State football practice facility on April 5th, watching warm-ups, position drills, offense versus defense scrimmages, photographing players, and conducting interviews of both players and coaches.

A few observations from the practice:

Once again, the practices were intense. Lots of hard hitting was on display. The players are going full speed, and seem to be very focused on both working hard and making themselves into better players. Unlike last spring, the quarterbacks are not having to take hits in practice.

New San Jose State quarterbacks coach Terry Malley came to the Spartans from the Arena League.

We've never heard a coach with a more booming voice than that of new quarterbacks coach Terry Malley. Without the use of any amplification, his voice carries across the practice facility, clear as a bell. He is very encouraging towards his players, always praising them when they do something well. For all intents and purposes, he appears to be the offensive coordinator, as he is orchestrating the entire offense.

It's our belief that the addition of Malley will allow Coach Steve Morton to spend more time with the offensive line, and that the O-line will be much better for it. Look for an improved O-line in 2009, thanks to Morton's increased time with the group.

Also spending a lot of time with the O-line on Sunday was Coach Brent Brennan. It would appear that this group is a top priority for the coaching staff.

Most of the scrimmages between the No's. 1 and 2 offense and defenses were spent in the redzone. It would appear that the O-line got the better of D-line. They continually got a nice surge during run plays up the middle. Both Brandon Rutley and Chris Reese scored on runs of 10-plus yards, running straight up the gut. It must be noted that the O-line is currently at full strength, while the defensive line was without the services of two starters, Carl Ihenacho and Adonis Davis, as they are being held out of contact drills. The D-line was able to get pressure on the QBs from the edges, forcing some hurried throws.

Junior wide receiver Jalal Beauchman made one of the better plays of the day.
A lot has been said of new junior college transfer wide receiver Marquis Avery. He appears to be as advertised. He is very athletic, and seems to have a fire lit under him. But, perhaps the biggest surprise this coming season will be the improved play of WR Jalal Beauchman. He appears ready for a breakout season. During the redzone scrimmage between the No. 1 offense and defense, Beauchman caught a pass in the right flat, then put a juke on Duke Ihenacho and ran untouched into the endzone. Beauchman made several nice plays throughout the day

New place kicker Tyler Cope, a transfer from the University of Colorado, appears to have a very strong leg indeed. He was very solid kicking FGs from the redzone. We did not get to see him air out a long one however. At this point, he appears the front runner to win the starting job. But, he will still have to face competition from incoming freshman Harrison Waid (Fremont HS, Sunnyvale, CA) this summer.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Tracy Pugh is part of a talented young group of players on defense.

Fans in attendance were beginning to notice a couple of the redshirt freshman defensive ends. Both Tracy Pugh and Keenan Brown are holding their own in one-on-one drills against the O-line. Also doing well is redshirt defensive tackle Raymond Rodriguz.

Another redshirt freshman nearly made the play of the day. Tight End Ryan Otten just missed making a spectacular one-handed catch down the right sideline on a 25 yard pass from QB Jordan LaSecla. Otten made a tremendous adjustment to get his hand on the ball, and probably would have pulled it in and made the catch had not the defender came in and broke it up.

Last week we mentioned San Jose City College walk-on Manu Ngatikaura showing some outstanding speed at the WR spot. On Sunday the coaches had him playing defensive safety. So, it appears the coaches are trying to find a spot for this very athletic player.

In our interview with him after practice, LB/DE Justin Cole was being modest regarding team leaders. Make no bones about it, he is definitely one of the leaders on this team. Cole, who has been at SJSU for four years, said he's experienced both the highs and lows. He preaches the "team first" mentality, while the choir is giving him a big "amen".

Mike Morgan is Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.com

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