Spring Practice: Day Twelve

Monday was a "show me" day for this football team, to see if the offense could keep their momentum or if the defense would respond. The D struck back, putting pressure on the quarterbacks and blanketing the receivers. But the first day of the last week of the spring was even more notable for the new position switch unveiled, and a new group of players who earned the block "S" on their helmets.

Without question, the big news of the day Monday was a highly anticipated position switch: David Lofton has been moved to wide receiver after previously working with the quarterbacks.  The son of former Stanford great James Lofton, who similarly made the change from QB to WR in his time on The Farm, quickly adapted to the new situation after running some routes prior to the scrimmage.  As the scrimmage progressed, Lofton got stronger and stronger and caught a difficult touchdown pass on a flag pattern.  We only have one day in the books with him at his new position, but David Lofton was incredible impressive for his first day.  He moves so well on the field and looks natural catching the ball.  There is a world of technique he has to pick up, but based on raw natural ability alone, he can make plays right now.

Following the trend of good news, the injury front improved Monday.  Alex Smith was back on the field, albeit, wearing the yellow jersey donned by the walking wounded.  He participated in non-contact drills early in practice but sat out the scrimmage work.  For someone who was moving around the practice field Saturday either in a golf cart or on crutches, with a boot on his foot, this is great progress.  Smith said after Monday's practice that he feels his ankle getting better quickly, and should be back in full action soon.  Center Drew Caylor made a quick recovery from his Saturday injury to his knee, as he worked out in full capacity Monday with his new brace for support.

The twelfth day of practice also marked the return of Justin McCullum from his bout with food poisoning.  He was the standout receiver of the day, making several nice "possession" type receptions.  One in particular that was noteworthy was a catch on an out pattern near the sidelines.  McCullum was heavily guarded and caught the ball against his hip while just keeping a foot in bounds.  Much to the disenchantment of the defense, the coaches ruled it as a completion.

There were a few new injuries, though.  David Bergeron (hand) and Brandon Royster (leg) were sporting yellow jerseys to start the day, which means something happened to them in Saturday's scrimmage.  During the opening drills Gerren Crochet was running receiving drills and pulled up with what at the time looked like a knee injury.  He had an ice bag taped on his right leg for the remainder of the practice and told us afterward that he had a minor hamstring pull, but expects a quick return.

As was the case last Monday, a cadre of players sported newfound "S" stickers on their previously barren helmets.  The recipient list last week had been decidedly in favor of the defense, but the offense struck back this week.  Chris Lewis, Trent Edwards, Kyle Matter, Nick Sebes, Brett Pierce, Alex Smith, Brian Head and Mike Sullivan earned the helmet adornments Monday, in addition to some members of the defensive front seven: Jared Newberry, Jon Alston, Amon Gordon and Will Svitek

The offensive guards and tackles worked on run blocking extensively.  Lining up against a single defensive end and linebacker, they would block for a running back, who was getting handoffs from Ryan Eklund.  The drills were closely watched by Steve Morton (OL), Wayne Moses (RB), Tom Williams (LB) and Pete McCarty (DE); that also made for an amusing chorus of barked feedback after every play, as the four coaches commented on their guy in that drill. While the run blocking game was adequate, pass blocking was not free from error.  The second string suffered immensely at letting pass rushers break the line of scrimmage without ever being touched.  While certain defenders were being double teamed, others were dashing through the porous line, en route to the unprotected quarterback.

And the failures of the O-line translated into much of the scrimmage action Monday, as the quarterbacks were harassed and hurried throughout.  Give credit to those who recorded the sacks, for making the moves and plays - Will Svitek, Julian Jenkins, Ian Shelswell, Jared Newberry and others.  But the offense took one or two steps back Monday from what they had shown on the uptick Friday and Saturday.  A portion of that goes on the heads of the front five, but the receivers also had a poor day separating from their defenders.  Depending on your perspective, you might also give credit to the corners and safeties for having a good day, though.

Capp Culver had a notable day, including back-to-back standout plays on defense.  On third and goal, a sweep was called by the offense.  Just as the halfback appeared to be home free, Culver dashed in and provided a devastating hit, knocking the runner out of bounds well short of the goal line.  On the ensuing play, Chris Lewis dropped back to pass and attempted to lob the ball to the middle of the end zone.  However, Culver got his hand up at the right moment, batting the ball out of the air.  And has been the theme this spring, his defensive teammates shouted and whooped their approval with gusto.

Grant Mason at cornerback was not as flashy as Culver but had an equally impressive day. Mason supplied good coverage throughout the practice and never allowed much separation between himself and the receiver.  As the spring matures, so to is this newly converted cover corner, and he continues to hold down the left starting spot in practices.  Mason commented after practice that he isn't too secure in his status yet, because he recognizes that Stanley Wilson is not in the competition while he remains on the sidelines this spring.  That battle will come in August.  Mason also noted that


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