Taurean Henderson, again, was not at practice. However, I heard he was in the weight room working out, so this looks like the coaching staff is taking every precaution with his injury. Taurean has nothing to prove to anybody, including Coach Leach, and he knows what he needs to do. So keeping him off the practice field at this point is, in my opinion, the smart thing to do.
I know you all like hearing about fights; however, the one today could've gotten serious had some of the older players (Meeks, Huffman, etc.) not intervened. SirDon Lewis and Marquis Johnson were going at it verbally, Lewis had jammed Johnson at the line, and Johnson obviously wasn't happy about it, and then somehow it escalated into Lewis attempting to hit Johnson with his helmet, then Johnson caught Lewis square in the lip with a quick punch. Luckily, after that, the two were separated, and cooled down. They went head-to-head again later on in practice without incident.
The scrimmage stats I report are largely approximations. Half of the plays are whistled dead, so I can't know for sure how much yardage would actually be gained at times, so I just try to get close. The linebackers were blitzing a lot today in the scrimmage. I'd say the majority of the time, to tell you the truth. I think they were doing this to see how the QBs would react under a lot of pressure. I'd say they passed, if not quite with flying colors.
The QB's definitely had a better day today than they did on Monday, not too many mistakes were made. Early on, Hodges was overthrowing a lot of balls, but I would attribute that mostly to the wind today. Hodges is a very verbal leader, and the team listens closely whenever he's speaking (or yelling) to them. Harrell was pretty impressive today, I saw very few mistakes, and he was making great reads, and his reads were coming faster than they were on Monday - a good sign that he's improving day by day. Daugherty's situation has not changed. He simply (still) looks like he does not give a flip out there, and is just happy to have his education paid for. At this point in time, I would seriously doubt Daugherty will ever see the field here at Tech unless he has a major attitude adjustment before next year. For the life of me, I can't see why Ryan Rowland was stuck at SMU. He doesn't have the strongest arm, but he throws a great spiral, and seems to make his reads very quickly for a young guy. I doubt he will ever see the field, but he certainly has potential, and would be a serviceable emergency backup in my opinion.
Scrimmage stats: Harrell: 11 of 15 for 94 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT
Hodges: 9 of 12 for 61 yards Daugherty: 3 of 5 for 47 yards, 1 INT
As I said at the top of this report, Henderson was out today, so Shannon Woods was in the spotlight most of the day, with occasional appearances by walk-on Caesar Martinez. Woods did not disappoint, continuing the trend of surprisingly spectacular play. For those of you who haven't seen Woods yet this year, he is like a completely different guy out there. One, he has added a considerable amount of muscle to a frame that was, to be honest, pretty slight when he got here. He also has very soft hands; I didn't see him drop a single ball today. Early on in practice, he seemed to be having some trouble finding the hole quick enough, but as practice wore on, he got into his groove and was tearing it up as usual. Although not a superstar yet, he certainly has the potential, and will be fun to watch for years to come. Taurance Rawls was transparent today; I don't even think I saw him run one play. I'm not sure what is going on with him, but I will try to find out more on Friday. As if it wasn't obvious by now, Woods is the clear-cut backup to Henderson for the upcoming season, and he won't disappoint, Red Raider fans.
Scrimmage stats: Woods: 5 carries for 23 yards, 1 TD
Martinez: 2 carries for 10 yards
Nobody really stood out in a big way today, it was pretty much a vanilla day for the A.F.R.O.S. Anthony Jenkins is really coming on, and the battle for the 'Z' between he, Filani, and Marquis Johnson will be an interesting one come fall. Do not be surprised to see any of the three win the job. Right now, Filani is the leader simply because he's the most seasoned of the three. Marquis made a few great plays today, including a great catch while battling with Chris Parker and a nice fingertip catch as he was running full speed out-of-bounds. However, he still looks lost occasionally, and got jammed a couple of times at the LOS by corners much smaller than him, which shouldn't happen with his size and strength. Hicks and Amendola had a pretty quiet day for them, it was mainly just business as usual, and Brandon Douglas made a nice catch while battling with Darcel McBath. At the beginning of spring practice, looking at Todd Walker, I would've said he was going to redshirt, mainly due to his inexperience and the fact that he's a bit skinny right now. However, he is really learning fast, and is quickly overtaking Brandon Douglas for the backup spot at 'X'. At this rate, I would predict that by the end of spring practice, he will have