Graham Harrell is almost boring to watch, almost that is. His reads are lightning fast and made an outstanding check to a run during an abbreviated no-contact scrimmage that resulted in a huge run by Aaron Crawford.
Taylor Potts once again had a good day of practice and seemed even more confident in himself as he checked down or sent the ball flying deep downfield. As a small aside, there is no doubt that the chemistry between the quarterbacks is absolutely tremendous. Sheffield, Potts, and Harrell have all taken Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege under their collective wings to help ensure the future of the Air Raid offense.
Sheffield spent most of the day with the scout team offense and was his typical consistent self. Sheffield still looks extremely skinny but his knowledge of the Air Raid continues to improve and he could become a Ryan Rowland type mentor to some of the younger quarterbacks in the near future.
Stefan Loucks spent the afternoon with the third string offense and not the scout team for the first time today. There were brief flashes of potential but Loucks struggled fairly consistently throughout practice. Seth Doege spent the day with the scout team but his knees appear very healthy and he looks to have completely overcome that hurdle in his football career.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell
Back-Up: Taylor Potts
3rd String: Stefan Loucks/Steven Sheffield
Scout Team: Seth Doege
Overall Grade - A
It is with great surprise that Shannon Woods spent a fair amount of time with both the starting and second team offensive units today and seems to be running like a man with a purpose. The only time Woods is heard talking is either with one of the coaches or complimenting and encouraging his fellow players. Woods also had a block that was extremely similar to the one he threw to help Tech beat the Texas A&M Aggies in 2006, which is even more impressive considering that he didn't have pads on. Woods is by far the best blocking running back on the team.
Baron Batch had a quiet day as did Kobey Lewis, both spending time with the starters and the scout team, not because of their lack of talent but simply to allow the coaches to further evaluate Crawford and Woods.
The Aaron Crawford that Tech fans saw last year looks nothing like the one that can be seen at the Red Raiders practice field. Crawford continues to run with an explosion that he couldn't have made last season but also seems to see the field easier and better, allowing him to hit the hole faster and cut off of blocks from his team mates.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Kobey Lewis, Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch
Back-Up: Shannon Woods
Overall Grade - A-
Wide Receivers/Big H&Y:
It is mildly amusing that Michael Crabtree's amazing catches in practice no longer draw the jaw-dropping reaction that they did last year, instead you typically hear someone saying "That's just Mike." However, Todd Walker, playing behind Crabtree, was tremendous today and looks to have finally reached full health after not playing a snap, in practice or a game, since the Insight Bowl. Walker's speed looks to be about as fast as he was during 2006 and his moves seem to have improved with the time off.
Edward Britton had an abysmal day catching the football and Coach Leach told him as much at one point during practice. Britton had no difficultly getting open but his issue was instead that he couldn't seem to hold onto the ball, even when he was all by himself after doing a tremendous job of separating from the defense. Lyle Leong was quiet but caught all but one pass and the one he missed on required him to turn in ways that a contortionist couldn't have done, even with months of practice. Rashad Hawk continues to impress with great body control and deceptive acceleration off of the line of scrimmage.
Eric Morris is going to be a huge part of the Red Raiders offensive success this coming season as he was today during practice with several tremendous catches and he turned Lance Fuller around so badly that Fuller was facing the wrong direction during a drill early in practice. Adam James had another solid day and it seems that his red-shirt season has greatly benefited not only his ability to catch but also his ability to separate from defenders. James should provide interesting match-ups for opposing defenses when he substitutes for the smaller and shiftier Morris. Jacoby Franks flashed on the radar today as he lined up at H, instead of Z where he spent most of last fall.
Detron Lewis is a very talented receiver and should shine in his sophomore season, especially if he sees anywhere near the number of passes thrown his way that Danny Amendola saw last year. Lewis had several great catches today and could be particularly effect down near the goal line. Tramain Swindall is not as fast or fluid as Lewis but he easily dwarfs him vertically and should be able to provide a huge boost in the red-zone, especially when it comes to the fade pass.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Todd Walker, Landon Hoeffer, Jacoby Franks
Y- Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall
H- Eric Morris, Adam James, Jacoby Franks, Ryan Hale (Big H)
X- Eddie Britton, Lyle Leong, Rashad Hawk, Brik Brinker
Overall Grade - A
Mickey Okafor had another strong day of practice, though it is apparent that he does struggle slightly when opposing defenders attempt to use their speed to go around him during his back-step. It should be easier to tell if this is really a problem or if he massive jab will be able to slow down defensive ends. Okafor is the only left tackle seeing anytime with the starters and seems to benefit greatly from spending time next to Louis Vasquez. Vasquez was his usual quiet and dominating self and is rapidly building a case as the best offensive lineman to ever play for Mike Leach.
