Football Practice Report

It's two days into the Karl Dorrell era for spring football, and there is a marked difference in the atmosphere around practice. Here's how the team has looked the first couple of days of practice...

First impressions are always important.


And the first impression of Karl Dorrell and how his football practices are conducted is: crisp, intense and energetic.


Definitely a profound difference in intensity from the coaches and from the players. 


In the first two days, it's almost strange to understand that some of the players on the field were the same we've been watching in practice for the last couple of years. They're moving at such a different pace than they were previously that it's almost difficult to recognize them. Tab Perry, for instance, is energetic and moving at a very quickened pace.  Jacque Lazarus got his butt chewed for not running through an entire play within the first 10 minutes of the first practice, and then he showed hustle and energy the rest of the day.


There is definitely a new sheriff in town. While it's only been two practices, it's evident that Dorrell has changed the entire atmosphere of the program.  Expectations for hustle and energy have been raised. 


There is a drill where the defense runs a formation and then collectively converges to a point on the field, having to sprint at full speed. This drill has been done the last couple of years in practice, but it looks like a different drill, with different players now.  The intensity and energy the players have in doing the drill is turned up considerably.


The coaching staff is more fiery, as a group and individually.  Watching Jon Embree take his wide receivers through a practice is a whole new world comparatively, with Embree emphatically insisting on precision and not accepting anything else.  Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy is as energetic and demanding as they come. And the voice of defensive back coach Gary DeLoach, with the impassioned Texan accent, booms throughout the practice field.  DeLoach has as much energy as he demands of the players, on top of every rep, encouraging, clapping and barking out instructions. 


In the midst of this, Dorrell is stoic.  He has chosen to stand apart from the units and observe. He spend particular time in the first two days observing the quarterbacks, and their drill work with the tight ends and wide receivers.


And the energy and effort increased from the first day of practice to the second. You could almost sense that the players were more comfortable and less jittery with their new coaches.  That gave them the opportunity to be even more efficient and precise in their drills.


The quarterbacks look fairly good for the first couple of days of spring practice. The first day, Wednesday, both Drew Olson and Matt Moore had good arm strength and fairly good accuracy. On Thursday, Olson had a better day, looking more comfortable, while Moore threw a bit inaccurately.  John Sciarra had a good day on Thursday, throwing precisely and with some good zip.


Many of the returning standouts look particularly good. Craig Bragg looks in a great form. Tyler Ebell is perhaps quicker and more explosive.  Manuel White looks quicker.  Brandon Chillar and Spencer Havner both look more mature physically and in mid-season form. The defensive line is impressive, with the Ball brothers and Asi Faoa looking like they came to camp in very good shape. 


Jarrad Page looks more athletic and has matured and grown into his body.  Eric McNeal looks quite a bit bigger.  Keith Carter looked to be the best among the tight ends at this time, with Marcedes Lewis appearing a step slow, possibly not in the shape as the rest of the team since he didn't participate in the off-season conditioning due to basketball.  Ryan Smith doesn't look hampered by his foot injury at all, and looks easily like the #4 receiver.  One to keep an eye on this spring is definitely redshirt freshman Idris Moss. He's still raw as a receiver, and very light, but he has some of the best quickness on the team and is hard to cover running routes and after the catch. 


Glenn Ohaeri is getting time at safety. Yes, a 5-9 safety. But the word is that he plays much bigger, since he's so athletic and weighs close to 200 pounds. 


Antwuan Smith is the only player who is new to practice. He looks rusty, but shows great hustle and effort.


It's interesting how some of the units are being manned.  The second team linebacking unit has been Justin London at middle, Tim Warfield at strongside and Wesley Walker at weakside, which is quite a bit different than the depth chart implies.   Xavier Burgess looks promising, with a more sculpted, bulked-up body, and he's running very well to the ball. 


Reserve fullback Ray Cassaday has left the team due to unspecified personal reasons.


Recruiting:  Kevin Brown, the committed defensive lineman from Long Beach Poly, attended practice Wednesday, along with his older brother, Owen.  Owen gave us the lowdown on their other brother, Eugene, the defensive tackle formerly at Syracuse. Eugene has gotten his release from Syracuse and, Owen said, is interested in coming to UCLA. He'll have to improve his academics at summer school in order to enroll.  Owen said that Syracuse is basically recruiting him, wanting him to return to Syracuse next year.

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