overtaken Douglas and will back up Hicks. His frame is very deceptive; he doesn't look tough running around out there, but I saw him take a pretty good shot from Slay and stay on his feet. Slade Hodges is the surprise so far...he could get some playing time with the way he's been playing in practice. Despite Daugherty's attempt at killing Hodges the other day by throwing to him while he was directly in the path of Slay, he has been pretty steady, and it would be neat to see a brother-to-brother touchdown should Hodges win the quarterback job. Again, not much out of Rylan Reed. Other than catching drills, he didn't do much as a receiver today. I'm still not sure what to make of him...his hands seem to be improving, I only saw him drop one pass in drills, and it looked like he lost the ball in the sun (was happening a lot to everyone that particular drill). He has pretty good speed for a guy his size, although he seems a tad slow off the line. I'm confident Leach and Co. will figure out something to do with him. You can't keep a guy that huge and athletic off the field. As of right now, here's the receiver situation as I see it (Note: This does not factor in Cody Fuller, who is busy with baseball, and Bristol Olomua, who is expected to be back in the fall)
X: Jarrett Hicks, Todd Walker, Brandon Douglas
Y: Robert Johnson, L.A. Reed
H: Danny Amendola, Eric Morris
Z: Joel Filani, Anthony Jenkins, Marquis Johnson (I'm hoping the staff will move either him or AJ over to H in order to clear this logjam we have going right now at 'Z')
Scrimmage stats (if they caught a ball, they will be here, wide receiver or not):
Slade Hodges: 5 catches for 41 yards, 2 TDs Shannon Woods: 5 catches for 38 yards, 1 TD
Marquis Johnson: 3 catches for 39 yards David Schaeffer: 2 catches for 25 yards
Danny Amendola: 3 catches for 18 yards, 1 F, 1 FR Jarrett Hicks: 1 catch for 15 yards
Todd Walker: 1 catch for 15 yards Brandon Douglas: 1 catch for 11 yards
Joel Filani: 1 catch for 10 yards Robert Johnson: 1 catch for 7 yards
Eric Morris: 1 catch for 4 yards
The O-line was pretty solid today, although they allowed a few sacks in the scrimmage that could've, in my opinion, been easily prevented, and I thing Coach Bedenbaugh agreed with me, loudly. Daniel Christian is coming on very strong, he is a far cry from where he was when he arrived here: overweight, out of shape, and slowed with a back problem. He is finally looking to be the athlete we all hoped he would be when he came here from San Francisco City College. He still needs a little polish, but he should be a very good OL for us this upcoming season. Whitley is a lot of fun to watch, he is very vocal, and will get onto anyone who makes a mistake in a very loud way, including himself. He is clearly the leader of the offensive line. By the time they get the pieces all put back together, this unit shouldn't skip a beat from last year, Coach Bedenbaugh is every bit as capable of putting together a solid line as Anae was. Feel confident about our big hogs up front, Red Raider fans.
The D-line, for the most part, had a quiet day. Keyunta Dawson and Dek Bake were both very quiet, although Bake isn't quiet on the sideline...he is hilarious out there. I would repeat some of the things he was saying, but most of them were a tad 'colorful.' Tyler Yenzer didn't really make any standout plays, but I watched him for a bit and he is very, very strong, much stronger than I anticipated. I saw him push Manny straight back when the ball was snapped, much to mine and Manny's surprise. Manny gave him a slap on the helmet and some words of encouragement. However, he needs to work on his technique. It was obvious that, at Midland High, he could just rely on his strength and quickness to overpower the guy on the opposite side of the line and didn't really have to use much technique. He's a smart kid though, and a coach's son, so I am confident Ruffin McNeill will get that technique bored into his brain soon enough. Speaking of Coach McNeill, he was all over Brian Jones all day, and has been for the last few practices. You should take this as a good sign. He sees great potential in Jones, and is trying his hardest to get him ready mentally for Big XII play. Jones is a tad shorter than most defensive linemen you are used to, but he is incredibly quick and strong for as big bodied as he is. If Coach McNeill can get him ready, he will be a great player. Ken Scott played really well in the scrimmage today, recording a couple of sacks on Hodges, one time beating Glenn January, and another beating "Big Nasty," a.k.a. Ben Griffin. Seth Nitschmann also recorded a sack on Hodges, beating Daniel Christian on a nice spin move. Jared Williams is a much better fit over on the defensive line, very good move by the staff here. He still needs to add some weight, but he's tenacious, intense, and doesn't take crap from anyone - just what you want in a defensive lineman. Jake Ratliff is not showing me anything much yet, but he certainly has evolved from the skinny tall kid he was when he got here. His body is very solid and ready to play, he just needs to sit back and learn and bide his time.
