Spring Practice Report #5
Jake Ratliff won the opening match, which was followed by a terrific O-line match between Josh Aleman and Shawn Byrnes. They went against each other twice in an effort to find a winner, but both times ended in a tie. The last matchup was between Brent Slaughter and Anthony Hines. Slaughter had the advantage after his initial push, but Hines gained leverage until he finally threw Brent to the ground. As usual, the players got pumped up for what was to be another great practice.
Graham Harrell distanced himself from the pack today, looking quite impressive throughout the afternoon. He is by far the best quarterback inside the red zone, which is where his beautiful fade pass and quick-hitting throws shine. Graham went 5-5 here, which is very encouraging considering that running the spread offense effectively in the red zone is difficult. Harrell made things look easy even when the defense was playing very well, and completely fooled the defense by audibling to a run. He threaded the needle several times with his accuracy, and solidified his position as the starter today.
Chris Todd had somewhat of an off day, throwing an interception that would have gone for six points the other way. He also struggled in the red zone, going 1-5, but Todd did well when he had the whole field to work with. However, he lost some ground on Harrell in the race for the starting job this afternoon since Harrell played almost flawlessly in contrast to his relatively mediocre play today.
Ryan Rowland outperformed Chris Todd by going 3-4 in the red zone, which came as a bit of a surprise to many. However, he struggled with his accuracy on the longer throws, resulting in one interception and another dropped INT.
Ryan Krone saw limited action today, performing only in the drills. Leach did not give him reps in the scrimmages today, but his throws in the rotation looked solid.
Harrell 14-15, 128 yards, 2 TD
Todd 9-15, 107 yards, INT
Rowland 8-10, 58 yards, 2 TD
Harrell 7-11, 76 yards
Todd 10-12, 74 yards, TD
Rowland 3-6, 29 yards, INT
Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 21-26, 204 yards, 2 TD
Todd 19-27, 181 yards, TD, INT
Rowland 11-16, 87 yards, 2 TD, INT
There were not many running plays anywhere in today's practice, so the focus became on which of the backs was the best receiver. Shannon Woods and Pete Richardson led the reps as usual, and neither really outshined the other. Woods and Richardson were thrown to quite often since the downfield coverage was excellent, and had serviceable efforts, but it was nothing to write home about. Shannon only had one drop today, but it was a frustrating one that went right through his hands. Keep in mind that Filani and Walker couldn't catch a thing when they arrived, and it will alleviate some of the concerns that this will not be addressed before next season.
Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 4 rushing attempts for 22 yards, TD; 11 catches for 98 yards
Pete Richardson: 5 rushing attempts for 21 yards, TD; 5 catches for 46 yards
The wide receivers had a tough day dealing with the excellent coverage from the defense, and the receivers who were astute enough to break off their routes when the quarterbacks were in trouble saw the most action. Eric Morris had an excellent afternoon, and accomplished this through his splendid effort today. Grant Walker also worked hard today, and his results reflected it. He had one of the best catches of the day, perhaps bested only by Robert Johnson's one-handed touchdown grab. Filani continues to be a favorite target for the QBs, and it is remarkable how much his hands have improved throughout his career. The same goes for Todd Walker's catching ability, which illustrates the abilities of our coaching staff. L.A. Reed is going to make an impact next year and get on the field. He may even take Olomua's specialty TE H-Back position, assuming Rylan Reed makes the full-time transition to the offensive line. Rylan did get some PT as a receiver today, though, and made the best of it with a 20-yard catch. The other starters were slightly overwhelmed by the stellar defensive play, and were thus limited to few catches on the day. The receivers did not have a bad afternoon, but they should always expect the defense to give them a run for their money.
Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Eric Morris: 8 catches for 68 yards, TD
Grant Walker: 8 catches for 67 yards, TD
Joel Filani: 5 catches for 59 yards, TD
L.A. Reed: 3 catches for 56 yards
Danny Amendola: 2 catches for 21 yards
Rylan Reed: 1 catch for 20 yards
Todd Walker: 2 catches for 10 yards
Edward Britton: 2 catches for 10 yards
Catron Houston: 1 catch for 7 yards
Robert Johnson: 1 catch for 5 yards, TD
Chris Cunigan: 1 catch for 5 yards, TD
Kelly Hildebrandt: 1 catch for 4 yards
The offensive line had another strong effort, although it was not quite as impressive as Monday's. Their pass protection was solid, allowing only two sacks on the day. The starters also did an excellent job of freeing up lanes for Woods and Richardson to run through, but the same cannot be said for the backups. The defensive line appears to be much deeper, as they tend to dominate the second-string O-Line. Louis Vasquez continues to succeed, and will probably do well whichever position he finally ends up playing. Marlon Winn is arguably one of the best backups, and he has a few years ahead of him. Once again, Bedenbaugh was quiet, which is usually a good indication that the offensive line is having a good afternoon.
The defensive line had a somewhat quiet day with the exception of Jake Ratliff, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. He had the defense's only two sacks today, and added a pass deflection as well. If he keeps this up, the coaches are going to have to take note and get him on the field. Tyler Yenzer continues to be one of the most aware linemen, getting another pass deflection today. Rashad Hunt provides some valuable depth here, especially considering that McKinner Dixon's status is uncertain.
The linebackers were undoubtedly the story of the day. Keyunta Dawson was absolutely everywhere today, recording an INT, a pass deflection, and delivered several monster hits. Keyunta had the highlight of the practice when he just leveled Filani immediately after Joel caught the ball. Remember, Filani is a big, solid receiver, so this was all the more impressive. After Dawson's effort this afternoon, I can say with 100% confidence that he will be a very good linebacker, maybe even our best linebacker next year. Complementing his impressive day was Fletcher Session, who showed everyone a little something as well. He had a deflection and several good tackles today, one of which was a TFL on Shannon Woods. Paul Williams also had a deflection, proving that nothing was getting by the LBs today. Kellen Tillman is a hard-hitter who flies to the ball, recording a TFL on Robert Johnson this afternoon. Tillman needs to wok on his pass coverage, however, as he tends to interfere quite often. Still, trust me when I tell you that the unit will be deep with talent for next season.
The defensive backs also had a remarkable outing, making things awfully difficult for the receivers today. Antonio Huffman was all over the place today, getting an INT and dropping what should have been another. The only time that he got beat all day was on a terrific catch by Robert Johnson that was nearly impossible to defend. McBath was also outstanding today, with a bone-jarring hit on Todd Walker that impressed the bystanders. Lance Fuller had a good afternoon as well, trying to keep his starting FS spot. He's going to need to keep it up, though, as well as McBath is playing as of late. Unfortunately, there were some troubling stories behind the scenes today. Joe Garcia was mysteriously out of pads today, but did not appear to be injured at all. We shall keep you apprised of any developments here. Also, we have learned that safety Hunter Coleman has left the team for personal reasons. This means that depth could become a serious issue here, but thankfully we have incoming talent to fill in if need be.
The team practiced extra points today, and did it with success. Reyes did the holding for Alex Trilica, who looks to be the starter. The line is comprised of mostly starters, and did well to protect the kickers today. The backup squad simply switched in Amendola as the holder and Keith Toogood at placekicker. Neither Toogood nor Trlica missed one on the day, which was encouraging to see for next season.
Best Overall Unit:
Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Best Newcomer: (tie)