We see this almost every spring... but we were getting nervous waiting for it to happen this spring.
It is a tall order for either the offense or the defense to hold down the other for too long of a stretch during spring practices, and after a week of defensive dominance, the offense struck back on Tuesday. The offense had been forcefully challenged by head coach and offensive coordinator Walt Harris after Saturday's disappointing scrimmage, and he gave them another spirited dress-down Tuesday afternoon before the team took the practice field. Harris' motivations and directions yielded sweet fruit in the crispness of much of the practice, and most certainly in the ending mini-scrimmage. Scroll down to see the play-by-play, where the running game moved the ball with four different tailbacks in the backfield, and redshirt sophomore Trent Edwards led the first team offense against the first team defense with 5-of-6 passing for 85 yards. The running backs averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
As run game coordinator Tom Freeman said in his interview with The Bootleg afterward, you cannot let yourself get too excited with one day of success. The offense and defense each have their victories in the spring, and this was just one standout day for the offense after several lackluster performances. But it was a remarkable turnaround from what we saw all of last week, particularly in the offensive line's ability to pick up blitzes. The run blocking was also superb, opening up holes which the tailbacks hit hard. Friday will be a walk-through practice, but we are anxious to see in Thursday and Saturday's full pads practice and scrimmage, respectively, if the offense can finish the spring holding onto some of this newfound momentum.
During the practice, there were some interesting depth chart moves worth reporting. The most obvious followed on what we had seen at the end of last Saturday's full scrimmage in the stadium. After being beaten often by redshirt junior defensive end Casey Carroll, redshirt sophomore right tackle Jon Cochran was demoted to the second team while freshman Ben Muth was promoted to his place on the first string offensive line. In Tuesday's practice, Muth held onto the position and took the lead throughout the practice and then in the final mini-scrimmage with the first team offensive line. I also noted that the repetitions during drills have been stretched for both Muth and Cochran, while third string redshirt freshman David Long is the odd man out and saw his work cut back. Muth would work with the first team and then stay on the field for early snaps with the second unit, then replaced by Cochran, who finished the second team work and took some repetitions with the third team. There is a very open and heated competition at this position, and the coaching staff is taking measures to push both Muth and Cochran.
Another depth chart shuffle that will grab Cardinalmaniacs' attention was at wide receiver. The first pair remains untouched, with sophomore Mark Bradford and redshirt junior Gerren Crochet still locked down on those starting jobs for almost the entire spring. The #3 spot was filled Tuesday by redshirt junior Justin McCullum upon his return to active duty after sitting out some practices injured last week. Behind him was redshirt sophomore Marcus McCutcheon, who had a stellar scrimmage on Saturday, and freshman Anthony Kimble, who took repetitions on Tuesday higher on the depth chart than at any other time this spring. Down at the #6 spot and running third team on offense was sophomore Evan Moore, who is still going through growing pains with the demands handed down by the new offensive staff.
Over on defense, the depth chart remained much as we saw last week, though one subtle move that I failed to report previously was the ascension of redshirt freshman Peter Griffin to the second team strong safety. He has for the last few practices been ahead of redshirt sophomore Bryan Bentrott, which will surprise many observers.
#1 Offense vs. #1 Defense
(Trent Edwards at QB; J.R. Lemon at RB)
1st & 10: Pass complete to Mark Bradford for 30 yards after
play-action to Lemon
1st & 10: Run by Edwards for two yards (looked for quick throw to Bradford, but tight coverage by T.J. Rushing)
2nd & 8: Run by Lemon for five yards (tackle by Brandon Harrison)
3rd & 3: Pass complete to Lemon for 17 yards after play-action to Lemon
1st & 10: Run by Lemon for two yards (tackle by Rushing)
2nd & 8: Pass incomplete to Bradford 15 yard downfield (broken up by Nick Sanchez)
1st & 10: Pass complete to Marcus McCutcheon for two yards (Tim Sims coverage and tackle)
2nd & 8: Run by Jones for four yards (tackle by David Lofton and Mike Silva)
3rd & 4: Quarterback sack
new set of downs
1st & 10: Quarterback sack for loss of four yards
2nd & 14: Run by Jones for four yards
3rd & 10: Pass complete to Anthony Kimble for 17 yards
#1 Offense vs. #1 Defense
(Edwards at QB; Jason Evans at RB)
1st & 10: Run by Evans for one yard (tackle by Julian Jenkins)
Gerald Commissiong in for Evans
2nd & 9: Pass complete to Commissiong for 11 yards after play-action
1st & 10: Quarterback sack for less than a yard
2nd & 10: Pass complete to Gerren Crochet for 22 yards
1st & 10: Pass complete to Commissiong for five yards (tackle by Kevin Schimmelmann)
2nd & 5: Run by Commissiong for eight yard (tackle by Pannel Egboh)
#2 Offense vs. #2 Defense
(Ostrander at QB; Evans at RB)
1st & 10: Pass complete to McCutcheon for 36 yards (Sims fell
down in coverage)
1st & 10: Run by Evans for nine yards
Commissiong in for Evans
2nd & 1: Pass incomplete (thrown off back foot, 12 yards behind line of scrimmage, right into Peter Griffin's hands but dropped)
3rd & 1: Run by Commissiong for three yards (tackle by Silva)
1st & 10: Pass intercepted by Lofton (intended for Evan Moore)
reset for offense, despite turnover
2nd & 10: Screen pass complete to Commissiong for seven yards (nice spin move off first tackler)
#3 Offense vs. #3 Defense
(Garrett Moore at QB; Evans at RB)
1st & 10: Run by Evans for two yards
2nd & 8: Run by Evans for five yards (tackle by Bryan Bentrott and Taualai Fonoti)
3rd & 3: Quarterback sack by Alfred Johnson
new set of downs
1st & 10: Run by Evans for 10 yards (tackle by Bentrott)
1st & 10: Run by Evans for seven yards (tackle by Silva and Bentrott)
2nd & 3: Pass complete to Evans for three yards (tackle by Silva)
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