March 26th Spring Practice Report

The Red Raiders wore their shoulder pads, jerseys, and helmets as they practiced today under cloudy skies, a light wind, and a drizzle for most of the afternoon at Jones AT&T stadium. Come inside for the latest news on what players did well, what players had an off day, what players are starting to show potential, and who won the coveted RaiderPower Practice Report Awards.

Quarterbacks : The quarterbacks had a fairly good day highlighted by another strong outing from Graham Harrell. Harrell's reads continue to become faster and faster and he has shown more of a willingness to move around the pocket. Graham was nearly perfect throughout the day and didn't throw an interception during the pass skeleton portion of the drill. Harrell was sacked twice during the 11 on 11 first team v. first team portion of practice but rebounded well and threw several touchdown passes. Harrell also showed an outstanding ability to look to his left today, throwing several beautiful passes to LA Reed and Eddie Britton along with Eric Morriss.

Ryan Rowland took most of the second team snaps during practice today and looked decent. Rowland's release does not look quite as smooth as it used to and his passes lack the needed spiral to make them easy to catch. Rowland missed badly several times during practice and lucked out that he didn't throw an interception to Lance Fuller.

Taylor Potts had arguably one of his better days of practice today and showed good poise during practice. He made several good throws but was sacked once during the 11 on 11 portion of the practice. His reads are still to slow and he shows indecision sometimes, staring down a receiver and waiting for one player to break open instead of finding the open player on the field.

Steven Sheffield continues to look good for a former walk-on and showed off an extremely strong arm today, particularly during the screen drills. Sheffield did not take many repetitions during the later part of practice, showing that perhaps he has been surpassed by Taylor Potts on the depth chart.

The quarterbacks spent about 6 minutes in practice working on the quarterback sneak and each did an excellent job of falling forward. Harrell practiced on several occasions with a yard to go and would gain 4 or 5 yards before being tackled. Steven Sheffield got so low behind the line that he shot out of the pile 6 yards down field and most likely would have scored had the play not been whistled dead.

Quarterback Depth Chart

Starter: Graham Harrell

Back-Up: Ryan Rowland

3rd String: Steven Sheffield/ Taylor Potts

Overall Grade - B, Harrell continues to have a good day but the other quarterbacks are still not as consistent as they could and should be.

Running Backs : Shannon Woods and Kobey Lewis had a good day today but weren't quite as flashy as they had been during the last several practices. Kobey Lewis did juke Bryan Duncan out of his under garments today with an outstanding spin move and stutter step that sent both sidelines either into cheers or boo's, depending on which side of the ball that the players played for. Woods had several good runs during the 11 on 11 portion of practice and had an outstanding shovel pass that went almost 20 yards down the field with almost no contact. Woods again showed his willingness to lower his shoulder and block as he and Kobey Lewis worked out of an offset I formation.

Running Backs Depth Chart

Starter: Shannon Woods

Back Up: Kobey Lewis

Overall Grade - B+, the backs weren't quite as explosive as they had been earlier in practice but did an excellent job with the ball in their hands. They were not pass blocking as much today and were spending more time in the flats, showing off their moves after the catch.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends : The receivers had a very good day and Danny Amendola is quietly becoming the leader of a young and promising unit. He started the day off extremely well with a terrific one handed touchdown catch on back right corner of the North endzone at Jones stadium but did suffer a minor injury to his right elbow but came back into practice and caught several more passes. Eric Morriss continues to have the best hands on the team and does an incredible job of catching almost anything that is in arms reach. Grant Walker had a quiet day but continues to be reliable. With the way that Danny Amendola is taking to the Y receiving position, Grant will have to step up his level of play to fend off the feisty Amendola.

Michael Crabtree continues to impress but did have two passes he didn't catch today, one that was intercepted by corner Nathan Stone. Stone would most likely have been in traction had the play not been blown dead because Rylan Reed and his 300+ pounds were flying down the sideline and would have enveloped the tiny corner. Crabtree also had a fumble on an end around but made up for it with a tough catch in traffic. Eddie Britton continues to show off not only great moves but also versatility as he played both the Z and X positions today during practice. His hands continue to be very good and as soon as he gets the ball into his hands he reverts back to running back mode, leaving players in the dust and showing extremely good moves to avoid defenders.

