Leveling Out: For the first time in this camp both quarterbacks had good days. Michael Brewer, who has improved with each practice, had easily his best day. Starter Seth Doege was equally solid. Doege's only really bad moment came in skeleton drills when, failing to go through his progressions, he fired the ball into the dirt at the feet of a double-covered receiver when a secondary receiver was wide open on the sideline. Neal Brown let Doege know about it.
Bell Blowing Up: I hate being repetitive, but Javon Bell is absolutely on the verge of becoming special. There is his blazing speed, which we've already mentioned. But additionally, his footwork and route-running are something to behold. At this point he is so quick in and out of his breaks that he's just about impossible to cover. Bell, it's safe to say, is the hardest cover on the roster right now and the receiver cornerbacks most dread attempting to cover. And if that's not enough, he rarely drops a pass.
Bell is currently behind Eric Ward, Tech's best receiver from a year ago, at X, but if he keeps performing like he is right now there is no way he's not in the starting lineup for the opener.
Johnson Large: Right now it looks like the only Tech defender capable of covering Javon Bell may be free safety D. J. Johnson. As good as Bell has looked on offense, Johnson has been his equal on defense. Johnson, who began his Tech career as a cornerback, is knocking everything down in skeleton drills. Part of Johnson's success stems from his quickness, but equally important is his knowledge of the game. He is a past master of reading routes and anticipating throws. Additionally, Johnson may be the spiritual leader of the defense.,p>Big Gaines: The Red Raiders are stacked at free safety and it's not just because of D. J. Johnson's emergence. Johnson's backup, J. J. Gaines, is also playing some good football. Just for example, in skeleton drills, he undercut a weak Aaron Fisher post route and intercepted Michael Brewer's pass. Several plays later he laid a powerful lick on Jordan Davis who was about to reel in a deep seam route. The hit separated Davis from the ball.
Stephens and Washington Looking Good: There was no tackling on the first day of practice in pads, but there was plenty of hitting. And Stephens and Washington, contrary to what we'd expected, were not shielded from the hits. They were fully in the mix just like the other backs and seemed to show no ill effects from their knee injuries. We will know much more, of course, after Saturday's scrimmage.
Depth Chart Action: Jackson Richards and Jakeem Grant looked to be starting at defensive end and inside receiver respectively. Bruce Jones and Happiness Osunde appeared to be the second-string cornerbacks.
Good Signs from D Line: During team drills the defensive line fired off well and controlled the line of scrimmage most of the time. The pass rush was nothing too spectacular, but Dartwan Bush did beat Rashad Fortenberry, who subbed for an ill LaAdrian Waddle, for a sack.
McMonster: With the donning of the pads, line drills took on real meaning. And the most obvious take-away from those drills was the sheer dominance of right tackle Terry McDaniel. He absolutely abused the players he faced and often made it look easy. Although Louis Vasquez played guard while at Tech, McDaniel's performance today reminded me of Vasquez at his peak. Heck, McDaniel even showed a bit of a nasty streak, which has hitherto been conspicuously absent from his game.
At the Other Tackle Position…: Rashad Fortenberry right now doesn't look like the answer as LaAdrian Waddle's backup. As noted above, he surrendered a sack to Dartwan Bush in team drills. Additionally, he could do absolutely nothing with Pete Richardson in line drills. James Polk, who also is working at left tackle, looks better than Fortenberry right now. But speaking of Richardson…wow. His quickness is astonishing, and he packs quite a punch for a 220-pound player. Richardson could be just the ticket as Tech's designated pass rusher.
A Good Aggie (ex-Aggie, That Is): Brian Thomas, despite being out of shape according to Neal Brown, is looking good at left guard. He plays with a low base and is very tough to beat. As he settles into the Red Raider offense he will push very hard for a spot in the starting lineup.