Wednesday Practice Report

The thirteenth Spring Practice session took place today in what would be the hottest day so far in the Spring. This was the last practice before the Red-Black game on Saturday, which is always one of the most enjoyable experiences this side of gameday. The RaiderPower Staff will be holding a tailgate following the scrimmage, so everyone feel free to come by and say hello.

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-Paul Williams -

-DB coach Brian Mitchell -

Bull in the Ring
The first battle was between Grant Walker and Lance Fuller.  Their first go at it ended with Fuller throwing Walker to the ground and re-opening an elbow wound.   Grant got angry at Fuller for this, and requested they go again because he was literally out for blood.  Walker turned the tables on Fuller, throwing Lance down and scraping his elbow.  They both jokingly went to see the trainers to stop their bleeding, and there were no hard feelings.  The next battle was between Stephen Hamby and Rashad Hunt.   This was a hard-fought match, and Hamby looked to have the slight edge in the end.  Still, Hunt gave a great fight, and both players look to be solid contributors in the future.

Graham Harrell had a solid day, but it was far from his best or worst.  Harrell does an excellent job of putting his passes in a position where only the receivers can have a shot at it, which is one of the reasons he has thrown so few interceptions this Spring. Even one of his incompletions today was placed almost perfectly on the sideline for Todd Walker, but Todd couldn’t quite get a foot inbounds.

Chris Todd continues to be the most willing of all the quarterbacks to throw the ball downfield, but also tends to make the greatest amount of mistakes because of it.  Todd simply needs to settle into his role and get used to the fact that Big 12 defensive backs are far too talented to just throw up a jump ball, even though our receivers are the best you’ll find.  I have complete confidence that Todd will make quicker reads and better decisions as he gets more experience in the offense.  The great thing is that Chris Todd right now is probably among the top five quarterbacks in the Big 12.

Ryan Rowland ran the option several times again today in a simulation of a TCU-type offense.  They also threw out of this formation on a fake option, and it was great to see how well the defense handled all of this.  Rowland also pitched the ball to Pete Richardson for a halfback pass, which would have gone for a touchdown to a wide-open David Pilgrim has Richardson not overthrown him.  Still, Rowland is doing a good job of showing our defense some different looks and has performed well throughout the practices.

7-7 Statistics:
Harrell 7-10, 44 yards
Todd 9-14, 88 yards
Rowland 8-10, 55 yards

11-11 Statistics:
Graham 10-12, 133 yards, 2 TD
Todd 8-10, 67 yards, INT
Rowland 1-3, 25 yards

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 17-22, 177 yards, 2 TD
Todd 17-24, 155 yards, INT
Rowland 9-13, 80 yards

Running Backs

The running backs struggled today, but that was mainly because the defense played extremely well.  Shannon Woods was limited by the blitzing from the linebackers today, but did well catching the football, which is a good sign.  Kobey Lewis had similar difficulties running the football.  Pete Richardson had a decent effort, but the blitzing overwhelmed him as well.  Keep in mind that the defense was fully aware when the option plays were being run, so don’t read too much into the rushing game’s ineptitude today.

Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 3 rushing attempts for 8 yards; 4 catches for 9 yards
Kobey Lewis: 2 rushing attempts for -3 yards
Pete Richardson: 4 rushing attempts for 9 yards; 2 catches for 8 yards 

