Spring Practice Update

The weather is starting to get nice and spring football is in the air. The University of Toledo opened their spring football sessions this week with their spring media day on Monday, a pro day on Tuesday, and the first practice on Wednesday. Read on for more.

Spring practice is under way this week. The first practice was Wednesday, and practice #2 will be later today (Friday).

Before practices started, Monday was Spring Football Media Day, and then Tuesday a Pro Day was held with more than a dozen scouts from various NFL clubs.

There are 14 players from the football program that achieved "All In" status for the winter. This consists of doing everything right, from gains in the weight room and during winter conditioning, being on time for all classes and "football" activities, and keeping academics in order. The fourteen players are DE Christian Smith, DE Douglas Westbrook, DE Hank Keighley, DT Ben Pike, LB Archie Donald, LB Dan Molls, DB Byron Best, SS Isaiah Ballard, FS Mark Singer, OL Zac Kerin, OL Mike Vandermuelen, OL Kevin Kowalski, WR Jimmy Davidson, and P Bill Claus.

Wednesday afternoon was the first practice of the spring. There were no pads and very little hitting. Head Coach Tim Beckman has said that he plans to use the spring practice sessions to get back to basics and work on fundamentals.

One position that will be getting a close look during spring practices is the quarterback position. With Aaron Opelt out of eligibility, a new quarterback will emerge for the Rockets this fall.

The leader for that top spot is Austin Dantin of Tallahassee, FL. As a freshman last season, Dantin played in 7 games. He had the highest passing efficiency on the team, with a 138.7 QB rating. He completed 66.4% of his passes (highest percentage by a UT QB last season) for 962 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also threw 4 interceptions.

To start the spring, Dantin is on top with Alex Pettee #2, David Pasquale #3, and Terrance Owens #4. Pasquale has really bulked up over the winter, and he has worked hard on his passing skills. He ran the wildcat a lot for Toledo last year, but ran the ball each time. He'll need to be able to throw the ball some this year, if the wildcat is going to be successful.

Terrance Owens is the wild card in the group. He has worked hard between his redshirt year last season and the off-season workouts. He has put on about 15-20 pounds of weight and he has a strong arm. At 6-3 he is the tallest of the Rocket quarterbacks. It would not surprise me to see him give Dantin a serious push for the starting job.

One other interesting position battle to watch will be defensive tackle. Right now Malcolm Riley appears to have a lock on one of the DT positions. Ben Pike has put on a lot of weight and is now around 275 pounds. He has made the move from DE to DT this spring, and he figures to be in the mix.

Others in the mix at DT are Danny Farr, John Lamb, Johnnie Roberts, and JUCO transfer Phil Lewis. For those that have not already heard, Danny Farr is moving over from the offensive line. He played both OL and DL in high school, but started as an offensive lineman at UT. The last couple weeks of practice last season the coaches experimented with him at DT and it worked well enough that they want to continue that experiment this spring. If he stays as a DT, he will be a big body inside for the Rockets as he weighs between 285-290 pounds.

After every spring practice the coaching staff will watch the film of the practice and reward three players for their effort in practice. One for each offense, defense, and special teams. The three "Raising Rockets" for the first practice were Adonis Thomas on offense, Malcolm Riley on defense, and Danny Noble on special teams. They are touted as "Raising Rockets" because they are being recognized for raising the bar in practice.

The Rockets brought in several mid-year transfers that are participating for the first time this spring. The guys to watch out of the bunch appear to be freshman wide receiver James Green, junior (JUCO) defensive back Taikwon Paige, and freshman linebacker/safety Ross Madison. Not to say that the others won't do well, but those three have really stood out through winter conditioning and heading into spring practices.

One more intriguing player to watch is DB/S Diauntae Morrow. He transferred from Iowa (Big Ten) after playing there his freshmen and sophomore seasons. He enrolled at Toledo last year and sat out the season. He will be eligible to play this fall as a 3rd year junior. Diauntae will add some nice experience and depth to the Rocket secondary.

This saturday the Rockets will hold their first practice with pads on. The coaches will also be hosting a junior day for high school juniors.

Stay tuned to Rocket Digest throughout the spring as we keep you updated on Spring Football 2010.

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