Steven Sheffield showed off some surprising speed this afternoon on a busted play and had the entire defense fooled by his quick feet and decision making. He also continues to show off a laser arm and good decision making. Sheffield's one huge problem is that he is very light at only 170 pounds, earning him the nickname from Mike Leach of "Stick". Sheffield and Potts both had good days and both look to be capable if needed.
Ryan Rowland had a quite day but continues to be a quiet and motivating presence on the sidelines. While Rowland may or may not end up as the back up quarterback, his mentality can certainly help those that are in that position.
Overall the quarterbacks had their best day, highlighted by some of the prettiest passes seen so far in Spring Practice this year.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell
Back-Up: Ryan Rowland
3rd String: Steven Sheffield
Scout Team: Taylor Potts
Overall Grade - A, while not quite perfect, the quarterbacks all had good days and didn't allow the defense to dictate to them. The only reason they don't receive an A+ is for holding onto the ball a fraction of a second to long during 11 on 11 drills.
Running Backs : The running backs had a quiet day and weren't quite as productive as they had been. Kobey Lewis continues to do extremely well running screens and draws and his ability to change direction on a dime is reminiscent of former Tech back up Johnny Mack. Shannon Woods was good today but didn't read a block well and gained 7 or 8 yards down the outside instead of a sure touchdown had he read the block better.
Woods and Lewis both showed good acceleration and did a good job of finishing their runs during the 11 on 11 portion of practice with Lewis breaking out for a long run on second effort. Woods continues to punish defenders and Woods along with Kobey have yet to put the ball on the turf so far in practice, a very encouraging trend that certainly follows along with what the two did on the football field last year.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Shannon Woods
Back Up: Kobey Lewis
Overall Grade - B, the backs were good today but didn't have as many "wow" plays. This may be due to increased defensive line play or just an off day but they were still effective in their own right.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends : Danny Amendola is playing like a man who knows he has to step up his game and is doing that practice after practice. Recording two incredible one handed touchdown catches, including one where he went airborne and tapped a foot in bounds highlighted Amendola's terrific day. Amendola did wear a large bandage on his right elbow to cover a nasty laceration caused by Blake Collier's helmet on Monday. Eric Morriss had a good day but was shaken up early in practice when he was decked by safety Daniel Charbonnet. While Charbonnet made an excellent play, Morriss' ribs seemed tender for a fair portion of practice but he did not receive any treatment and had one of his quieter days of the spring. Kelly Hildebrant had a terrific catch today in which he went airborne laterally to pull down the pass and showed good moves after the catch. Hildebrant is showing why he was awarded a scholarship this year and seems to be worth every cent of his schooling that it will pay for.
LA Reed had a strong day of practice and continues to show that he is one of the most difficult players on the roster if not in the Big XII to bring down one on one. LA did have a pass knocked out of his hands by Jamar Wall but this seemed to be a great play by Wall as opposed to a mistake on LA's part. Michael Crabtree continues to impress and had a great one handed catch over safety Steven Harris and continues to show a great combination of Robert Johnson, Joel Filani, and Jarrett Hicks skills and moves. Lyle Leong had a good day but the show was stolen by scout team receiver Brik Brinker, who caught everything that was in arms reach today. Brinker had several tough catches in traffic and showed great moves after the catch. Brinker had been quiet for a fair amount of the spring but it seemed like everything clicked for him today and he did just about everything right. Brinker is very similar in build and playing style to former Red Raider receiver Trey Haverty and may eventually end up in the slot since he doesn't seem to possess quite enough speed to play outside. Landon Hoefer also continues to quietly play well and is another solid player to have as part of the depth at the receiver positions.
