8/23 (Friday) Morning Practice Notes

This morning was a very spirited practice, regardless of the cool weather and shorts (out of full pads). I focused on the offensive line and the special teams work, as well as gathering an injury report from Buddy Teevens. Read on for all the latest.

  • Right off the bat, here is the latest on injuries, from an individual conversation with Buddy Teevens after practice... Caleb Bowman indeed hurt his knee last Saturday when Chijioke Asomugha came down on his leg toward the sideline. Caleb was reaching out for a catch (and would have made a good one), while the weight of the defender pulled his leg back. Looked pretty bad. The good news is that examinations showed no ligament damage - that is, all intact. The bad news is that there was some damage to a bone attached to the ligament, which required surgery yesterday. I am not a doctor and will not try to delve into the details beyond this. Because this was not ligament damage, his knee should be pretty stable and allow him aggressive rehab. Timeline looks like 4-6 weeks right now. On a personal note, this is a real killer. Caleb had his confidence back, and his teammates had it back as well. He had a mountain to climb after his benching by Tyrone and Diedrick last fall, and he just got knocked back down with this. David Kelly had even talked to me about what he saw Caleb doing on the field this fall. There were real expectations for him. He just loses some time and conditioning and will get rolling later than he should have for this season... The other person at the top of my mind was Greg Schindler, who has missed a little time lately. As I reported earlier in the week, he doesn't have anything wrong, so much as they are being safe with him. Buddy described the decision to hold Greg out some right now (go once a day) as "precautionary" and also said that he wants to get young guys some reps with the #1's. That pretty much translates to Brian Head, who is getting a lot of extra work as a result of this decision. As a testament to Schindler's health, Buddy says he expects him to play in Saturday's scrimmage... I haven't seen much of Louis Hobson or Michael Lovelady the last few days, and Buddy says they have "minor strains and pulls" incurred in the first few days of practice. Buddy doesn't want to push them right now if he doesn't need to. Julian Jenkins is the biggest beneficiary, though, with a lot of work at DE. Hobson and Lovelady are both expected to play Saturday according to Buddy as well... In conclusion, the bad news is Caleb, though it really could have been worse (e.g. ACL or MCL). The good news is that three guys you might think are hurt if you saw the last couple practices are well enough that they are set to go for the scrimmage.
  • Tried to give special emphasis to watching the line today, including some of coach Steve Morton's teachings and drills. I like his style and demeanor, which is firm yet not overbearing. He talks to the guys and they look very responsive. Not a yeller like some former ones we've had here a couple years back, but not some yuck-yuck best friend approach either. He has attention to detail, and gives it at different levels to different guys. When one of the freshmen doesn't understand the drill or the grosser elements of the technique, Morton calmly walks him through it. At the same time, he knows how to go after the finer elements needed by Kwame, Kirk and Greg to make them better. One standout example was on a drill this morning on cut blocks. Kwame wasn't coming at the bag the right way, and he wasn't orchestrating his movements in the proper synchronous fashion. Morton's response: "C'mon, Kwame. I thought you were a musician. You should have better timing than that!" Then he hits the details and has Kwame be the only guy to repeat the drill before the next group. And it worked. All this for a probable first round draft pick next June if he wants it. Morton showed insight on how to motivate Kwame the human being. Just love it.
  • Not to belabor Kwame too much, but I was mostly watching tackles and tight ends in the line work today. In back-to-back plays, Kwame showed two different yet lethal moves. First play, he explodes inside and takes out the tackle, Casey Carroll. Some formation against the same defense on the next play, but he darts outside and takes out the outside linebacker. It's how lightning fast and light on his feet Kwame moves that makes him so special. Then his size and power just destroys you.
  • As noted above, Brian Head is benefiting from this rest given to Greg Schindler. The first five this morning were (right tackle to left) Kwame, Brian, Tom Kolich, Paul Weinacht and Kirk Chambers. What is interesting is when Brian moves to the #1's like this, here is the second five: Mike Sullivan, David Beall, Dustin Stimson, Jeff Edwards, Edmond O'Neal. Two very interesting note there - Stimson is so valuable as the reserve behind Brian Head that he is moving to center in this situation. Morton must rather have Dustin there and keep David Beall out at guard. The second note is that Sully and Edmond might be interpreted as still ahead of the frosh tackles, including Jon Cochran. I have heard that Sully did some good off-season work and is more serviceable now as a tackle, so maybe we're a little better at right tackle than we (I) thought coming into August...
  • Brian Head is still the key guy to bring along and get better right now. He is having ups and downs, though Buddy said he thought today was a pretty good practice for him.
  • Alex Smith has gained much kudos for his receiving from me this last week, but I watched his blocking today. At least as a run blocker, he is better than OK. He could be pretty good, and maybe another Brett Pierce. He certainly isn't as consistent yet, though.
  • A good chunk of practice was on special teams. The emphasis and depth of coaching with this staff is so ahead of what was given under the previous regime that it's eye-popping. At one time, there were three separate sets of drills on one playing field with kicking work. David Kelly worked with the coverage guys on running their lanes and how to hit their blockers. Tom Quinn worked on the kickoff return guys for where to move for different returns. And Buddy was working individually with Michael Sgroi and Eric Johnson on holding and placekicking. All three are incredibly meticulous on details and technique. Saw Kelly yell for Jason White to lower his arms closer to the ground in his stance at the LOS for the kickoff. Quinn was all over a lot of guys about placement on the field. Buddy was walking through with Sgroi how to approach and hit the ball after the snap. My overall observation, for what it is worth, is that the kickoff aspect of special teams is in better shape than the punting units. And I am not talking about the actual striking of the ball - I am talking about coverage and return units.





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