Wow, Saldi is huge. I heard from one of the guys out there that he is up to 250 now, and believe it or not, he seems to have actually gained a step or two as far as foot speed. He is a very imposing figure out there at linebacker, and gladly is not having any visible trouble with his back. Nobody really made any standout plays today, however Paul Williams is moving up. He's definitely hustling his ass off out there, and he will give Brock a run for his money if he keeps improving at the rate he seems to be. He seems to have very good strength, and his body is prototypical for the middle linebacker position. Behind Brock or not, he will see some significant playing time next season. Fletcher Session is definitely a player I'm glad to have. It's nice to have a linebacker you can sub in if you need a little extra boost in pass protection. His pass coverage skills as a linebacker are very, very good. He is not as physical a player as most of us would like, but he is definitely trying to improve in that area. Sylvester Brinkley is looking really good! Last year he looked slow and out of shape (and I hear that's not far from the truth) out there, but this year he is trim and cut, and is moving very well. His size (approximately 6'4" 240) and hard-hitting style should strike fear into the hearts of running backs near and far. His pass coverage isn't too shabby either. Although a bit wary at first, I'm starting to gain confidence in this unit. They're not very deep, but the guys we have out there are good players and will contribute greatly to what should be a very solid defense next year.
I suppose it's a good sign, in a way, that SirDon Lewis isn't afraid to tangle with someone a good 5 inches taller than him and who outweighs him by over 50 pounds, but it needs to happen out on the field, not on the sideline. I didn't really pay all that much attention to the CBs today, as there's really not much mystery left, as far as who is going to be starting, at least. Khalid Naziruddin and Antonio Huffman remain the clear-cut starters, and barring injury, that will not change. However, their backups are not so clear at this point, but surprisingly, Clifton Eddington has recently been making a strong push to be a top backup. He isn't always consistent, but he has made some spectacular plays in practice. Like today, he picked off a Daugherty pass by jumping impossibly high up in the air and snagging the ball by his fingertips. The play fired the defense up, and myself and others on the sideline as well. It was probably the most athletic catch I've seen in a while. Although none of our backups quite compare to Huffman and Naziruddin (I can't emphasize enough how good these two are, think last year x 2), we have some good depth at CB with Darcel McBath, Eddington, Chris Parker, and Lewis. Marcus Bunton is improving every day, but is still struggling, which is understandable. He's learning a new position, and it will be a year or so before he gets the hang of it, I'm afraid. He certainly has the quickness and agility to stay with the receivers, but technique eludes him at times. He'll get it.
Again, like the cornerback positions, these jobs are all but set in stone at this point. We all knew Vincent Meeks would be the starter at free safety, but the emergence of Dwayne Slay as the clear-cut starter at strong safety should be a welcome sight to any Red Raider Fan. Slay is the very definition of 'headhunter.' The hard-hitting one-two punch of Meeks and Slay should strike fear into the hearts of any receivers daring to catch a pass across the middle. They are definitely going to rattle some teeth. Surprisingly, Slay didn't ring anyone's bell today, which either means the coaches told him to try and not kill our own players, or he just didn't get a good luck. He did pop Todd Walker fairly hard today, but he almost looked to be restraining himself. At least Walker didn't end up like Slade Hodges the other day. However, again, we are forced to speculate at this point as to who will back up Meeks and Slay. If Hines continues improving, don't be surprised to see him as a top backup as early as the spring game. He is receiving some heavy coaching from Coach Mainord every day, and it is clear they are trying to get him ready as soon as possible without overloading him. Greg Aycock is another candidate; he has been showing some solid play so far this spring, if not quite as good as I'd like to see. They'll figure it out eventually I suppose.
Just a couple of quick notes: Alex Reyes, Alex Reyes, Alex Reyes. He was booming kicks today, and I mean wow ...leg bothering him? I don't think so. They were spotting the ball at the 30 yard line for punts today, and one of Reyes' punts forced the returner all the way back to the goal line on the opposite end of the field. In case you're not good at math (who am I kidding, I'm not either), that's a net 70 yard punt, had it been fair caught. And since he was back from the deep snapper a good 10 yards or so, that means the ball was in the air a good 80 yards. Wow.
Toogood was booting some good kickoffs today; his leg doesn't seem to be bothering him. I hope that he's over his injury; I missed his booming kicks out of the back of the end zone in '03.
The punt return battle has been narrowed down to Danny Amendola, Robert Johnson, Eric Morris, and Marcus Bunton. Danny still seems to be the front-runner, but he better not slack up, because all three of the other guys are more than capable.
The kick return teams appear to be shaping up like this: first team - Danny Amendola/Robert Johnson, the two backup teams appear to be Shannon Woods/Chris Parker and Todd Walker/Anthony Jenkins, in no particular order.