Wide Receivers
The big story here was the absence of Jarrett Hicks, which puzzled the crowd.  Hicks is usually given light participation, but is always in attendance.  Joel Filani redeemed himself for Monday’s drops by looking like a legitimate member of the AFROS once again.  Filani is almost impossible to defend on the deep post pattern, so I would love to see this be one of his major roles next year.  Joel also deserves credit for inspiring the offense today with his leadership, as his encouraging outbursts seemed to have a huge effect on the offense’s performance.  However, he was not the only great receiver today, as Robert Johnson had a good practice as well.  RoJo is probably our best YAC receiver, since he is capable of pulling off some unfair cuts to burn the secondary.  I cannot stress enough what he brings to the offense with his energy and style of play.  Danny Amendola has perfected the quick out pattern, and may be the most underrated blocker on the team.  Catron Houston is the one of the most nimble receivers, but he showed us all a little something today with an impressive stiff-arm that earned him an extra ten yards.  Eric Morris is arguably the best receiver at working back to the ball when the quarterbacks need help.  Grant Walker is also excellent at this, but is not quite as comfortable with the offense as Morris.  Even though the quarterbacks did not have a great afternoon, the receivers still managed to have a productive day.  Then again, that’s what a collection of great players does.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Robert Johnson: 6 catches for 105 yards, TD
Joel Filani: 5 catches for 103 yards, TD; 2 rushes for -6 yards
Danny Amendola: 4 catches for 48 yards
Catron Houston: 2 catches for 34 yards
Eric Morris: 5 catches for 34 yards
Grant Walker: 5 catches for 23 yards
Edward Britton: 4 catches for 17 yards
Todd Walker: 1 catch for 12 yards
Thomas Bachman: 2 catches for 8 yards
David Schaefer: 1 catch for 6 yards

Offensive Line
The offensive line couldn’t keep the defensive line down forever, and today was when the defense as a whole stepped up their game.  That’s not to say that the offensive line didn’t have solid performers today.  Stephen Hamby continues to be a welcome surprise, and will see the field before his time is done as Red Raider if he keeps playing this well.  Glenn January also had an excellent afternoon, but got injured for a bit.  This was a scary moment, but everything thankfully seems to be alright.  Gabe Hall is doing an excellent job on kick-out blocks, which is evidenced by springing Woods for the day’s best run.  The offensive line did not have a poor effort by any means, but the defensive line arguably got the better of them today.

Defensive Line
With the return of Jake Ratliff, the defensive line returned to top form.  Although Ratliff didn’t make any spectacular plays today, his impact on the unit is easy to spot.  It is just too much of a coincidence that the unit does well when he plays, and struggles when he does not.  Chris Hudler did an excellent job of plugging up the middle today and forcing plays to the outside.  Then, Rashad Hunt would clean up and make the tackles on the edges with his excellent pursuit.  Dek Bake’s effort was also fantastic, as he disrupted the entire backfield today.  Tyler Yenzer looks to be solid contributor as well, and seems to get more reps every practice.  Ken Scott and Seth Nitschmann continue not to practice, but the unit is doing well despite their absence.  Also worth noting was that Keyunta Dawson was worked in at both LB and DE today, which is a great idea, because opponents will not know what to expect from him. 

The linebackers seriously brought it today.  Brent Slaughter had a great interception today in addition to providing solid containment of the running backs throughout the practice.  Calen Shearer also is performing very well, and provides some nice depth in Chad Hill’s absence.  However, the story here is and will likely continue to be Keyunta Dawson.  There are players that just have “it,” and Keyunta is one of those guys.  Paul Williams is also flying to the ball, and looks like he may just take Stratton’s starting MLB spot unless Brock comes back 110% from his injury.  Their performance is even more astonishing when you consider that the unit is not near full-strength with the three key injuries to Hill, Session, and Stratton. 

Defensive Backs
The big story here was that LaShawn Vation made his return to the practice field.  Vation looked to be a very capable player that was difficult for the receivers to shake.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn some heads at the Red-Black game.  Anthony Hines continues to give Joe Garcia a tough run for the starting spot, as Hines had yet another great practice.  He is without a doubt the best member of the secondary at recognizing screen passes and shutting down the running game.  Hines elicits many “where did he come from?” moments with the way he finds the ball.  Garcia probably lost some ground today with his decent performance in comparison to Hines’ excellent play.  Darcel McBath may have put some distance between him and Lance Fuller today, as he was very disruptive today.  I am also impressed with how vocal McBath has been as of late.  Communication is of the utmost importance in the secondary, and Darcel is earning my favor more and more with each practice.

Now lets hand out some awards:

Best Overall Unit: (tie)
Defensive Line

Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Joel Filani
Keyunta Dawson

Mr. Underrated:
Stephen Hamby

Best Newcomer: (tie)
Rashad Hunt
LaShawn Vation


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