8/20 (Tuesday) Afternoon Practice Notes

The afternoon practice was a spotty one, with some inconsistent execution in several spots. The most notable though was the receivers. Read on for the report on who did stand out from that group, though, plus punting, the nickel defense, some linemen come home and a freshman taking his lumps.

  • Faces in the crowd included visits from Eric Heitmann and Austin Lee of the San Francisco Forty-Niners.  Both are having strong pre-seasons and making strides.  The tough news is that they assess there are approximately two spots open to the eight rookies and free agents on the offensive line right now - pretty tough numbers.  Eric has been playing all over the line, but may be settling in at his familiar right guard spot.  He started this last preseason game for the Niners, and unsurprisingly looks far better than his shaft of a seventh round draft position.  Austin has really bulked up from his defensive end days at Stanford to make the transition to offensive tackle.  There is good hope that even if he cannot stick this quickly with the Niners, he might be picked up elsewhere.  Eric commented on Stanford's frosh O-line class, which he likes a heckuva lot.
  • Pretty up and down day all over the field for this afternoon practice.  The most notable hot and cold performances came from the receivers.  One bystander blamed it on the setting sun, but the fact is there were a lot of unacceptable drops early in practice from most of the cast.  The good news is that the routes are fantastic, and are being run very crisply.  For the most part, the QBs and WRs are in synch and hitting the right spot on their patterns.  The grabs were much better in the latter third of practice.
  • A note on Luke Powell: as I said yesterday, he is limited in his practices right now as he is building his conditioning after a good six months of relative inactivity with his injury and healing.  An example of his limitation right now came on a deep ball where Luke had good separation and was an open target for a long TD.  The ball led him by a couple yards and fell incomplete.  I can't count the number of times in games and practice I have seen Luke accelerate to catch that ball in stride, but he did not have that fifth gear yesterday.  Not yet.  It's just a question of how soon until he is 'back' to that ability.
  • The standout receiver of the day was unquestionably Nick Sebes.  He put together the exact package that engenders the great optimism many people at Stanford hold for his future: routes plus speed.  On a day where many of the receivers had hiccups, Nick was rock solid.  He was in the right spot for just about every throw, and several times really stretched the field on deep patterns.  If Nick can consistently do in the next couple weeks what he did Tuesday, he should come into Chestnut Hill in the top four or five of the receivers.
  • A rough day was had for punter Jay Goff, and he and Eric Johnson both had a good chunk of time to punt against a rushing defense.  Kicks were into a good wind, which hurt both distances, but Jay clearly wasn't getting clean kicks off like Eric was.  Another data point, though, that Eric Johnson might have genuinely improved over the summer...
  • Longsnapping is currently being done by Drew Caylor and David Bergeron.  Still spotty.
  • Hit of the day came from Colin Branch on Evan Combs.  Evan went up in the air and twisted his body to pull down a grab, only to find a collision from Colin with helmet and body.  You have to wonder what kind of lick that would have been if it was full speed and no hold barred.  But also a great job by Combs to hold on.
  • A new look was given on the nickel defense, with Jon Alston in alongside Mike Craven.  This is the jump many Booties have been hoping for, with Alston's great quickness, but I offer this one caution.  I have seen the nickel this past week several times, and this was the first I have seen Alston in with the first string like this.  We need more data points to see if Tuesday was an experiment, or the leading edge of a real transition.
  • I have been talking up TJ Rushing quite a bit in these early practices, but it is only fair to note that he was beaten several times in a row Tuesday.  The one play that really got coach Mark Banker's attention came when TJ gambled for an interception on the sideline and missed.  The receiver had a clear catch and instead of being tackled for a small gain, had a free path of daylight to the endzone for a score.  Banker pulled Rushing out and talked with him for a few minutes after that.  Still plenty of learning to do.

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