Practice Report: Friday April 1

Coach Mike Leach's Coaching Clinic coincides with practices this weekend as Red Raiders continue spring drills.

Random notes

Robert Johnson left practice very early with what Coach Dana Holgersen called a minor injury...obviously he wouldn't say what it was, because they don't discuss injuries, but he said he should return to practice tomorrow. Should be no worries.

Did not know this before, but apparently Rylan Reed hasn't been participating much in 1-on-1's and scrimmages because of a nagging injury. Coach Holgersen said they are still trying to figure out what to make of him, but he has 4 years to play, so they've got plenty of time to work with him.

Mike Leach's coaching clinic was going on today, and high school coaches from all over the state were in attendance, watching this offense work its magic.

Quarterbacks

Not really impressive today....Harrell looked best overall, although all three were overthrowing balls and making occasional bad reads. Harrell occasionally made a great play, and Hodges looked solid when he wasn't making the aforementioned mistakes.

Phillip Daugherty is going to get someone killed...he was throwing high, hard, and late all day, and a few receivers were smacked around because of it. He tends to want to force the ball in there, and he can do it, but throwing high and over the middle when Sylvester Brinkley is locked onto your receiver is not a smart thing. However, he seemed to be playing with more confidence today, which was a little encouraging. I've not been too fond of him so far this spring.

Harrell, again, started off slow in practice...he was slow making his reads, and dumping the ball off a lot (which I know he's supposed to do, but he had guys open elsewhere). He, again, started playing much better as practice wore on, and played pretty well in the scrimmage. This seems to be a trend, both with he and Hodges. As of right now, I see the QBs as being neck and neck in the race.

Hodges experience helps him out greatly, and Harrell's playmaking ability and poise keep him on Hodges' level. The thing that separates Harrell from Hodges, in my opinion, is Harrell's cool. He is extremely poised and calm under pressure, while Hodges tends to get happy feet at times.

Running backs

Hendo was back today, not missing a beat. Not really much I have to say about him, he's the same old Hendo that we all know and love. However, the tandem of he and Shannon Woods will be better than the tandem of Hendo & Mack was last year. Bank on it.

Woods has great moves, but his moves come as he's moving downhill, as opposed to Hendo who sometimes tends to move east-west a bit too much. Woods jukes, spins, and dodges just as well, but he is moving north-south the whole time, barrelling down the field. I am really excited to see these two next year. Almost every time Woods touched the ball today, he drew cheers and hollering from his teammates, including a few "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd there. I need to take this kid to the side and ask him what exactly he did with the skinny kid who showed up here last fall.

Wide receivers

L.A. Reed got a lot more reps today than he would've normally gotten due to the absence of Robert Johnson. He played very well, too -- made several nice, falling down catches, only saw him drop one pass. He also survived an attempt on his life by Phillip Daugherty...who threw the ball high and hard over the middle as Brinkley had a clear shot and took Reed out hard. To his credit, he held onto the ball and popped right back up. That's how tough Reed is.

Todd Walker also stepped his game up a notch today; he is getting much, much better at getting himself open downfield, and when he breaks free, nobody is going to catch him. You can tell the combined coaching efforts of Dykes, Holgersen, and Jarrett Hicks are starting to take effect. Coach Holgersen said today that Robert Johnson and L.A. Reed are probably the two most talented Y's he's had during his 5 year career here. They just need to work on their confidence and maturity.

Offensive linemen

I was asked about Cody Baker possibly breaking the two deep this year, but I don't see it happening...I didn't see much of him in practice, but rest assured, our OL will be fine this year. Manny is really fun to watch, because you don't often see his kind of intensity in an O-lineman. He gets into the game so much, and will not hesitate to rip his helmet off and give someone a big piece of his mind if he doesn't like something he sees.

The same can be said about Whitley, who is the unquestioned leader of the O-line. By the way, he has also moved to center. Great move by the coaches, because the center is like the QB of the offensive line. A seasoned senior calling the line plays out there takes a load off the coaches.

