The practice on Wednesday was not all that revealing, versus Tuesday's big offensive outbreak. JR Lemon again had a sweet run with great acceleration through a hole on the left side of the line, and many of the receivers provided superlative routes and technique in drills. The passing game particularly is clicking, and notably has not dropped off from Tuesday. The lesson: Tuesday was not a fluke or a blip. Real progress appears sustained.
One unique exercise I saw came on field goals. Michael Sgroi was asked to kick with a full compliment of offense and defense at the line of scrimmage, but the twist came in the throng of approximately 50 players that crowded him and holder Eric Johnson. They were all clustered within three to ten yards in a horseshoe formation, yelling and whooping at the tops of their lungs. The idea was to simulate kicking in the loudest of hostile crowds. The effect was felt, with Sgroi hitting the worst placekicks I have seen from him this camp. More interesting may have been the lesson he took away, given that his last kick was an absolute beauty rocketed through the middle of the uprights. Interesting and perhaps productive simulation.
Sgroi kicks in the thick of a crowd
On the injury front, people continue to get better. Good news. The one guy who has been out the last few days has been nose tackle Craig Albrecht. Buddy Teevens says that he has been out with a bruised shoulder for mostly precautionary reasons. "If we had to play today, Craig would be playing," said Teevens. Furthermore, Stanford's head coach predicts that Craig will be ready to go tomorrow. So we should expect to see Albrecht in action at the afternoon scrimmage. Justin McCullum is continuing his road back, with more work in receiving drills. He is not being pushed that hard yet, but he looks like an able and healthy man out there.
Speaking of injuries, I again sense a very strong underlying and guiding principle that Teevens really wants to keep this team healthy. He wants guys to go at in practices, but will pull back if that means a better chance to stay healthy. You get the feeling he would rather have 80% of the offense and defense installed and proficient by the Boston College opener and be at 100% health, versus having 100% of the schemes in place but coming into Chestnut Hill at 80% health... or even 90% for that matter.
Easily the most notable and surprising development of the day came when I saw an unfamiliar number in the running back group. Freshman Gerald Commissiong has made the first position switch of the fall camp, moving from strong safety to running back. I talked with Buddy Teevens after this afternoon's practice for the motivation and implications. He cited an overload of depth in the secondary, but some needs for depth in the running back positions. At tailback, he is a little uncomfortable that a back did not enter in this freshman class, and at fullback he would like to see better performance down the depth chart. Curious, I asked if Gerald would show up as a tailback or fullback on a depth chart, and he answered, "slash." Commissiong has the background from running back in high school, plus the quickness and "shake" to be a lone back, but also has the frame to get bigger and take on the greater blocking roles that a fullback must also fulfill.
As you consider this move, a number of implications can run through your head. How much does this bespeak a fear of not pulling in the tailbacks that Buddy needs to get in this next class? Does this plug a hole at one of the back slots and thus reduce the upcoming recruiting need? What does this say about the current safety depth?
The last question is easy to answer - the high level of play from OJ Atogwe and Kevin Schimmelmann made strong safety deep enough that Gerald was not much needed. Moreover, the implication is that his athleticism was more preferred to help out in the offensive backfield. And if you ask coaches, they will often tell you that the kid who gets switched around to different positions is usually the valued athlete they have to plug into needs. This speaks to what they feel about Gerald's diverse abilities and potential. Furthermore, Buddy said that this move helps out this year. It is very unclear where Gerald would be needed next year. He could be a running back, an outside linebacker or returned to safety. The development of players in those positions this year, plus the strength of those positions in next fall's recruiting class, would help direct where Gerald is used...
One undertone in the "slash" description for Commissiong this year is the feeling from Buddy that fullbacks need to be able to act like tailbacks. There are a number of one-back sets in this offense, and you will see Casey Moore in those this fall, but Buddy would surely like to have other big backs beyond Casey in the future who can line up there at that size.
Speaking of the position switches and how that effects the depth chart, it is notable that I was emailed the new depth chart today. It is now up on the Official Site, and I will link you to that rather than replicate it here. Click here for the new official depth chart.
Now that you have perused that, I will offer up some comments.
- I am first darned proud to say that there are zero surprises. This chart mirrors precisely what I have been seeing in practices, and what I have relayed to Booties. But some of them are interesting and worth digging in a little deeper...
- Like at receiver. It seems crazy, or at least odd, for Luke Powell to not be listed atop the depth chart, but there are two mitigating circumstances to remember: 1) Luke is still early in his recovery from his off-season injury, and is not yet 100%. I think his placement is indicative of his physical ability today, not that ability when healthy. 2) I highly doubt that 2-WR sets will be the norm for this team. Three receivers is more likely, and thus I think of receivers on the depth chart in groups of three. In that sense I still hold regardless of injury that Luke, Teyo and Ryan are the starting three. By the way, I would not be surprised if David Kelly has Luke second on this chart as a motivating tool. Luke is just getting his feet wet in the new offense, and Kelly is a master motivator at keeping his men hungry...
- But digging deeper yet at receiver, the numbers would seem to reveal that the next receiver behind these three is Greg Camarillo, and I agree. Greg has shown less speed and natural athletic ability than many of the receivers in this corps, but his consistent routes, hands and focus are unmatched. I fully believe that he is the #4 receiver at this moment on this team. And I definitely agree that if you are looking for the 'second group of three' to trot out on the field, the performances demonstrated in this training camp by Greg, Nick Sebes and Gerren Crochet are tops. Grant Mason came out of the spring higher than these guys, but he has yet to match that springtime show this fall.
- Similar to the injury mitigating circumstance for Luke, I think the DE depth charts reflect the same for Louis Hobson and Michael Lovelady. They just returned to action the other day, and I do not expect that this depth chart measures where they will be a week from now, assuming they stay healthy. Hobson at #3 and Lovelady off the chart? No way. This is further consistent with injury progress, given that Hobson is coming back faster than Lovelady, and he is indeed higher at the moment. Again like Luke Powell, I would imagine this is additionally a motivational tool to push the two DEs. Imagine the ignominy of a true frosh ahead of them??? Talk about lighting a fire...
- With Commissiong moved to running back, Trevor Hooper makes his first placement on the strong safety depth chart at #3. This alleviates a logjam at free safety, while maintaining reasonable depth at strong safety.
- Note that TJ Rushing is now #2 at cornerback behind Leigh Torrence, and he is indeed ostensibly the #3 overall corner. This precisely reflects what I see on the field.
- I don't buy that Kyle Matter and Ryan Eklund are even at this time for the #2 QB spot. Kyle has moved clearly ahead in this past week. This is more likely an effort to keep Ryan motivated to compete, rather than watching a younger player pass him by and feeling deflated. Also keeps the fire lit under Matter.
- I also do not buy that Dustin Stimson is #2 at the guard spots. You can pencil in Brian Head for all three backup positions in the interior...
- I don't know why this happened, but suddenly a few days ago, Leigh Torrence was not backing up Luke Powell as the #2 punt returner. I saw Grant Mason fielding punts, but thought little of it. Now we see that Grant sits as the backup punt returner. I guess that is a real move. Not obvious why, but certainly interesting.