Kelly Hildebrant continues to provide good depth at the H receiver position and is built very similarly to Eric Morriss, possessing nearly the same speed and quickness. Landon Hoefer showed off good hands today in practice with an impressive grab on the sideline and toe tap to ensure that he was in bounds. Lyle Leong is making a strong case for playing time next season with great hands, fantastic vertical leaping ability, and a great explosion off of the line.

Adam James, David Schaefer, and Adrian Reese are all showing good hands along with tenacious blocking ability. Adrian Reese has hands that seem to be covered in glue as he catches passes that he would have dropped last season. If Reese can keep from tangling himself in his own legs, he could be a serious threat for the Red Raiders next season. David Schaefer saw time at the Big Y position today, showing off his versatility while Adam James continues to impress with soft hands and terrific route running ability.

Receiver Depth Chart -

Z- Michael Crabtree, Eddie Britton

Y- Danny Amendola, G. Walker

H- Eric Morris, Kelly Hildebrant

X- LA Reed, Eddie Britton, Lyle Leong, Brik Brinker (Todd Walker, injured)

Big Y- Adrian Reese, Adam James

Big H- David Schaefer

Overall Grade - A-, the receiver had their best day of practice but did have a few costly tips that turned into interceptions for the defense. They were great at blocking and overall had a very productive practice.

Offensive Line : The offensive line is still missing projected starter Brandon Carter with a strained back and took another hit to depth when red shirt Junior Josh Aleman hung up his jersey sometime between practice on Saturday and Monday. Stephen Hamby filled in as the starting RG and maintained his role as the back up left guard but is not nearly as good of a pass protector as Aleman was and gave up several sacks during the individual linemen drills. He did redeem himself with an impressive blitz pick-up during the 11 on 11 portion of practice but will certainly need more polish if he is expected to contribute this season.

In better news though, Louis Vasquez, Shawn Byrnes, Rylan Reed, and Marlon Winn are all proving to be a very good and cohesive line that is led by Vasquez after the play but is put into the correct position by Shawn Byrnes. The past several seasons, Manny Ramirez in particular and the right guard in general was responsible for the line calls. This change most likely means that the offensive coaching staff has a tremendous amount of confidence in Byrnes and in back up Justin Keown, who is still raw but has showed terrific potential today and throughout the first portion of spring practive. Rylan Reed had an impressive pancake block in which he literally threw the defender to the turf, showing off some of the strength that he possess.

Chris Olson showed off versatility as he played right guard today to give Hamby a break and acquitted himself well at that position.

The line did give up 4 sacks during the 11 on 11 drills but 2 were due to the QB holding onto the ball for more than 6 seconds while the other two were due to an extraordinary effort from a young defensive linemen, but more on that later.

Offensive Line Depth Chart -

Right Tackle: Rylan Reed, Andrew Johnson

Right Guard: Brandon Carter (Injured), Stephen Hamby

Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown

Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby

Left Tackle: Marlon Winn, Chris Olson

Overall Grade - B+, While the line was good they were not as sharp and the loss of Aleman was keenly apparent during the 1 on 1 linemen drills. Did do a decent job during 11 on 11 drills but the line must continue to grow into a family if the Red Raiders are to be successful during the 2007 season.

Defensive Line : The defensive line played with more motivation and fire then the other three practices combined. Recording 4 sacks during the 11 on 11 portion of the practice, they showed not only terrific run stopping ability but also a willingness to follow a play laterally across the field and stop it in its tracks. Rajon Henley, Brian Jones, and Richard Jones all proved to be very dangerous at stopping the run and credible pass rush threats but the star of the show was 5 foot 11 inch tall 255 pound Clint Stoffels who played with a motor the likes of which hasn't been seen at Tech in many seasons. Flying off of the ball, Stoffels recorded 2 sacks during the 11 on 11 portion of the practice and the nickname given to him by defensive line Coach Ruffin McNeil of "Turbo" seems to fit him perfectly.

Jake Ratliff recorder a sack along and Philip Jones also notched a sack while Brandon Williams forced an early throw that was nearly intercepted by several members of the Red Raider defense.

It is of note that the defensive line was working very hard on twists and stunts today and some of the speed on the field was nearing the point of ridiculous, particularly that of Clint Stoffels and Brandon Williams.

Overall Grade - A+, the defensive line was a forced to be reckoned with today. Showing great pass rush moves and tremendous motors, the defensive line shouldn't be counted down for next season quite yet.