Defensive linemen

The D-line is looking better and better each day, as the starters and backups are pretty much set right now. The only major shakeup I see possibly happening is if McKinner Dixon comes in this fall and tears it up. This is possibly the quickest, strongest unit we've had in quite a long time. With Ken Scott and Big Fred manning the middle, we have the size to help stop the run up the middle, and the speed at defensive end with Key Dawson and Seth Nitschmann to give quarterbacks nightmares.

Coach Setencich had some nice things to say about Jared Williams and Jake Ratliff as well, he said they're learning fast and showing him some things. He said that Williams could possibly contribute a little this year, and be a solid contributor next year. With Benny doing more of his magic with the once-skinny Jake Ratliff, he should be ready to contribute as well as soon as next year.

Ken Scott has really stepped up and become a solid DT, which we desperately needed him to do. He has pretty much sewn up the other tackle position next to Big Fred.

Linebackers

The linebackers were all over the place today, namely Sylvester Brinkley. He was laying the proverbial smackdown on several different people today. Lyle likes him a lot, he's just reluctant to unseat any of his veterans. He said that, in the 3-4 set they run, he is without doubt a starter, but in the 4-3 set, he's a starter depending on the situation. I'm glad Lyle set me straight today, because I was going to report that Joe Garcia had been moved to linebacker, because that was where he appeared to be lining up all day, but coach said he was lining up as the nickel or dime back. He says he has no plans to move Garcia from the secondary at this time or in the future.

Cornerbacks

Nothing spectacular from the corners today, although that doesn't mean they weren't playing well. Our receivers are just too good to keep up with all the time. Naziruddin and Huffman remain the unquestioned leaders, and the backup situation is starting to become more and more clear with every practice. I'll admit, I never thought SirDon would be better than 3rd string after last year, but he looks like he'll be a top backup. He's not overly talented, but he works hard and isn't afraid of anybody. Although our corners are looking very good, I would still give a lot to see Tim Norman back out here.

Safeties

Vincent Meeks was playing really well today; he had several nice deflections in pass coverage. Slay seemed a little off at times today, but he continued his solid play for the most part. He even exercised some restraint all day as far as his hitting goes. He had a few chances I saw to blow people up, but he refrained, preferring not to injure his teammates.

Greg Aycock played very well today as well; he had a nice interception of Harrell in the scrimmage on a beautiful break. It's a shame he isn't as big or quite as fast as Ryan was. He has the same hard-hitting style of play, however, and I would say he's a little better at pass coverage. He's just undersized as a safety. Anthony Hines was getting solid reps today as a top backup, so he is obviously improving day by day.

Special Teams

It looks like Alex Trlica is still our top field goal kicker...Toogood has the leg, but he just doesn't have the accuracy. We can just hope Trlica improves over last year. We still need to pick up a good kicker.

Danny remains the clear leader at punt returner, and RoJo is probably still his backup, although he missed most of practice today. Reyes was not punting well today for whatever reason...he was dropping snaps and punting short; I'm not sure what was up, but hopefully it's just an off day and not his leg bothering him.

DEPTH CHART

Keep in mind, most of this is all speculation, although some positions are pretty obvious...I will try to provide a two-deep for most positions, although I will refrain when it comes to the O-line. As they are rotated so heavily, it's hard to provide a real 1st and 2nd team so I will only list the starting five.

QB - Hodges/Harrell

RB - Henderson/Woods

WR - X - Hicks/Walker Y - Johnson/Reed

H-receiver: Amendola/Morris

H-back: Schaeffer/Hildebrandt

Z - Filani/Jenkins

OL - Christian/Kegans/Whitley/Ramirez/Hall

WDE - Dawson/Cherry

SDE - Nitschmann/Glover

DT - Scott/Bake

NT - Thwreatt/Hudler

WLB - Session/Brinkley

MLB - Stratton/Williams

SLB - Saldi/Hill

RCB - Huffman/Lewis

LCB - Naziruddin/Parker

FS - Meeks/Garcia

SS - Slay/Hines

P - Reyes

K - Trlica

KOS - Toogood


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