Once again, the team opened practice with an extended period with special teams. Today, they focused on the punt coverage team. I have some good photos of who is running with the first, second, and third units. What I also noticed is that Coach Polian is using a lot of veteran starters on the first team....guys like seniors Jonathan Stewart, Sean Porter, Steven Terrell, and Mike Lamothe along with veterans Steven Jenkins and Nehemiah Hicks. Given the time dedicated to special teams, the attention to detail, and the experienced personnel utilized, it's apparent that this staff is definitely focusing on special teams play.
The actual punting in the session was better than Saturday, but it was still inconsistent with Ryan Epperson probably having the slightly better day over Drew Kaser. Catching and returning punts was the trio of Dustin Harris, Sabian Holmes, and No. 85 walk-on (not on roster). All three did a good job of securing the ball. Coach Sumlin was actively coaching the drill and corrected Holmes a couple of time that he caught the ball too low to his body that he needs to catch it higher toward his chest.
After special teams, the team conducted its usual two live series to start practice. Johnny Manziel led the first unit where there weren't many personnel surprises in the lineup. There was one very short completion, but the drive immediately stalled and Taylor Bertolet barely pushed wide a 40-something yard field goal. I watched Bertolet warm up and he has a powerful leg and he was hitting 55-60 yarders in practice. He's had a few misses this fall, but most have been narrow misses on long field goal attempts. For the most part, he's looked pretty good.
The first team defense in the first series consisted of Damontre Moore, Spencer Nealy, Kirby Ennis, and freshman Julien Obioha at the strong-side end ahead of Gavin Stansbury who worked with the second team. The usual veteran starters at linebacker were out there, with Dustin and Devante Harris at the corners and Deshazor Everett and Steven Terrell at safety.
On the second team defense, freshman Tyrone Taylor was working at the weakside DE spot over Brandon Alexander who apparently has fallen to the third team. In fact, Coach Sumlin had some nice things to say about Taylor in the post-practice presser. Shayvion Hatten and Ivan Robinson were working the interior. The second team corners were Tramain Jacobs and Floyd Raven, with Ward, Baggs, and Tyrell Taylor at linebacker. Howard Matthews and Johntel Franklin worked with the unit at safety.
The second team unit moved the ball for a couple of first downs primarily because of the Showers to Kennedy connection for two 8-10 yard completions. The drive stalled near the 15 yard-line and the back-up kicker nailed his field goal.
So for now, there's a reasonable chance that two true freshmen will win a starting job on defense - Devante Harris and Julien Obioha. While he likely won't start, Trey Williams will see plenty of playing time as well. Add in Johnson, Holmes, Manukainiu, Taylor, and Williams, and there will likely be eight true freshmen playing with a possibly of as many as 10 freshmen playing...more than half the class.
Hop's Day 10 Practice Observations
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