Wednesday Practice Report

The ninth Spring Practice session was windy, so the dust became a factor in all facets of the game. The players on both sides of the ball handled it well, however, and managed to have a great practice overall. Also, former Red Raiders Dwayne Slay, E.J. Whitley, Khalid Naziruddin, and John Saldi were on hand working with the team, and even participated in a few of the drills.

Spring Practice Report #9

Special Features

-Coach Ruffin McNeil: Listen to Audio
-Manny Ramirez: Listen to Audio

Photo Gallery

Bull in the Ring
Running backs Pete Richardson and Kobey Lewis fought in the opening match, with Richardson getting the slight edge in the end.  The next battle was between Tyler Yenzer and Brian Jones, which ended up too close to call since they were both immovable.  The last match was between wide receiver Chris Cunigan and defensive back Brent Nickerson, and Nickerson finally upended Cunigan in the end.  The toughness exhibited in these battles would parallel the team's effort on the day.

Graham Harrell had an excellent practice, returning to the impeccable accuracy that we know and expect from him.  He had several good deep throws to Filani, and was also the only one to hit the accuracy bucket at the end.  Harrell is so well-balanced and capable of making any throw that it's hard to see anyone else as the starter.

Chris Todd had a good day as well, and his numbers were hurt by a few drops.  There was one excellent throw in particular that threaded two defenders and got to Robert Johnson for a completion.  Also, Hicks uncharacteristically dropped an excellent fade throw that would have gone for 20-plus yards.

Ryan Rowland had a tough day, but the defense was playing extremely well against his supporting cast.  Most of his completions went to Kelly Hildebrandt today, and their connection seems to work very well.  Rowland also ran a designed QB draw today, which worked very well and went for six yards.

7-7 Scrimmage:
Harrell 12-14, 112 yards
Todd 13-16, 92 yards
Rowland 3-8, 21 yards

11-11 Scrimmage:
Harrell 8-11, 75 yards
Todd 9-11, 61 yards
Rowland 2-4, 25 yards

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 20-25, 187 yards
Todd 22-27, 153 yards
Rowland 5-12, 46 yards

Running Backs
It was very nice to see Shannon Woods return to practice, but he had a somewhat quiet day, only getting receiving yards as reps.  Kobey Lewis, however, got quite a few reps and made the most of them.  It is great to watch him disappear behind the blockers and then reappear ten yards downfield.  Lewis is simply quick and elusive, with one run in particular going for almost thirty yards.  Richardson struggled a bit today rushing, but made up for it with his receiving.  Pete may need to work on his handoff exchange, as there was another fumble today, but if he can get this area down, he truly shows promise.

Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 3 catches for 23 yards
Kobey Lewis: 6 rushing attempts for 50 yards; 4 catches for 16 yards
Pete Richardson: 3 rushing attempts for 1 yard, 4 catches for 36 yards

Wide Receivers
After sitting out last practice with an apparent injury, Robert Johnson came back today with a fierce effort.  He had an excellent juke on Kellen Tillman today and led all receivers, but after practice he was spotted limping around, so he must have played through some pain.  Todd Walker had a decent day, getting a few catches, but dropping some key passes.  Todd also switched to the #1 jersey today.  Not surprisingly, Kelly Hildebrandt stepped up again today, working hard to find the open spaces.  Kelly also had an amazing catch on a batted ball, which illustrated his awareness and proved that he won't give up on a ball that lesser receivers might have.  Joel Filani was thrown to deep several times today and made the best of it, making two good catches and nearly coming up with a difficult third.  Grant Walker continues to be one of the best at working back towards the ball, as the quarterbacks are starting to look his way more when they get into trouble.  Thomas Bachman impressed today as well, looking dangerous on inside slant routes.  Danny Amendola is getting a lot of screen passes thrown his way, which is good to see, as I believe this to be where he is most effective.  Hicks did not do all that much receiving today, but it is amazing to watch him help the younger receivers fine-tune their game.  They should list him on the staff as the Assistant Receivers Coach, I kid you not.  Chris Cunigan and Edward Britton had light duty today, but continue to improve on blocking and route-running.  Britton shows impressive speed, but I should probably be expecting that since he was formerly a running back.  Also of note was that Eric Morris did not have pads on today, so we'll keep you apprised of his situation.  The receiving corps had a good day overall, and were just a few dropped passes away from being the day's best unit.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Robert Johnson: 8 catches for 67 yards
Todd Walker: 4 catches for 45 yards
Kelly Hildebrandt: 4 catches for 38 yards
Joel Filani: 2 catches for 37 yards
Grant Walker: 8 catches for 36 yards
Thomas Bachman: 3 catches for 31 yards
Danny Amendola: 4 catches for 23 yards
Jarrett Hicks: 2 catches for 20 yards

