Spring Ball: Day Five

With dark clouds hanging over The Farm on Thursday, we were thankful to get the two-plus hours of practice in before rain started to fall. It was the second straight practice in full pads, which featured heavy contact and plenty of teaching. Also an interesting scrimmage to wrap things up. Read on for all the latest news and notes from the practice field.

Before we cut to the chase, with the details on the full-contact scrimmage held at the end of Thursday's practice, here are a few notes from the afternoon of drills:

  • The wide receiver depth chart on this day saw little shuffle, with Mark Bradford and Gerren Crochet still leading the way for the first team.  This is the deepest position with the greatest number of players who can vie for a starting job.  The one minor change Thursday was freshman Anthony Kimble moving up to the third team pair, where Kyle Matter had been on Tuesday.  There are additionally three-WR sets, so more than six wideouts are getting work in a three-deep rotation.
  • Receivers coach Tucker Waugh brought a new drill to practice that I enjoyed.  He let two of his wideouts start at one another one-on-one, with one playing the role of blocker and the other fighting to get past him.  The Waugh threw down a towel somewhere behind the blocker, which the other man fought to reach and pick up.  Receivers have to be physical in a number of situations - not just "skilled" players - and I like a drill such as this to help develop those physical attributes.
  • Sophomore tight end Patrick Danahy continues to impress me.  He has always been a strong and physical player, but he is head and shoulders ahead of the rest of his position mates in the receiving aspects of the position.  Of the various "open" jobs on offense, Danahy has to be holding down his position as strongly as anybody.
  • Redshirt freshman running back Jason Evans had a solid day, and he particularly impressed at the end in the scrimmage.  His knock last year was a thin frame which he did not substantially improve during his freshman off-season, and he was not physical enough in practices and scrimmages.  Now he has added an additional 15 pounds to weigh in at 205, and he's adding a little more power to his gliding game.
  • On defense, redshirt freshman Nick Sanchez again held the lead for the open cornerback spot opposite veteran T.J. Rushing.  Also in the backfield, I saw redshirt sophomore Trevor Hooper run all practice at the first team free safety position, alongside sophomore Brandon Harrison at strong safety.
  • In the nickel package, Babatunde Oshinowo left the field and was replaced by freshman Carlos McFall, who is running as the #3 cornerback currently.
  • The inside linebacker depth continues to be thin, but redshirt junior Michael Craven was healthy for a second straight practice, which is cause for a mini-celebration by itself.  He was teamed inside on the second team with frosh walk-on Brandon Willetts, and occasionally freshman Pat Maynor.  Maynor missed essentially the entire fall with a shoulder injury and surgery, and he has not started off the spring all that healthy.  But Thursday was a sign of his starting to return to action.  There is certainly ample opportunity right now for any inside linebacker to get repetitions and experience.
  • Something I have noticed, and it was more apparent as I watched the scrimmage, was how the defensive front adjusts after the offense breaks the huddle.  Last year, the outside linebacker and defensive ends all moved to react to the strength of the offense, depending mostly on which side the tight end lined up.  The different roles for the "Sam" outside linebacker on the strong side are significantly different than what is asked of the "rush" OLB on the weak side.  The former lines up on the line of scrimmage directly over the tight end, while the latter operates in a pass rushing mode in free space.  Those two positions still read the strength of the offense this year, and move to the appropriate side once the offense sets.  But the two defensive ends are staying put.  You no longer see Julian Jenkins and Casey Carroll moving around after the offense breaks their huddle.  They each line up over the offensive tackle, and I think now we can define their positions as the "left" and "right" defensive ends rather than "strongside" and "weakside."  You can find more on this in my interview with defensive coordinator Tom Hayes.
  • In some field goal work today, redshirt junior Michael Sgroi and redshirt freshman Derek Belch both took repetitions.  What surprised me was seeing freshman walk-on Aaron Zagory taking some third-team kicks.  Zagory joined the roster in late October, and though he was better known for placekicking in high school, the greater need for special teams depth on this roster is at punter.  There is no dedicated punting backup to redshirt freshman Jay Ottovegio.  Sgroi can punt if needed, and quarterback T.C. Ostrander could in a pinch, as well.  It was a small sample size, but Zagory was markedly behind the other two kickers in field goal duty with both accuracy and the strength of his kicks.  Preston Clover has the lead on the short snapping duties, with freshman offensive guard Bobby Dockter snapping for the second unit.

And now, for the blow by blow report on the "live" scrimmage at the end of practice:

#1 offense vs. #1 defense
(Trent Edwards at QB; open with three-wide of Gerren Crochet, Justin McCullum and Mark Bradford; J.R. Lemon is single back)

1st & 10:  Edwards scrambles to sideline for a loss of seven yards (Michael Okwo tackle)
2nd & 17:  Lemon draw for no gain
3rd & 17:  Short pass complete to Patrick Danahy for six yards after nobody open downfield
new downs
1st & 10:  Lemon run for seven yards
2nd & 3:  Lemon run for two yards

#2 offense vs. #2 defense
(T.C. Ostrander at QB)

1st & 10:  Ray Jones run for a loss of two yards
2nd & 12:  Pass complete to Nick Frank for eight yards (closeline tackle by Emmanuel Awofadeju)
3rd & 4:  Pass incomplete (intended for Jones)
new downs
1st & 10:  Jones run for five yards
2nd & 5:  Ostrander play-action and naked bootleg for six yards (Udeme Udofia bit on pump fake)

#1 offense vs. #1 defense
(Edwards at QB)

1st & 10:  Pass complete to Frank for one yard (obliterated by Okwo)
2nd & 9:  Pass complete to David Marrero for no gain (swallowed by Udofia)
3 & 9:  Pass complete to Danahy for 13 yards (against nickel defense)
1st & 10:  Pass complete to Bradford for 15 yards
1st & 10: Pass complete to Crochet for 15 yards

#3 offense vs. #3 defense
(Garrett Moore at QB)

1st & 10:  Jason Evans run for nine yards
2nd & 1:  Evans run for 15 yards (broke one tackle before Awofadeju brought him down)
1st & 10:  Evans run for one yard (Gustav Rydstedt tackle while being blocked, assist by David Jackson)
2nd & 9:  Pass complete to Austin Gunder for 20 yards (broke one tackle, then pulled pile forward for extra yards)
1st & 10:  Evans run for 18 yards on a pitch (Tim Sims first contact, Jackson brought him down)

#1 offense vs. #2 defense
(Edwards at QB)

1st & 10:  Pass complete to Crochet for 10 yards on a beautiful diving catch
1st & 10:  Lemon run up the middle for nine yards, carrying tacklers with him the last few
2nd & 1:  Pass incomplete deep down the left sideline, intended for Bradford (Carlos McFall coverage)
3rd & 1:  Edwards run on a quarterback keeper for two yards
1st & 10:  Marrero run for 13 yards behind Frank (tackled by McFall and Bryan Bentrott)

#2 offense vs. #1 defense
(Ostrander at QB)

1st & 10:  Pass complete to Marrero for loss of one yard (hog-tied by Okwo and T.J. Rushing)
2nd & 11:  Pass complete to Marrero for no gain (tackled by Julian Jenkins)


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