Two things jumped out at me in this most awkward of practice situations on Friday: the atmosphere was surprisingly active and upbeat; and the quarterback work was manned very differently than we are accustomed to.
To the former, there was a lot of running, jumping and yelping. At the close of practice, the whole team lined up on the sideline and made a sudden dash to an awaiting Coach Buddy Teevens, screaming as they ran. I fully expected a subdued, if not somber, atmosphere descended upon the entire squad, but things were exceedingly normal. The level of intensity and focus, at least to someone watching, was high. Business as usual. After the practice, the entire team hit the pool for splashing, diving and tom-foolery.
To the latter, the practice mirrored one where Chris Lewis was injured. Past the opening passing drills, Chris sat by while the other four quarterbacks ran the offense. In fact, he moved over to the other end of the field and handed off for the running drills while Kyle, Ryan, Trent and David threw passing routes for the WR vs DB drills. When the two-minute offense was practiced, it was just Matter and Eklund marching down the field.
To be clear, this is not 'punishment' for Lewis, but instead an instance that the staff get repetitions to the players who have a chance to play. Even for the freshmen, who have just a remote chance to get in the BC game, the scenario is finite for their appearance, while it is not for Chris.
It is also interesting and notable that the overall level of activity and efficiency has stepped up. This would appear to be independent of the Chris Lewis situation, and instead has to do with the impending season opener. Instead of running one throwing drill at a time, the drills were set in pairs. Imagine a line drawn down the center of the field, with mirror drills thrown by two QBs to two sets of receivers. Imagine the two-minute drill being run with two separate offenses moving down the field at the same time, one lagging thirty to forty yards behind the other. It appears this team is serious about maximizing the work they can get out of their two-hour practice sessions. Efficiency and proficiency were today's buzz words.
With the sudden pressure cast upon Kyle Matter and Ryan Eklund, my eyes were understandably squarely set on the passing game. Both guys got a lot of good help from their receivers, who had one of their best practices grabbing and holding the ball. The tight ends provided big targets, and converted every ball tossed their way. You could see that these QBs had little worry about their receivers, and had only to concentrate on their throwing.
That throwing had its bright spots, but also wavered. In drills with no pressure, balls were thrown into tight coverage or for interceptions. Tight spirals gave way to wobbling projectiles. There was some good, particularly some nice high passes deep to the corners. But I got the sense that this offense has taken a step back after it's leap forward this past week.
Buddy Teevens said after practice that the design for these remaining practices pre-BC intends a repetition ratio of 3:2 for Kyle and Ryan, respectively. Kyle Matter is their starting QB, and Teevens says that now, but he also maintains that Ryan Eklund is a "close second." Whether or not the staff does evaluate the two closely, there is a clear vote of confidence being cast Ryan's way, recognizing the immediate need for his top performance. There is no discussion about Trent Edwards or David Lofton battling to rise up and take the #2 spot from Eklund, and barring any major surprises this week, Booties should probably forget that speculation.
Saturday is a day off for this team. A day for rest, and surely a day for reflection. Sunday will be the first of a full week of practices, though now at a one-a-day schedule. I will be watching closely to gauge the energy and focus after a couple days to digest the recent news.