After stretching and some light drills, I watched blocking drills with the running backs versus the linebackers. Coach Wayne Moses was running the drill and really doing an excellent job. This was the first time I've keyed in on Moses' coaching, but I was impressed. The first rotation, the linebackers pretty well had their way with the backs - not a one of them could protect the dummy "quarterback" bag. Coach worked on moving up their point of attack to meet the linebacker and keeping their feet moving after the hit. The results showed right away in the second round of the drill. Cooper Blackhurst, Justin Faust, Kenny Tolon and Casey Moore all showed big improvements and kept their LBs at bay. Cooper is fresh off the move to fullback, but has tremendous intensity and is a ferocious hitter. From the linebackers, the best moves came from Jared Newberry, David Bergeron and Jon Alston.
I next moved over to work with the DBs versus the WRs, run by both David Kelly and Mark Banker. There was no ball, and the drill simply simulated the battle off the line of scrimmage. The defender tried to jam the receiver as long as possible, and the receiver tried to break loose. Frankly, neither group did very well. The receivers, who are running great routes in the open field, had a tough time keeping the DB's hands of them. The receivers who did have some success were Nick Sebes, Grant Mason and Justin McCullum. Sebes was the most consistent and drew the most praise from a demanding David Kelly. The DBs who fared the best were the ones playing the most physically: Leigh Torrence, Stanley Wilson and Jim Johnson. Johnson isn't somebody who has garnered much praise on The Bootleg, but he more than held his own today. I have to wonder if jamming receivers might not be his niche on the football field.
A few more receiver notes:
- Though he didn't shine in the above drill, Teyo still is the biggest and most physical receiver on this team. And David Kelly is teaching him to be more physical when a corner tries to jam him.
- Justin McCullum had a great one-handed grab in a later receiving drill.
- Greg Camarillo made a nice run and pulled down a great toss from Chris Lewis over the shoulder
More special teams work throughout practice, including punt catching. A surprising number of guys are out there, including Leigh Torrence, Grant Mason, Gerren Crochet, Nick Sebes, Evan Combs and Caleb Bowman.
Later in practice, the team broke into 11-on-11 work. Not a true scrimmage, but the offense was charged with moving the chains. Here are some notes:
- Grant Mason's performances this spring look like they have catapulted him into the mix for a starting receiver slot. At least if you go 3 wide, with Luke Powell on the sideline in a yellow jersey. Mason was out there with Teyo and Wells for the first play, with the #1 offense versus the #2 defense.
- On the same note, the linebacking trio still looks like a starting group of Michael Craven, Brian Gaffney and David Bergeron.
- Michael Lovelady is having a good spring and is starting to get some snaps with the #1 defense. Noted today that he came in as a pass-rushing DE with the nickel defense. Something to watch.
- Leigh Torrence made an outstanding open-field tackle on Teyo Johnson right after a catch out in the flat. LT hit him hard and low, flipping Teyo over. Of course on the very next play, Teyo showed off some dominating blocking on Leigh while the QB rolled out and scrambled.
- Calvin Armstrong had a nice pass-breakup on a ball to Caleb Bowman in the back of the endzone.
- Amon Gordon recorded a sack against the #1 O-line, and later got a great push against Kwame Harris that pushed Kwame back onto his back. Kwame could only grab Amon's jersey at that point to protect against a sack. Against Kwame, that says a lot.
- Cooper Blackhurst had two nice grabs out of the backfield. One came on a sideline pattern just beyond the reach of David Bergeron, while another came from Kyle Matter on a 4th down improvisation.
- Justin Faust had a couple nice runs, with the highlight run of the day coming from the 25-yardline. He headed up the middle but ran into a brick wall. Justin bounced outside and took off for the corner of the endzone on the right side. He dove and reached paydirt just as a defender tackled his legs. Great run for Justin.
- Justin wasn't so fortunate later when Matt Leonard got into the backfield and caught Faust's ankles, tripping him up as he hit the line of scrimmage.
- Matter tossed a lob pass to Gerren Crochet in the endzone, but it was underthrown a little and pulled down for a nice INT by Chijioke Asomugha.
Overall, this practice showed that a lot of players still have a lot to learn, but there are a lot of playmakers on this team... and a heck of a group of teachers getting them better.