The tight ends had a quiet day mostly with Adam James and David Schaefer spending more of the day blocking as opposed to catching passes. Adrian Reese did have a very good practice and is looking better and better with each repetition that he receives. His route running has improved 100 times from last year and he no longer tries to catch balls with his body but instead snatches the ball out of the air with his hands. Reese seems to have caught about a million tennis balls during the off season and it is serving him well. While Reese is still listed at only 206 pounds, he appears to weigh more in the 220-225 pound range. His speed doesn't seem to have suffered and the extra weight helps him stand up to hits better, including forcing red shirt freshman safety Franklin Mitchem to bounce off when trying to go for the big hit.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Eddie Britton, Landon Hoefer
Y- Danny Amendola, G. Walker
H- Eric Morris, Kelly Hildebrant
X- LA Reed, Eddie Britton Lyle Leong, Brik Brinker (Todd Walker, injured)
Overall Grade - A, the receivers had a good day overall with very few drops and several terrific catches. The unit seems to be following Danny Amendola's example of playing above and beyond the call and if they continue, this unit will surprise some folks come September.
Offensive Line : The offensive line had another good day but weren't nearly as good as they had been over the last several practices. As Coach Leach said during an after practice interview "We will have four guys playing together and then the fifth will make a mistake" and this seemed to certainly be the case today. During the 1 on 1 pass rushing drills back up guard Landon Burge and tackle/guard Chris Olson were both beaten on a few occasions. Olson did rebound well and continued to show off serious versatility taking snaps with the starters at right guard while playing left tackle with the second stringers.
Rylan Reed continues to not be noticed because of his very good pass blocking and may end up as the best tackle on the team before it is all said and done. Reed absorbs all of the coaching given to him by offensive line coach Jack Bicknell and his love of contact seems to make him enjoy playing that much more. Stephen Hamby redeemed himself for his poor practice on Monday with solid play all through the day and was the starting right guard for most of practice except for one or two series when Chris Olson would come in to get some reps.
The centers had good days and Shawn Byrnes has the potential to be one of the best centers at Tech in a long time if he can maintain his focus. Byrnes did snap a ball to high for Graham Harrell today but recovered well and acquitted himself well throughout the rest of practice. Byrnes, it appears, will be making all of the line calls this season as was reported in a previous practice report and this certainly speaks to his intelligence and ability to read a defense.
Marlon Winn and Louis Vasquez continue to be very reliable at left tackle and guard while showing very good communication during the play to help prevent opposing defensive linemen from getting into the backfield. Winn showed off very good strength going up against Rajon Henley and did an outstanding job of stopping Henley's pass rush cold.
In injury news, Brandon Carter did have pads on for a short period but did not practice and his time to be out is still unknown, most likely on a day by day basis. Adrian Archie continues to rehab an injury during practice and should be ready to go come fall practice
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Tackle: Rylan Reed, Andrew Johnson
Right Guard: Brandon Carter (Injured), Stephen Hamby/Chris Olson, Landon Burge
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown
Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby
Left Tackle: Marlon Winn, Chris Olson
Overall Grade - B-, the line had a good day but just wasn't quite as sharp as they had been. They allowed 4 sacks during the 11 on 11 portion of the scrimmage but they were evenly distributed between the starters and back ups. None of the sacks was due to being improperly aligned so hopefully this can be corrected in the future for solid line play.
Defensive Line : The defensive line took another hit to depth today as Richard Jones was not at practice and it is believed that he had shoulder surgery on his right shoulder which would put him out until the beginning of August. Sean Estelle continues to rehab his left knee which he aggravated again in practice on Saturday. He is no longer wearing a heavy brace but instead a sleeve brace and did have pads on to being practice, hopefully meaning that he will be able to contribute in the near future.
The defensive tackles had a good day and good production from two of the younger members in Britton Barbee and Clint Stoffels. Barbee had a leaping pass deflection and is showing real potential, even though he still has a lot to learn. Clint Stoffels has a motor that won't be stopped and was in on one sack and did an outstanding job of filling a hole that Shannon Woods was trying to go through, forcing him outside where the linebackers finished the job. Stoffels speed and quickness continue to make it difficult for the offensive line to determine how to block him since he is also deceptively strong. Brian Jones had a quietly productive day and looks like he is finally ready to compete at the Division 1 level. His strength and motor will be of the utmost use to the Red Raiders during the 2007 season.
