Once again, the team worked extensively in the first periods of practice on special teams, this time it was kickoff return. If you look at my photo gallery, you'll see those that were on the first team and those on the second team. What I found interesting is that two walk-ons were on the first unit, linebacker Cody Johnson and RB Sam Giamfortone. Also, Ben Compton was used in the middle of the field back toward the returners to provide a very wide battering ram up the middle. Spencer Nealy was in that role with the second unit.
Kick returners mixed and matched with the two units, so I'm guessing they haven't decided on the starters. Among those taking reps were Thomas Johnson, Uzoma Nwachukwu, Brandon Williams, Sabian Holmes, and Trey Williams among others. Based on performance, I would be surprised if Trey Williams wasn't one of the returners. His ball security and catching ability have been excellent and we know what he can do running the ball.
The team then had two short live drill sessions starting at the 35 yard line. Johnny Manziel went with the first offensive unit that included Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle and Shep Klinke at right guard. They has been planned from day one to cross-train Ogbuehi. UNfortunately, later in practice he tweaked his knee and will be out for the short-term. No word on specifically how long it will be, but it sounds like a mild sprain that won't keep him out an extended period.
After completing a short pass to Kennedy, the drive stalled and Taylor Bertolet barely pushed a 53-yard field goal that had plenty of distance. He had plenty of leg. Jameill Showers then directed the second team and he had a couple of short completions before stalling. The 42 yard field goal was short and to the left.
Two drives by the top two quarterbacks and no first downs.
On defense, the DL starters were Gavin Stansbury, Ivan Robinson, Spencer Nealy, and Julien Obioha. I assume that Damontre Moore was hobbled as I don't recall seeing him on the field. The second unit had Tyrone Taylor, Shayvion Hatten, Alonzo Williams, and I'm drawinga blank on the other end.
I had a chance to watch the quarterbacks and receivers in some drill work, and Derel Walker has really come along in the past 4-5 practices. After a very good scrimmage, Walker had a bounce in his step and looked much more relaxed and confident out there and it's making him look better. That's a good thing because his length is needed on the outside. He keeps moving his way up the depth chart and I think he's one of the top 3-4 receivers on the roster.
I continue to like Malcolme Kennedy's fall camp. He is physically durable and his hands dependable. Plus, I like his routes. Sometimes I wish Mike Evans would practice with a little more urgency and explosiveness, but he is smooth and he makes incredible catches. Ryan Swope did not disappoint on Monday, making several nice grabs. Thomas Johnson is having a solid freshman fall camp and should see time on the field.
A couple of interesting notes in the post practice presser by Coach Sumlin. When asked to evaluate the quarterbacks, he talked about how all the media and pundits named a starting quarterback and that they will all eat crow...suggesting Manziel as the starter. But when he went into detail, he made a point to say that the scrimmage is an important data point, but it's just one out of 30 data points. He talked about how at UH, QB Blake Joseph had a great scrimmage in front of the fans and media, and many expressed that Joseph should be the starter. But, he picked Case Keenum to be the starter based on the many other hours of practice. He said that while the fans got to see the quarterbacks practice 1.5 hours, the coaching staff just spent over four hours watching the QB competition just today alone.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this point. Brandon Williams took a lot of kicks for the return teams. But why would a coaching staff let a player take valuable first and second team kickoff reps if he wasn't expected to be eligible and ready to play? Just a thought....
Hop's Day 9 Practice Observations
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