Shawn Byrnes is the fastest offensive lineman on the team, barely inching out the massive Brandon Carter. When these two get going on screens, it must be a nightmare for defenders in front of them. Carter continues to be the player that makes the line calls from the right-guard position but Byrnes also makes calls at times. Stephen Hamby had a tough time getting outside on screens but is a very solid swing inside player that should be able to once again keep the starting guards and center fresh.
Justin Keown is spending more time at guard and seems to be fitting in while as he and Chris Olson seem to be a solid pair of interior players. There is a game of pick the tackle with the second team players as starting tackle Rylan Reed and one time starter Jake Johnson are still recovering from injuries.
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Tackle: Marlon Winn, Jake Johnson (Injured),
Right Guard: Brandon Carter , Stephen Hamby, Dominique Delpeche
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown, Blake Emert
Left Tackle:, Mickey Okafor, Rylan Reed (Injured), , Jerrod Gooch
Overall Grade - B+
Defensive Line :
Brandon Williams and Jake Ratliff continue to man the starting defensive end spots, though it will become more apparent tomorrow as to how good McKinner Dixon actually and if he can push one of them once the pads are on. Dixon appears to be in great shape and it will be intriguing to see if he still has his tremendous bull-rush move he used as a freshman.
Rajon Henley and Colby Whitlock are still working with the starting defensive unit but they will now be pushed by the recently clear-to-play Chris Perry. Richard Jones has been quiet but he provides solid depth on the inside.
Ryan Haliburton continues to spend time with the defensive ends and working particularly with the strong-side defensive ends while fellow freshman Joey Fowler may be able to move inside and play as a lean and strong defensive tackle in the same mold as Dek bake.
Strong Side (left) end: Jake Ratliff, Daniel Howard, Joey Fowler
Nose Guard (right): Colby Whitlock, Chris Perry,Clint Stoffels, Richard Jones, Joey Fowler
Overall Grade - B+
The starting linebackers had a tough time in the pass-skeleton drill but with a little coaxing from Ruffin McNeil they were able to bounce back and show off some serious athleticism.
Blake Collier continues to improve daily and it appears that he may be able to contribute heavily this coming season, particularly in a blitzing role. Victor Hunter had a quiet day and had some issues with his hamstring getting tight on him but was able to return to practice and play well. Julius Howard is also very quietly making an impact and saw some time working with the inside linebackers in the 3-4 defensive alignment.
Tyrone Sonier continues to improve and his speed is absolutely staggering going from a complete stop to full speed in as little as 3 steps. Sam Fehoko had a better day in the middle but doesn't seem to quiet understand how to use his athleticism without putting himself out of position.
Linebackers Depth Chart
Weak Side Linebacker: Marlon Williams, Blake Collier, Julius Howard
Middle Linebacker: Brian Duncan, Victor Hunter, Sam Fehoko
Strong Side Linebacker: Bront Bird, Tyrone Sonier
Overall Grade - B+
Jamar Wall once again had a strong day of practice, though Michael Crabtree did finally get the best of him in 1-on-1 drills. Wall also looked very sharp in some of the drills early in practice, earning praise from secondary coach Brian Mitchell.
Marcus Bunton had a tremendous day and rebounded well from a somewhat shaky start on Wednesday. He had the better day at right corner and was able to cover extremely well. Bunton also did a great job of exploding out of his stance early in practice and force an incompletion, almost like a track sprinter coming out of his stance. Pete Richardson had a quiet day but it appears that right corner could be a position battle that carries into fall practice.
Brent Nickerson and Taylor Charbonnet both had good days and Charbonnet, in particular, looks like he could contribute on special teams next season. De'Shon Sanders, on the other hand, continues to look lost and constantly draws the ire of Coach Mitchell. After a great Spring Game in 2007, Sanders seem to have completely forgotten what it is he is supposed to do while he is one the field.
While Hines continues to rehab, LA Reed is making a serious push at safety and had a brilliant interception today that would have made any receivers coach proud. Reed continues to impress and may start rapidly rising up the depth chart, especially if he can grasp the nuances of the strong safety position.
Daniel Charbonnet and Lance Fuller were the starting safeties today, though Fuller struggled for most of the day. Charbonnet continues to impress and should see the field in passing situations this coming season.
Secondary Depth Chart -
Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton/Pete Richardson, De'Shon Sanders
Free Safety: Darcel McBath, Daniel Charbonnet, Steven Harris
Strong Safety: Anthony Hines (Injured), Jordy Rowland, LA Reed/Lance Fuller
Left Cornerback: Jamar Wall, Brent Nickerson, LaRon Moore, Jarrell Routt
Overall Grade - A-
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Todd Walker
Defensive MVP: Marcus Bunton
Mr. Underrated: Eric Morris
Freshman of the Day: Tramain Swindall
Come back tomorrow for the next RaiderPower Practice report!