Offensive Line
The offensive line had the excellent effort fans have been looking for today, creating huge holes and protecting the quarterbacks very well.  Gabe Hall had a sealing block that sprung Lewis for his 30-yard run.  The first team did a great job, even without Louis Vasquez, who was mysteriously absent today.  Ramirez returned today and may arguably be the glue that holds the unit together, since they appear to struggle in his absence.  Cody Baker had a good day, as did Glenn January.  Josh Aleman and Shawn Byrnes are sharing the reps at center, and both look to be very capable offensive lineman.  My only criticism of their effort today was that the second team had a pair of false starts when faced with the tough first team defensive line.  This is forgivable, though, considering the unit's excellent effort overall.

Defensive Line
The big story here was that Dek Bake was out of pads today.  Many people, including myself, believe him to be capable of pushing for a starting spot if he remains healthy, so we look forward to his return.  Tyler Yenzer continues to be disruptive, and Phillip Jones had a TFL today.  Rashad Hunt is progressing very well, and had a TFL today as well.  The defensive line seemed to have Pete Richardson figured out today, holding him to just one yard rushing.  However, Kobey Lewis and the push of the offensive line made them look downright silly at times.  Perhaps they can rebound on Friday, but if the offensive line plays like they did today, it will make that an awfully difficult proposition. 

Kellen Tillman was arguably the best of this unit today, covering quite a bit of the field and getting involved in lots of plays.  Tillman is doing a spectacular job re-routing the recivers as well.  Ryan Hale again made his presence known, and is learning the schemes well.  The unit did quite a bit of blitzing today, but gave up many short passes as a result of it today.  Their blitzing has worked wonders up until today, but the offensive line stepped up and mad their blitzing cost them today, which is a testament to how well the offensive line did as opposed to a poor effort from the LBs.  Fletcher Session and Chad Hill were both out of pads today, but Chad Hill somehow still played in the 7-on-7 and did well.  The unit will likely return to dominance when everyone returns to the lineup.

Defensive Backs
The surprise here was James (Scooter) Conwright, who was everywhere today.  Scooter definitely opened some eyes today with his play.  However, his effort may have been overlooked by some with the way Antonio Huffman played today.  Huffman was hitting the running backs hard, and got an excellent TFL on a screen pass.  Also, watching Antonio battle Filani in the 1-on-1 drill is becoming one of the most entertaining parts of practice.  A player to keep an eye on is Taylor Read, who made an excellent open-field tackle today.  Garcia practiced in the drills today, but was not in pads and didn't play in the scrimmage.  However, some great news was that Marcus Bunton practiced today, which was fantastic to see.  Bunton had a decent day, and I'll be sure to highlight his effort on Friday.  Needless to say, adding depth in the secondary always helps, considering all the injuries here  

Now let's hand out some awards:

Best Overall Unit:
Offensive Line

Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Antonio Huffman
Robert Johnson

Mr. Underrated: (tie)
Kelly Hildebrandt
James (Scooter) Conwright

Best Newcomer:
Kobey Lewis

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