Wednesday (4/17) Practice Notes

Now past the halfway point in spring practice, the coaches still are working on the finer points of technique and execution. Read on for the position group making some strong progress, which player is now able to hit in practice and some notes on play in the trenches.

Assorted notes from Wednesday's practice in no particular order:

  • JR Lemon has ripped off his yellow jersey and is now in full contact along with Justin Faust and Kenny Tolon at the tailback position.  He made a couple nice moves today, but it's too early to tell what he can do in this system.  He does five more practices plus the spring game to get fully involved, though, which is good news.  The other regular yellow jerseys are still on - Kerry Carter, Louis Hobson, Luke Powell, Mark Anderson, Garry Cobb and Darin Naatjes... though Luke might break out of his soon.
  • On the offense line, I saw pretty strong days from "Captain" Kirk Chambers and Greg Schindler.  Schindler matches up with Matt Leonard quire a few times on the line, and may be the best guy on this team to hold his own against him.  Kirk is not only handling DEs well, but he is also getting downfield and really taking it to linebackers.
  • I've noted before that Brian Head is taking the mantle of "utility man" on this line, playing both guard and center.  Well I'm now seeing more of the same from Dustin Stimson.  He has been a fixture at guard with the #2's but is also getting increasing snaps at center and even long snapper on special teams.
  • On the other side of the ball, Craig Albrecht continues to have a strong spring, and is giving me hope that we can have another force alongside Matt Leonard to get a real push up the middle.  I don't want to go so far as "explosive," but he certainly is getting off the ball faster and putting his man back on his heels more than in the past.  Kudos as well to Casey Carroll for a strong day and a couple of big pushes against the O-line.
  • The "unknown soldier" on the defensive line is walk-on Ian Shelswell, a very large discus and hammer thrower from the track & field team, as well as a transfer from Harvard and Ontario, Canada native.  He is new to football, but I may have caught a glimpse of where Dave Tipton and the defensive staff think he could find his niche.  On goalline situations, he got some good work during the scrimmage to end Wednesday's practice, where his size can help to eliminate any daylight to run through.  He has a lot to learn, though.
  • The fullback continues to look like a position of serious use in this offense, contrary to what many may envision when they hear of a Spurrier offense come to Palo Alto.  In addition to blocking, they are spending a lot of time in practice catching the ball.  Casey "More and More and" Moore looks very comfortable catching and then turning up field - more fluid than in the past.  But watch for Cooper Blackhurst.  He's a natural and isn't far behind Casey in the receiving end of the game.  Right away he's showing pretty good hands.
  • I watched the receivers go up against the DBs again Wednesday - no ball, just working on getting off the line of scrimmage.  The receivers are already improved and doing a better job of keeping the DBs' hands off them.  Leigh Torrence and Timi Wusu looked the strongest of the defenders, while Teyo Johnson, Nick Sebes and Brandon Royster drew the most praise from Coach David Kelly.  When the WRs went against the DBs in passing drills, the receivers largely had their way with them.  I think the young DBs have flashes of playmaking, but can't consistently hang with this receiving corps yet.  Moreover, I think the receivers are running much better routes than they did this past fall.  Credit that to a group who was young last year but is getting another year of experience, as well as some excellent teaching from David Kelly.  He is putting far more emphasis on the fine details of running perfect routes than the previous WR coaches did before, and it is already paying off.  It really is.
  • Teyo Johnson had a strong day, including a couple beautiful one-handed grabs deep downfield.  Like several of the receivers, he is running better routes and getting open.  I see him being more integrated into the regular passing game, rather than just a "goalline guy" or someone who is looking for jump balls.
  • The stick of the day came from Kris Bonifas, who levied a huge blow in a goalline running situation against Kenny Tolon.  Kris came back and made another great play on the next down.
  • Caught up and chatted with a couple of our beloved graduating senior Cards.  Mike Biselli is almost done with his masters degree and keeping options open for the NFL.  He also was excited about the work and attention that the special teams is getting now under the new staff.  Eric Heitmann is looking huge and is in great spirits heading into this weekend's draft.  He also had some really strong words in support of the new OL coach, Steve Morton.

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