Linebackers : Today was by far the day of the linebackers with hard hitting going on all across the field. Marlon Williams and Kellen Tillman were the terrors of the starters and Chad Hall should get healthy shortly unless Marlon Williams cements himself into the starting lineup with terrific play during practice. Kellen Tillman was all over the field and looked like an All American, particularly in his quick reaction to plays and great closing speed.

Blake Collier delivered several terrific shots today including one that sent slot receiver Danny Amendola to the sideline for nearly 20 minutes and another that would have most likely knocked out the opposing offensive player had the team been allowed to have full contact. Collier continues to show that his speed isn't being lost after having added 10 pounds, up to 208 pounds from the 198 that he reported to Tech at in the fall of last year. Collier will force himself onto the field this year and will also be an integral part of a very good special teams unit.

Paul Williams had a quiet day as did most of the reserve linebackers with the biggest play by the backups being an extremely athletic deflection by Ty Linder that was nearly intercepted by just about every member of the defense. Victor Hunter continues to move extremely well for a man of his size and could very well be the number two middle linebacker by the time the 2007 season rolls around.

Linebackers Depth Chart

Weak Side Linebacker: Marlon Williams, Blake Collier, Julius Howard

Middle Linebacker: Paul Williams, Victor Hunter/Marlon Williams, Ryan Hale

Strong Side Linebacker: Kellen Tillman, Ty Linder, Brian Duncan

Overall Grade -A+, The linebackers had a fantastic day of practice and swarmed to the ball extremely well. Not only were they there to hit hard but every member of the unit was closing extremely rapidly and ensuring that even if the first defender was juked or his tackled was broken, there would be backup right behind to make the play.

Secondary : The secondary had their best day from a turn over standpoint in practice today, recording two interceptions during the 11 on 11 portion of practice and a third during the pass skeleton portion of practice. Darcel McBath and Joey Garcia continue to play extremely well from the safety spot and show off great intelligence as they ensure that not only the secondary but the rest of the defense is properly lined up.

Jamar Wall and Marcus Bunton both had good days as they continue to be the starting corners with Chris Parker being out with an undisclosed injury. Brent Nickerson and Daniel Charbonnet were the third and fourth corner with both players providing very good depth for the cornerbacks.

Anthony Hines had the "ooh-ahh" play of the day with a one handed catch and interception that would have been a touchdown for the Red Raider defense had the play not been blown dead. De'Shon Sanders also recorded an outstanding interception along the near sideline as he out ran the intended receive to the football.

During the 11 on 11 portion of practice the secondary was extremely salty, aided by a very prolific defensive pass rush that forced errant throws and dump off passes, making the secondary's job that much simpler.

Secondary Depth Chart -

Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton, Brent Nickerson, De'Shon Sanders

Free Safety: Darcel McBath, Daniel Charbonnet/Lance Fuller, Jordy Rowland

Strong Safety: Joe Garcia, Anthony Hines, Daniel Charbonnet

Left Cornerback: Jamar Wall, Pete Richardson/LaRon Moore

Overall Grade - A-, the secondary was burned a little early in the practice but overall turned in another very good performance. The unit is showing very little drop off as different players rotate through the different positions and seems to be developing both very healthy competition and very good depth at all positions.

Special Teams

The special teams unit did practice some today, working both on punt coverage and returns while the players that are going to be gunners practiced off on the near sideline of the field. LA Reed continues to be the most dominant gunner, throwing down anyone who was asked to jam him at the line of scrimmage and showing tremendous burst off the line time and again.

The team still has two walk on punters but also allowed several scholarship players to kick including Jake Ratliff, Adam James, and Graham Harrell. While we certainly enjoy the players having fun, they should all stick to their respective positions instead of attempting to do jobs that they were not recruited for.

Alex Trilica continues to work with several different holders including Eric Morriss, Danny Amendola, and Cory Folwer. There seems to be no decision as to who will be the permanent holder yet and while the position doesn't receive much glamour, ask Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo how important it can be to a football team in a clutch moment.

Now it's time for some awards

Offensive MVP: Danny Amendola

Defensive MVP: Marlon Williams/ Kellen Tillman

Mr. Underrated: Shawn Byrnes

New Comer of the Day: Clint Stoffels

Unit of the day: Linebackers/Defensive line

Come back Wednesday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!

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