Saturday Practice Report

The seventh Spring Practice session was humid and crowded, and those on hand witnessed some excellent plays and some very physical play. The practice was mostly one long scrimmage, with referees, first downs, and everything. Still, no practice would be complete without the "bull in the ring."

Spring Practice Report #7

Special Features

-Pete Richardson:
-Chris Hudler:
-RB Coach Seth Littrell:

Photo Gallery #1

Bull in the Ring
Todd Walker and James "Scooter" Conwright went head-to-head in the opening match, and Walker made the receiving corps proud when he eventually threw Conwright to the ground.  The next battle was between Kellen Tillman and Paul Williams, with Tillman getting the edge in that one rather handily.  The last contest was between Eric Morris and Catron Houston.  It was difficult to judge a winner in this one, though, as they had a mutual takedown.  Yet again, this caused emotions to run high and set the tone for another practice.

Brandon Carter and McKinner Dixon got into it early on in the scrimmage, and they tackled each other and got in a few light blows before the fight was broken up.  This wasn't all that serious, but it would prove to be the prelude to a much more intense altercation.

In another offensive vs. defensive line fight, Michael Bettenhausen and Cody Baker got into a relatively serious brawl, which Dek Bake tried to go in and break up.  Bake appeared to have caught an inadvertent elbow in doing so, and tried to retaliate.  The offense prevented him from doing so, which made the defense angry, resulting in a giant brawl that had everyone scared.  Thankfully, it defused before there were any injuries, and the intensity made for a very interesting practice to come.

Graham Harrell returned to superhuman form today, completing a ridiculous 87.5% of his passes.  Unfortunately, he was not able to record any touchdowns today because Graham handed off twice near the goal line, one of which went for a touchdown while the other resulted in a turnover.  Still, Harrell was simply amazing today, and just looked mature beyond his years.  Also notable was a play where Harrell's hard count drew several members of the defnesivle line offsides.

Chris Todd didn't let Harrell gain any ground today, though, since he played like a Senior instead of a Freshman.  I'd be extremely surprised if there was a better Freshman QB anywhere in the country.  Todd's family was on hand to witness his excellent day, and they surely were not disappointed in Chris' superb play this afternoon.  How this QB battle didn't make CFN's Top 30 is beyond me.

Ryan Rowland was arguably the surprise of the day, recording big play after big play in what was his best practice since last year's Red-Black game.  He is a better quarterback than many people give him credit for, and if he had a quicker release, might contend for a starting spot.  Still, Rowland deserves credit for his stellar practice.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 21-24, 224 yards
Todd 18-21, 176 yards, TD
Rowland 8-13, 157 yards, 2 TD

Running Backs
Shannon Woods had an excellent outing today, but had a very scary moment today when he was tackled awkwardly and winced in pain on the ground for a few minutes.  Everyone was extremely worried until he got up, shook it off, and rejoined the huddle for the next play.  Woods does a fantastic job of hitting the holes quickly, and has that extra explosion that separates good players from great players.  Shannon's effort today was the best I've ever seen from him, especially considering that the defense wasn't taking it easy on him at all today.  Pete Richardson was somewhat of a different story.  Richardson ran very well, but had trouble holding on to the football today, committing two fumbles.  One of them was just a great defensive strip, but the other was caused by not holding the ball close enough to his body.  Kobey Lewis did not practice again because he is attending to personal family issues.  He will be returning to practice shortly, though, so we look forward to that.

Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 5 rushing attempts for 21 yards; 2 catches for 12 yards, TD
Pete Richardson: 16 rushing attempts for 65 yards; 2 fumbles, TD

