The overall format of the scrimmage was to always match up the same levels on offense and defense. For example, the #1 offense always lined up against the #1 defense, which is a departure from the 1 vs. 2 and 2 vs. 1 strategy employed in the previous regime. The order of these units used went something like 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. There were more waves than that, but the important note was that the first and second string players each got two waves of repetitions before the third string substitution. That made for an interesting and at first misleading order that we saw the quarterbacks employed. Lewis, Matter, Lewis, Matter, Edwards and Lofton. Then back to Lewis and Matter before Ryan Eklund finally saw the field. My first reaction was that we were seeing a major shake-up in the quarterback depth chart. But instead, it was merely a reflection of the fact that Ryan was not going to take snaps with the all-frosh O-line, as Trent and David did.
Nevertheless, today was the strongest signal I have seen yet that Kyle Matter is pulling away from Ryan Eklund. The number of reps he took dwarfed those of Eklund through much of the scrimmage, though Ryan did get much of the work at the tail end. Kyle is clearly being prepared to be the #2 guy to go in after Chris right now - that is clear. With that in mind, you might have been depressed to see Kyle's early productivity, but that too was misleading. He took his early reps with the #2 O-line, which included a major drop-off at the tackles. He was constantly darting for his life, and soon had to start taking snaps from the shotgun. Unsurprisingly, he could not get much done. One encouraging moment saw Kyle roll-out and scramble away from an onrushing Babatunde "O.J." Oshinowo. Kyle made a tough throw about 25 yards down the sideline, just over the near defenders where his receiver could get up for a grab. Unfortunately the ball deflected off his target's hands and was picked off at the sideline by a defensive back. Still, a promising improvised play under pressure for Kyle.
But later in the scrimmage, after Chris Lewis was done, Kyle got to work with the #1 O-line and the top receivers. He looked far better when he actual had a pocket and time to throw. He could do some things out there, and moved the ball. Far from perfect, but I think you could run a reasonable fraction of this offense...
Ryan Eklund struggled with several balls he just seemed to lob up in the air, with too much air and too little accuracy. Greg Camarillo bailed him out a couple times with big plays against his defender, and Grant Mason came up with two tough balls as well.
More notes in no particular order...
- There was one move in the depth chart that jumped out at me today, and I believe it is wholly independent of injury. Remember when I wrote a couple days ago that Jared Newberry was really pushing David Bergeron? Well, Jared played pretty exclusively with the #1 defense in this scrimmage, while Bergeron was playing with the #2's. Newberry by the way was swarming all over the field, and showed off his quickness with a lot of outside lines to the quarterback. He sure looked the part of a starting defensive player today.
- At tailback, Kenny Tolon looked like he got more early work than Justin Faust, but both of them are clearly behind JR Lemon. JR and Kenny put together some fair runs today. Kerry Carter led off the game with a great 1st down run on 1st down, but he sat while JR picked up a lot of reps. I still think KC is the clear #1, and the staff just wants to see what Lemon can do.
- Some nice work by Cooper Blackhurst catching out of the backfield.
- Amon Gordon has pretty regularly been coming in for the nickel package, but I saw a couple instances today where both ends were subbed. I saw Amon and Julian Jenkins both come on the field for the #1 nickel. Hmm... I bet this is just experimentation right now, but you don't make those experiments unless you have a hunch they are good ones. Possibly this might be the first entree for Julian Jenkins to get on the field this fall.
- TJ Rushing indeed got a load of work with the #2 defense, in line with my report that he is the #3 cornerback on this team. I did not see QBs throw much at him, but he did have one great break-up
- A couple guys got nicked a little, but Buddy Teevens told me after the scrimmage that the best news was that they went for 90 plays and didn't incur any injury.
- The defense had mostly the upper hand, but the offense had its greatest shining moments early with two TD tosses to Teyo Johnson. Both were long lobs from Chris Lewis with surprising precision. One came with Brian Gaffney coming in Chris' face, forcing the throw while backpedaling. Really good stuff. Teyo really does look indefensible on those plays, by the way.
- The single greatest receiving play came on a short pass to Ryan Wells, followed by the niftiest moves we have ever seen from him. Shook several guys right out of their jock. Ask anyone who was there - it was some great shake 'n' bake.
- Brett Pierce pulled down an improbable ball leaping in the air with two defenders draped all over him.
- Jake Covault had an outstanding tackle behind the LOS on a solo blitz. I could see it developing right away, but how he wrapped up JR Lemon was impressive.
- Babatunde Oshinowo was all over the QBs in this scrimmage, and was consistently the greatest threat up the middle.
- Stanley Wilson had a tough day today. He matched up with Teyo on both the TDs, and he had a few whiffs.
- The punting game was interesting. Eric Johnson was the only one to take any boots (Jay Goff is resting his hamstring right now), and they tracked the snaps pretty well. Scott Giles, the #2 long snapper, was all over the place, including the very first snap a good 7 feet over Eric's head. Shaky snaps led to some erratic punts, the shortest being 36 yards. But the last snap was the best for Giles of the bunch, and sure enough it gave Eric a booming punt. I kid you not, it had monster hang time and traveled 56 yards on the fly.
- Mathew Malele indeed was there at the scrimmage with his family. More on him and his recruitment later. TC Ostrander's parents were also in attendance (TC was at a friend's birthday party at Stinson Beach... tough life). Former Cardinal Ryan Fernandez was also in the crowd.