Monday Practice Report

The twelfth Spring Practice session took place this afternoon, and it would prove to be a practice filled with surprises. New plays, position changes, and other interesting happenings made this an extremely different, yet thoroughly enjoyable practice. However, there was a bit of normalcy as the practice began with the "bull in the ring."

Spring Practice Report #12

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Bull in the Ring
The first match was between L.A. Reed and Robert Johnson.  Everyone was expecting a great battle between these two strong receivers, but that would not prove to be the case.  The intensity simply was not there, likely because the two appear to be good friends.  Their friendly hug elicited some boos from the team, but their lack of anger towards each other is a good thing, as it proves the cohesiveness of the receiving corps.  The next battle was between offensive lineman Michael Bettenhausen and Brandon Jones.  There was much more of a fight here, as Jones threw Bettenhausen to the turf.  Still, the story of the day would prove to be Robert Johnson despite the early boos, but I'll get to that later.

Graham Harrell had a mediocre outing in the 7-on-7 drill, but dominated the 11-on-11 scrimmage.  He again proved to be far superior to the other quarterbacks around the goal line, and his consistency here is good enough to almost entirely disprove the theory that the spread offense struggles in short yardage situations.

Chris Todd was the exact opposite, struggling in the 11-on-11, yet tearing it up in the 7-on-7.  What I gather from this (in addition to having watched all of their other performances) is that Todd's strength is in making the perfect throws when given time, while Graham's is in making the decisions under pressure.  Of course, you have to consider Harrell's huge advantage in experience to be a huge factor in this.  The only real criticism that I can come up with for Chris is that he takes longer than Harrell to deliver the ball, but that is to be expected, so it becomes a testament to how talented Chris really is at this early in his collegiate career.

Ryan Rowland saw very light duty today, and I'll explain why in a second.  He did well in his limited time at the helm, but it was very difficult to formulate an accurate assessment given his few passes.  Rowland did run the option several times with Kobey Lewis, which turned some heads.  However, no one was expecting the surprise that came next.

ROBERT JOHNSON LINES UP AT QB!  I'm not just talking about the double pass that has been reported on several times in the past.  This time, it was Robert Johnson under center as the only quarterback, and those on hand were treated to a show of what it would be like to have RoJo as a Tech quarterback.  Johnson ran several Option plays with great success, and I sincerely hope to see this make an appearance next season.  Not only that, he threw two passes, and his incompletion probably should have been caught.  His other pass was on a Triple Option, and it went for a 35 yard touchdown.  However, Chris Hudler absolutely mauled him right after the pass, which got the offense angry.  Hudler's contention was that Johnson was not wearing the blue jersey that signifies who cannot get tackled.  Still, it was a bit disturbing to see the cheap shot on one of our most valuable players for next year.  Thankfully, RoJo was okay, and he had the opportunity to run a few more trick plays.  Edward Britton ran a WR Reverse on what had first appeared to be a simple Option, which was an awesome play that went for 15 yards.  However, the next play didn't have quite the same success.  Johnson pitched the ball to Kobey Lewis, who then tried to throw the ball downfield.  The pass hung in the air way too long, and would have been intercepted if the DBs weren't all fighting each other for it.  Still, I would be ecstatic to see Johnson at QB for a few plays next season to confuse our opponents.

7-7 Statistics:
Harrell 6-9, 57 yards
Todd 13-15, 177 yards, 3TD
Rowland 5-9, 39 yards

11-11 Statistics:
Graham 9-9, 103 yards, TD
Todd 6-6, 52 yards, INT
Rowland 0-1, 0 yards
Robert Johnson 1-2, 35 yards, TD, 3 rushing attempts for 19 yards

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 15-18, 160 yards, TD
Todd 19-21, 229 yards, 3 TD, INT
Rowland 5-10, 39 yards
Robert Johnson 1-2, 35 yards, TD, 3 rushing attempts for 19 yards

Running Backs
The running backs had a mixed day as a unit.  Shannon Woods looked excellent running the football, and on one of his touchdowns, I could have sworn I was watching Taurean with the moves that Shannon pulled.  Woods is just a burner, and is great at beating the defense to the outside.  Kobey Lewis had a decent day, but he had some trouble getting into the end zone in short yardage situations today.  Kobey was tough to bring down all afternoon, though, and always seems to get about two or three more yards than you expect him to.  Richardson had a light practice, and didn't show the crowd much today in his limited opportunities.

Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 5 rushing attempts for 46 yards, 2 TD; 2 catches for 15 yards
Kobey Lewis: 4 rushing attempts for 14 yards, TD; 4 catches for 23 yards
Pete Richardson: 2 rushing attempts for 2 yards; 2 catches for 11 yards

Wide Receivers
The unit was a little light today, with Jarrett Hicks, Kelly Hildebrandt, and Chris Cunigan out of pads, but you never would have noticed with the way the rest of the receivers stepped up.  After RoJo got flattened by Hudler, the receivers decided to retaliate.  Joel Filani continues to be a favorite target, but he dropped several passes today.  Filani is still the best at burning the DBs deep, though, as he led the receiving corps in yardage once again.  The surprise here was newcomer Landon Hoefer.  He was flat-out on today, taking Hildebrandt's usual role.  Todd Walker may be the best receiver at making sideline catches while keeping his feet in-bounds.  Todd has a spectacular grab in the corner of the end zone that literally got a round of applause from the crowd and players.  Catron Houston had an excellent practice as well, making everything look easy.  Houston had two touchdowns, and dunked over the goal post on one of them to rub it in the DBs' faces.  L.A. Reed is proving to be a better big-gain receiver than many expected, simply because everyone is struggling to tackle him.  Edward Britton is also really stepping up his game as of late, and is pushing for some PT next season.  Even with three players missing, the unit still had great success.  Opponents beware our receiving corps.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Joel Filani: 6 catches for 78 yards, TD
Landon Hoefer: 4 catches for 67 yards, TD
Catron Houston: 4 catches for 59 yards, 2 TD
Todd Walker: 4 catches for 43 yards, TD
Robert Johnson: 2 catches for 27 yards
L.A. Reed: 1 catch for 23 yards
Grant Walker: 2 catches for 21 yards
Edward Britton: 2 catches for 15 yards, 1 rushing attempt for 15 yards
Danny Amendola: 1 catch for 15 yards
Thomas Bachman: 1 catch for 12 yards
Eric Morris: 1 catch for 9 yards

Offensive Line
The offensive line has pulled a complete 180, having yet another solid practice.  Their run blocking has been exceptional as of late, creating gaps that I could run through for a first down.  Woods' 20-yard TD run was possible because Gabe Hall and Manny Ramirez opened up a huge hole to run through.  They work well together, which is evidenced by the running success on their side.  There were a few sacks allowed today, but they mostly came when Chris Todd held the ball for too long.  Stephen Hamby had a great practice as well, surprising many with his dominance today.  It is very encouraging to have watched the unit become much more cohesive over the past few weeks and get to where they need to be.

Defensive Line
The defensive line just isn't the same without Jake Ratliff practicing.  Other than Chris Hudler and Rashad Hunt, the unit didn't impress too much today.  I'll be honest, I'm still a bit angry at Hudler for clobbering RoJo, but Chris did have a good practice.  Perhaps this is due to playing with the tenacity that I just criticized, but I might have tried to tackle him if Johnson had gotten hurt.  It's best that this wasn't the case, as running full speed into Hudler would have probably killed me upon impact.  Anyway, Rashad Hunt will be a great player in the future, as he is already great at getting around the edge.  Look for good things from him in the future.

The blitzing and movement here is working wonders, and will likely cause many false starts by our opponents next season.  Seeing our guys fake a blitz effectively after blitzing well the play before is simply a sight to behold.  Keyunta Dawson is especially good at this, as his presence forced a fumbled snap on a fake blitz today.  Also, most of the sacks in the Spring have come from the linebackers, which illustrates their dexterity with the blitzing.  Paul Williams had a good practice, and did well redirecting the running game to the outsides.  This unit has the potential to be the best of the Leach era. 

Defensive Backs
The big story here was that Joe Garcia played a full practice for the first time in a while.  Anthony Hines has stepped up well in his absence, but Garcia fiercely defended his starting spot today.  Garcia recorded a pair of pass deflections, and shut down the passing game on the strong side while he was on the field.  Hines might have faded a little bit in the eyes of the coaches when he lost track of Catron Houston and gave up a touchdown today.  As for the battle between Lance Fuller and Darcel McBath, it was another day where they both played well.  McBath gets my nod today, though, because he appears to be a much better tackler.  Still, Fuller does deserve some credit for making a nice deflection today.  Daniel Charbonet also earned recognition for perfectly timing a hit on Eric Morris today that prevented a completion.  Overall, the unit played very well, and if Hudler's cheap shot hadn't gotten the receivers extremely fired up, the DBs would have been one of the day's best units.

Now lets hand out some awards:

Best Overall Unit: (tie)
Wide Receivers
Offensive Line

Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Robert Johnson
Manny Ramirez

Mr. Underrated:
Joe Garcia

Best Newcomer:
Landon Hoefer


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