Preseason Camp Day #12 - Scrimmage

Saturday's practice session was the first full-length scrimmage of the fall and also the first to be held in Stanford Stadium. It was a bright and sunny day, with an injury docket as clear as the sky. The other good news was that the Cardinal offense is finding the big play once again in the passing game. Though the defense mostly kept the ball from moving consistently...

First, the best news. The team went through an hour and 45 minutes of scrimmage repetitions, they came away scott-free of injuries. Speaking of injuries, the players who were held out of action were Tim Mattran, Ismail Simpson, Capp Culver, Kris Bonifas, Emeka Nnoli, Chris Ryan, Matt Buchanan, Stanley Wilson and Brett Pierce. Most of those names had already hit the injury radar, with the exception of the latter two. Wilson has spent the last several practices on the sideline with a sore hamstring. Pierce has a little soreness in his elbow and was held out as a precautionary move.

Other good news was the very low incidence of penalties. Particularly encouraging was a very clean scrimmage in the trenches. There were no personal fouls, just one off-sides call and two holding penalties. One of those holds was an outright takedown, but the other was a borderline call that might not have been made in a game. However, Buddy Teevens asked the officials to "call it tight," so they obliged. There were a few procedural calls, which would be the next focus to clean up play before the season hits.

Two of the early offensive series had success moving the ball, first from Trent Edwards and then from Chris Lewis. Edwards led the best drive of the day, standing firm and confident in the pocket and picking up chunks of yardage. The biggest strike came to Luke Powell on a deep pattern, though fans may have been disappointed to see very little of Powell the remainder of the scrimmage. "I think there is a lot of competition for that second receiver spot," the honors WR candidate commented afterward. "The coaches just wanted to give more chances to those guys to see what they could do."

The receivers who most helped their cause with the day's performance were Mark Bradford, Gerren Crochet and Justin McCullum. Bradford did not pull down any long balls, but he did show great hands and a savvy set of moves after the catch. His greatest grab almost to be came in the endzone on a jump ball situation, which both Bradford and the double-team of defenders jumped a split-second too early. But Bradford extended an arm high behind his head and nearly hauled in the ball with one hand. On another play, Bradford caught the ball in the flat on a screen and turned upfield. He picked up 12 yards, though most of the credit goes to offensive guard David Beall, who had raced up the field after the snap and cleared out two defenders to make running room for Bradford.

Speaking of the offensive line, the first team had Brian Head at center, with Beall and Jeff Edwards at the guard positions. The second team had Drew Caylor at center, with Preston Clover and Mikal Brewer at the guards. The third team put Brewer under center, which did not go well. Brewer and freshman quarterback T.C. Ostrander had at least three muffed snaps. Ostrander did manage to hit one big play, though, finding Evan Moore some 40 yards downfield for a comeback catch on a short ball. Moore wrong-footed his defender on the play (Nick Sanchez), and trotted into the endzone for the score.

Other scores included McCullum on a deep ball from Lewis, and it was the type of play that the redshirt sophomore WR needs to make to prove himself to the coaching staff. He went up against Leigh Torrence and Oshiomogho Atogwe on a 50/50 ball and made an acrobatic grab, then falling over the goalline for the score.

Tight end Matt Traverso took a lot of repetitions in the scrimmage, with Pierce sitting out. And he scored on a great grab in traffic from Edwards. The redshirt frosh connected on a ball that threaded the needle between three defenders. The ball had tremendous pace, and most observers in the Stadium were shocked that the play succeeded.

"The pass protection was decent, but not great," opines head coach Buddy Teevens. "The offensive line is making progress, and you can see their confidence rising. It was particularly encouraging to see the redshirt freshmen. They were much better in their composure in here than we saw in the spring. On the other hand, this year's true freshmen were wide-eyed and made some bad mistakes."

"I thought the quarterbacks were more comfortable, but they made some mistakes we can't afford," he continues. "We had a sack in the redzone, which is an absolute killer, and we had some grounding calls. The running backs put the ball on the ground twice, and they need to lower their pad level. But J.R. Lemon showed some physical play, and David Marrero showed that he can slam the ball up in there. Kenneth Tolon is making progress, but he's still getting his legs back after missing some of the early practices with summer school. I really liked what I saw from Mark Bradford, and Justin McCullum is starting to show that he can make plays. Gerren Crochet also had some nice yards after the catch. Evan Moore is an athletic guy when the ball is in the air, and he made a great play on that touchdown. But consistency is his issue right now."

On the defensive side of the ball, the defense more often than not handled the offense. Some of the big pay highlights were noted above, but very few drives consistenly moved the ball after the opening few series. "I thought we got a decent pass rush," Teevens adds. "But we need to convert that to more plays, getting to the quarterback. I thought the tackling on defense was very solid. We defended the ball well, but can't afford to give up the big play like we did today."

Some of the highlight plays on defense included crushing solo tackles from Amon Gordon behind the line scrimmage, Brandon Harrision making a stick as Tolon tried to hit the corner, and Calvin Armstrong laying the wood on Tim Sims on a 3rd and goal situation before the goalline. Harrison incidentally is still running first string in the secondary at strong safety, alongside Atogwe (free).

The special teams department was not unlike the other units, with both high notes and disappointments. Any session of the kicking game pitted the first team against a scout team, so there could not be a balanced competition. Nevertheless, the kickoff returns were inspiring. Kenneth Tolon broke one return all the way for a touchdown, while David Marrero took another one for what would have been a 40 yard return before a tackler could get a good angle on him. Punting also had some positives, even though the snapping was a little inconsistent. Drew Caylor snapped to Eric Johnson, and with the first two snaps over his head the punts were rushed. Johnson hit the ball for 39 and 45 yards with decent hang time. But Caylor's third snap was right on the money, and Johnson hit the ball 51 yards with tremendous height. Jay Ottovegio came in for the next three punts, with snaps coming from Jon Cochran and Brent Newhouse. The balls travelled 36, 40 and 41 yards.

The big disappointment of the special teams came on PAT kicking. Derek Belch had the first attempt blocked, which was due to a breakdown in protection on the edge. The flip side is that T.J. Rushing made a quick move and great dive to get to the ball for the block. Michael Sgroi took the second PAT, which was a hurried kick that he pushed low and to the right. It was easily blocked at the line of scrimmage. On punt returns, Luke Powell bobbled and dropped the first ball, and David Marrero fielded the second.

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