Wide Receivers
Ryan Rowland was not the only surprise of the day, as his favorite target Kelly Hildebrandt had an outstanding afternoon.  Hildebrandt did an excellent job of finding the open areas, and his statistics reflected it.  Filani continues to be the big play receiver, as he always seems to have several long receptions each practice.  Robert Johnson is always a popular threat, as the QBs seem to look his way whenever they get in trouble.  Johnson is incredibly dangerous over the middle, scoring a touchdown from this area today.  Grant Walker had a good day, but there was one particular play that bothered me, in which he was completely unaware of a pass that was thrown his way.  Catron Houston again proved to have excellent hands, and held on to a pass despite getting flattened immediately after catching it.  Chris Cunigan is a bit of a mystery, as he will make a great catch and then drop an easy one.  Then again, that was Filani's story last Spring, and look how he has done since.  It appears that the coaching staff is finally listening to me, since they used Amendola on the WR reverse instead of Filani.  Nothing against Filani, but you need a small, agile, Wes Welker-type to run such a play effectively, and Danny is that.  It worked with some success, and I hope they continue to work with it.  Britton constantly impresses me with his blocking ability.  He is almost always between his man and the ball carrier, and prevents them from getting anywhere near the play.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again; our receivers are about as good as it gets.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Kelly Hildebrandt: 5 catches for 111 yards, TD
Joel Filani: 5 catches for 83 yards
Grant Walker: 4 catches for 80 yards
Robert Johnson: 8 catches for 74 yards, TD
Catron Houston: 5 catches for 38 yards
Chris Cunigan: 2 catches for 37 yards
Eric Morris: 3 catches for 35 yards
Danny Amendola: 3 catches for 26 yards, 11 yards rushing
Jarrett Hicks: 2 catches for 25 yards
L.A. Reed: 2 catches for 15 yards
Edward Britton: 1 catch for 10 yards
Todd Walker: 2 catches for 7 yards

Offensive Line
The offensive line had a mixed effort, and describing them accurately would just depend on which players were highlighted.  Gabe Hall and Marlon Winn both had key blocks that allowed great plays to occur.  Brandon Carter appears to play with a ton of emotion, as evidenced by his frustration with his effort today and his fighting, which were probably linked.  Vasquez continues to play solid football, and newcomer Shawn Byrnes shows plenty of potential.  With the exception of those mentioned, the rest of the offensive line struggled somewhat today, as several sacks were recorded.  However, some of those can be excused for the quarterbacks holding on to the ball too long.  Rylan Reed was flagged for a false start today, which might be a testament to his unfamiliarity with the offensive line.  Overall, I would say that the defensive line won the battle, because they just looked like they wanted it more today.

Defensive Line
The story here was definitely Chris Hudler, who had three sacks today.  Hudler just got it done today, and I can pretty much guarantee that he will be a starter next year barring some unforeseen injury.  Jake Ratliff continues to play extremely well, getting two sacks of his own.  He has a bright future as a Red Raider.  McKinner Dixon had a quiet day today, which came as a bit of a surprise, but he may have drawn some of the offensive line's attention, allowing others to have good days.  Jared Williams had a good pass deflection this afternoon that prevented a wide open Amendola in the flat from going for a big gain.  There really does not appear to be much dropoff in play without Dawson, and the overall team might be better off with the way Key is playing as a linebacker. 

Keyunta Dawson looks better and better with each practice, and his combination of speed and tackling ability as a linebacker is just scary.  He was hitting people hard today, and should inspire fear in running backs and receivers next year.  Fletcher Session sat out the practice as a cautionary measure with what looks to be a pulled muscle.  Ryan Hale had another performance that was well above what you would expect out of a freshman.  Something that Red Raider fans should be very excited about for next year is that the LBs appear to be blitzing more often, since it appears that they finally have the speed and talent to do so with success.  Paul Williams recorded a sack on such a blitz, which was very nice to see.  I think it will be awfully enjoyable to watch our opponents underrate this unit next season.

Defensive Backs
Lance Fuller and Darcel McBath had quiet afternoons today, so it was difficult to gauge any developments in that battle for the starting FS spot.  Once again, Garcia sat out the practice as a spectator, but Hines continues to fill in for him very well.  Anthony forced a fumble from Pete Richardson and also managed to recover it for a turnover.  Safety Taylor Read forced the day's other fumble.  K.J. Ellis also had an excellent deflection today, and newcomer LaShawn Vation looks very capable of becoming a solid player as well.  This is encouraging to see players add more depth to a secondary that desperately needs it right now, considering the players that are sitting out with injuries.  

Special Teams
The kickers and punters ran drills today, and capitalized on the wind in order to excel.  Alex Trlica, whose critics claim he doesn't have a strong enough leg, made several 60-yarders in practice.  Needless to say, it was very encouraging to see such an excellent effort from next year's projected starting kicker in case a game comes down to a field goal.  

Now let's hand out some awards:

Best Overall Unit:

Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Graham Harrell
Chris Hudler

Mr. Underrated: (tie)
Kelly Hildebrandt
Ryan Rowland

Best Newcomer:
Ryan Hale

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