The defensive ends continue to work and Jake Ratliff and Brandon Williams seem to be the starters even though Tyler Yenzer did see a little time at starting rush end. Phillip Jones continues to show promise and had several hurries today in practice and is a player that is quietly putting together a nice spring. Sandy Riley has been by far the biggest surprise at end this spring, showing incredible burst off the end and not only a great spin move but also a terrific bull rush using his strength to get to the quarterback. Jake Ratliff continues to be the leader of the line and is showing off improved pass rush ability although he needs to continue to work on his quickness off the line.
Overall Grade - A, another strong day of practice, there is certainly hope for the 2007 season. The unit is already starting to gel into one big family and continues to show off terrific energy and willingness to help each other out. While the line may be undersized next year, the quickness and sheer speed could help make up for the lack of size in the trenches.
Linebackers : The linebackers had a strong day and were lead by Kellen Tillman and Paul Williams, both that had very good days. Tillman recorded a sack during the 11 on 11 portion of practice and Williams had a terrific pass breakup. Tillman also had a diving breakup and it seems that he is determined to make his sixth year in the system a productive one.
Chad Hill did not practice again today, although he did have on shoulders pads early in practice. Hill had best hope that he heals quickly because in the mean time, Marlon Williams is becoming an absolute beast at weak side linebacker. Great speed and size, Williams has no problem meeting anyone in the hole or covering a back or receiver coming out of the backfield. Blake Collier had another strong day but Julius Howard made his presence felt on several occasions and looks like he may be in the mix for some playing time next season.
Brian Duncan is not yet up to the level where he is ready for D-1 ball but he is learning quickly and as he spends more time in the system should continue to improve. Ty Linder continues to provide senior leadership and acts almost as a coach on the sidelines during practice, teaching the younger players how to respond to what they are seeing.
Victor Hunter seems to have nearly cemented his place as the back up middle linebacker and is going to be a terror once he gets let loose in Big XII games. His size means that even when he does wrap up it is like the immovable object hitting the unstoppable force and, at least in practice, the unstoppable force stops.
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+, by far the best day the linebackers have had, they showed serious promise today in practice and if they can build on the foundation that they are laying they can certainly be a strength of the defense next season.
Secondary : The secondary continues to have a very good spring and it is obvious that there is very little drop off in ability between back ups and starters. Joe Garcia absolutely destroyed what was supposed to be a screen play and instead turned it into a 6 yard loss and might have been able to strip the ball had the play not been blown dead. Darcel McBath is the quarterback of the secondary and had an interception of a Taylor Potts pass early in practice, reading Potts eyes and jumping the route. The pass would most likely have ended up as a touchdown for the Red Raiders defense if the play had been allowed to continue. Anthony Hines and Lance Fuller both had good days and both laid some particularly vicious hits during practice as did safety/dime back Daniel Charbonnet.
The corners had a good day and Jamar Wall recorded an impressive break up of a pass intended for LA Reed. Marcus Bunton continues to play extremely well and will provide solid relief once Chris Parker returns to practice. LaRon Moore, Brent Nickerson, and De'Shon Sanders are going to have a serious competition to see who gets onto the field next year as each of the three previously mentioned players has shown a great ability to play their position.
As an interesting tidbit, the cornerbacks are playing only 5 yards off of the receiver in most cases as opposed to the previous 7-10 yards off from the line of scrimmage.
In secondary injury news, Franklin Mitchem had to be helped off the field after suffering what appeared to be an injury to his right knee or ankle. Mitchem was unable to put any weight on the leg after the injury and was driven from the sidelines into the training facility.
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, yet another good day from the secondary they are proving that they will be the strength of the defense next season.
Special Teams :
The special teams did practice kickoffs today with LA Reed, Shannon Woods, Jamar Wall, LaRon Moore, and Michael Crabtree all taking turns deep to advance the ball. Both of the "punters" are still at practice but neither has done anything sufficiently impressive to make his presence notable, except for some horrendous shanks.
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Graham Harrell/Danny Amendola
Defensive MVP: Kellen Tillman
Mr. Underrated: Kelly Hildebrant/Britton Barbee
New Comer of the Day: Brik Brinker
Unit of the day: Quarterbacks
Come back Friday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!