With the all-important first scrimmage at Kyle Field in the morning, there's not a lot of detail I can add from today's practice that won't be but a mere blip of data 14 hours from now. But, I will provide a few interesting observations from today.
Once again, the staff opened up practice with a couple of extensive practice periods on special teams. Previous staffs put in the same amount of work in terms of dedicating x amount of practice periods, but there are two differences in terms of approach to special teams. Previous staffs squeeze these sessions in the middle of practice. This staff starts off with special teams when the players are freshest and at their most attentive. It's a subtle difference, but one that stands out to me. Second, I do think this staff wants to use more frontline players and the best athletes as opposed to other staffs that tend to use younger players and second teamers. On punt coverage, Floyd Raven and Deshazor Everett were getting most of the reps at gunner. On the other side, they had Devante Harris going up against the gunners because he's so quick he can stay in front of those guys the whole way down the field and slow them up.
Dustin Harris is getting a lot of reps at punt return along with Sabian Holmes.
The other major observation from today was the improvement in the receiver group in the drills. There were very few drops and the receivers had a bounce in their step. Guys that I thought struggled in earlier sessions like Sabian Holmes, Thomas Johnson, and Derel Walker looked more comfortable and made some nice catches.
I still say that the best looking receivers in these drills are the veterans....Swope, Nwachukwu, Evans, and Kennedy. I know some people downgrade Kennedy because he doesn't have 4.4 speed, but he's sure-handed and very intuitive in the slot. He looks very comfortable out there and I like his thickness and durability. He rarely misses practice and is always out there making plays. I think Nwachukwu is a different player so far this fall compared to previous years. I don't know if it's the urgency of his senior year and competing for a job under a new coach, but I've watched EZ for four years now and in my opinion, his performance is directly correlated to the health of his ankles. When he sprains his ankles, his ability to cut and separate goes out the window and it affects his confidence level. Right now, he's walking tall in practice and doing some nice things out there.
After a couple of dirty practices with multiple drops, Sabian Holmes looked much better today...and Thomas Johnson has gradually improved throughout the week. These freshmen got off to a shaky start the first few days, but they are starting to get themselves in position to see the WR rotation.
One concern from today was that Nehemiah Hicks was once again on the sidelines for the second straight day. He has missed so much practice in his career and it's frustrating that he can't stay on the field.
On the flip side, Steven Campbell remains healthy and looks good out there. Kenneth Marshall returned to participate in practice drills but still doesn't look 100%. He'll need to heal up and take his game to another level if he expects to play as a freshman. Jonathan Mathis was stretching and lightly jogging on the sidelines so his return isn't too far away...but I wouldn't expect to see him in tomorrow's scrimmage.
One more note. The more I watch Devante Harris in drills, his quickness is simply incredible. On some one-on-one DB drills, he simply can't be blocked because he's so quick. That's why they had him blocking the gunner. His physicality is something that must be taken into account, but if you ask me, the pros of playing him outweigh the cons.
Day 7 Fall Practice Observations
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