8/25 (Saturday) Morning Practice Notes

There is very good news on the Farm, with practices looking very crisp at the end of just the first week of 2-a-days. We're learning more about what we have at every position, as well as how we might look with a few injuries. The most encouraging player to emerge, though, has to be Teyo Johnson...

  • There are still a host of players sitting out right now, including Kerry Carter, Jamien McCullum, Nick Sebes, Darin Naatjes, Tank Williams, Ruben Carter, Marcus Hoover, Edmund O'Neal and Dustin Stimson. Most of these guys aren't seriously hurt, and should be back soon. Tank told me he could go right now, but the staff wants to play it cautious in preparation of the BC game. Nacho might be the exception here, with no clear timeframe for return and a pretty discouraged demeanor.
  • With O'Neal out, we get an early look at the kinds of position changes we could see with injuries on the OL. Kwame Harris thus split time this morning at right and left tackle. Kwame was out there with both the 1st and 2nd team for a long practice... No sign of Drew Caylor at OT. Mike Sullivan was the other backup tackle to get work, on the left side.
  • On the topic of position switches, there has been plenty of discussion on the BootBoard with respect to Amon Gordon and his place on the defense. While Booties have speculated about Amon up on the line, I saw him work out exclusively at ILB with the #2 defense today. The good news is that Amon had the 2 or 3 biggest hits of the practice, really accelerating into running backs at the line of scrimmage. "Oohs" and "aahs" were uttered along the rail and on the sidelines. The mildly discouraging notes is that AG still has some trouble with calls and reads. Kent Baer still has a work in progress with Amon, though something shaping up as a masterpiece.
  • The QBs as a group are still going very strong. Fasani is looking very good, and showing good judgment as to when to bolt and when to find that 3rd or 4th option. Chris Lewis had an off practice, with an uncharacteristic number of errant throws. Ryan Eklund threw the best ball of the day, about 35-40 yards down field, dropping just over the defender and into the arms of Greg Camarillo - in stride. Pure beauty. Unfortunately, Ryan struggled in a stretch later in the practice with some shorter targets. Kyle Matter continues to impress with his accuracy, though I have yet to see him go deep. I'm watching and waiting.
  • The receiving game is honestly the unknown component of this year's passing attack, and the staff is being very aggressive in getting a lot of WRs a lot of reps. Caleb Bowman, in my observation, appears to be out there the most. Nobody can say he isn't getting his chance. His confidence is improved, and he routes are looking better than I've seen before. His best moment may have been a difficult catch he pulled up off his hip. But Caleb's challenge continues to be consistent hands, with a couple of notable misses... The unquestioned star at this position, and maybe overall on the team, in this practice was Teyo Johnson. He is getting some serious reps, and delivering upon every opportunity. As a big target, the QBs are finding him easily, and even the less accurate passes are sticking to Teyo's hands like glue. He's being run on every imaginable pattern, deep, across the middle and out wide for quick dump-offs. Oh, and he's a nightmare for defenders after he's caught the ball, with size, speed and quick cutbacks. After one of his typical 25-yard gains up the middle of the field, Kent Baer yelled to his entire squad, "Can somebody get a piece of this guy?!?!" In a nutshell, that should be the same reaction from 12 opposing defensive coordinators this fall. I just hope and pray that Teyo is utilized in games to the extent he was this morning. He could have a Tony Gonzales-like impact that could carry the entire offense... Luke Powell appears healthy, but was unsettlingly quiet in his performance today. That had better not continue... Justin McCullum had some very nice plays late in practice, but is getting notably less reps than when I saw him last weekend. If this is a trend, it is a mistake. One outstanding play by Justin came on an underthrown ball, with the corner badly interfering with Justin as he tried to come back for the ball. Despite the near bear hug, Justin went over the top and pulled down the ball. I'm hoping not to wait until the 2002 season to see that on Saturdays.
  • The tight ends are certainly being integrated in the passing game, but their range of use might surprise you. Both Brett Pierce and Alex Smith were run deep. Pierce caught one ball 25 yards downfield in stride and ran it into the endzone.
  • I don't want to divulge much in the way of patterns, but this year's passing game is shaping up with a very different look than what we've seen the past two years from Diedrick...
  • Much less excitement came from the running game, which was largely held in check by the defense. With Kerry Carter on the sideline, you'd expect to see a lot of opportunities for other backs to step up. For this morning, at least, I didn't see that. Only toward the end of practice did Justin Faust and Kenny Tolon start to get chances. Both delivered, each on an impressive run off the left tackle for 20-yard touchdowns. Justin blasted through the defense and made it to the goal line with relative ease, while Tolon took the ball further outside, kicking it into another gear as he headed for the promised land. I'll be watching this position closely in this afternoon's scrimmage.
  • On special teams, Drew Caylor is working as the long snapper, which looked clean in the field goal attempts. More interesting were the kickoffs, showing the long and consistent legs of both Mike Biselli and Mike Sgroi. Both repeatedly put the ball between five yards out and a couple yards deep. During the kick return work, I took notice of the return men. This might be where Leigh Torrence gets his first Stanford appearance, as he is back with Luke Powell and Ryan Wells. Crochet and Mason are running as the reserve returners.
  • Speaking of Torrence, he and his classmates in the defensive backfield (Wilson and Atogwe) look better and better each time I see them. They are far more comfortable in their roles and coverage than a year ago, and brimming with the confidence (and cockiness) necessary to make plays. I liked seeing Torrence jam a couple of receivers on the line scrimmage in 11-on-11 work.
  • Colin Branch made a textbook strip in coverage, as he got his hand on the ball as it was pulled down by a tight end and just ripped it out. Nice, Colin.
  • With Marcus Hoover out, Louis Hobson is getting all of the reps at the weakside defensive end. That, coupled with Caylor's move to offense has Mark Anderson getting more reps. I was intrigued to see one set with Anderson, Blackhurst and Svitek all as down linemen. Generally a quiet day for the DL, though.

The team is scrimmaging in the Stadium this afternoon. The Booty will, of course, be there.

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