Day One, Practice Two

In the second practice of this first Saturday of two-a-days, I got more looks at the frosh and veterans. Evidence of speed was caught, Special K was sized up, Nacho broke long, and a few freshmen really caught my eye. One struck me as a verifiable playmaker with a mandate to play this fall. Read on to find out just who...

It's tough to gauge a lot on the first day of practice, with the boys in shorts and out of pads, just getting back in the groove of things. So how much more could I gleam from the second practice on this first Saturday? Well, hopefully enough to get you through the night...

  • Everyone is more or less healthy, but some are just a little strained or a little banged up. As the team ran a tough set of wind sprints at the end of practice, five stayed out. Kwame, Giles, Craven, Bonifas and Oshinowo. I don't believe any of them have any serious problems. Craven is still nursing a pulled muscle from the freshman combines, while OJ got kicked in the head in a play today.
  • Speaking of OJ, he looks one hell of a budding nose tackle. With his wide frame low to the ground, and explosive abilities, he will knock a lot of interior linemen off the ball for the next several years. With Freeman, Leonard, Albrecht and Pfeifer ahead of him at tackle, there isn't much reason to believe he won't redshirt this year, but early impressions are very positive.
  • I am putting myself out on a limb, but from just this first day of practice, with admittedly limited looks at the incoming frosh, I am going to make the prediction that Justin McCullum will be the biggest impact player this fall of this class. I was encouraged by what I saw this morning, but what I saw in the afternoon practice grabbed me. To elaborate: he has height (6'3" or 6'4"), leaping ability, soft hands, quickness, and unquestionable instincts and elusiveness. Justin is the complete package. He's a big target, with athleticism and playmaking abilities. If he gets the chance and plays to his potential, I could see Justin this fall every bit as good as the Dave Davis we saw in 1999. Maybe better.
  • Some other freshmen thoughts: Michael Lovelady is lean, but probably too lean - he needs the weight room and training table... Mike Sgroi is incredibly cut for a kicker - he reportedly rocked the team as he ripped off 19 reps on the bench in the combines, and that doesn't count those he did prior when Mark Witeska made him start over for going too fast... Casey Carroll is a wide load, but looks like he isn't in the condition he needs to be yet... both Grant Mason and Gerren Crochet have the q&a Booties crave, but it's too early for me to tell if they can make a push this fall... Mark Anderson is (and I mean this in the best possible way) a freak - he was at the top of his position group in the wind sprints, and is a seriously daunting physical presence on the field. I had seen him in person last spring, but not in action. Get him on the field this fall, wherever that may be. DE isn't a position of need, so the "where" isn't so easy to answer.
  • Brian Allen and Coy Wire might be the two most underrated speed demons on this team. Both made big plays simply with breakaway or closing speed. Although I have to say "Live" Wire's was more jaw-dropping on at least one play.
  • Darin Naatjes not only showed for this fall season, he showed the team and a host of railbirds how much he can bring. On one pass pattern, he was hit in stride behind the defense and took off. With a host of DBs in chase, nobody could close on him. Not even Leigh Torrence could gain a step on the 6'7" Nacho.
  • Early drills pitted the RBs against the LBs in blocking and coverage drills. Jared Newberry was uncoverable, and showed some great after-the-catch moves. Casey Moore was consistently scoring, as well. On the other side, Amon Gordon had the "stick" of the day. Poor Kenny Tolon started into his pattern when Amon stepped into him to chuck him, though Amon did a little more than impede Tolon's progress. AG leaned right into him and knocked him flat on his back. It wasn't quite an arm tackle, and looked legal to me, but the result was the same.
  • Kwame has beefed up to the biggest we've seen him at Stanford. He dropped at least 20 pounds between his senior season in high school and when he came to the Farm, with the intent of getting quicker. But he continued to drop weight, and probably got down to a weight that contributed to his ineffectiveness in pass-blocking. Well, defensive ends won't be pushing him around at any time this fall, as he's up to probably 325. "Special K" is a beast once again.
  • The punting was not encouraging today. At the close of practice, the punters finally got some full-speed work. The result was more of the same we've come queasily accustomed to. After some discussion with the famed Kevin Miller this evening, the path toward improvement seems clearer. Without a dedicated kicking coach, there is no hope for greater attention to technique. The real issue is getting Eric Johnson and others a load more reps at game speed. Instead of 8 realistic reps each week, they need 8 everyday. You don't have to disrupt practice, but there is room to assemble at least a rag-tag cast of blockers and rushers before or after the practice horn blows. Let's see it happen. Pasadena depends upon it.
  • FYI, both Teyo and Amon are sporting emerging corn rows.
  • FYI, Geoff Wilson may make the best fried chicken I've ever consumed. Get that recipe or some sous-chef to the team training table.

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