Practice Notes and Mora Video

The quarterback situation grows a little murkier, the offensive line has a pretty tough day against the first and second string D, and Mora talks about another injury in the secondary...

The quarterback situation grows ever murkier. Today, Kevin Prince or Brett Hundley probably had the best days of the three (or four, if you're including Jerry Neuheisel). Neither was good, by any stretch of the imagination. Prince was up and down. At one point during 11 on 11, he threw a nice 20 yard strike to Devin Lucien at the sideline, and then followed that up by overthrowing his receiver over the middle to hit Anthony Thompson in the bread basket for an interception. It was just generally that kind of day for him; good throw, then really bad throw.

And he might have been the best of the quarterbacks today.

Hundley was similarly up and down. He looked the best in the initial rendition of the 11 on 11, hitting Steven Manfro for a diving touchdown, but after that he struggled, and threw several near picks.

Richard Brehaut really didn't look good all day, and made some head scratching decisions. During the first 11 on 11 period, each of his four throws were extremely poor, including one very wobbly throw that should have been picked off by Tevin McDonald. McDonald actually had a number of near interceptions, but just couldn't hang on to the ball. Coach Martin had him doing pushups after the last drop.

Jerry Neuheisel got nearly picked off in the flat by Aramide Olaniyan on his first throw in the 11 on 11, and didn't get much better from there. He doesn't really have the arm strength to complete all the necessary throws.

There was a lot of mixing and matching with who was with the 1's and who was with the 2's, but for most of the practice, it looked like Hundley and Brehaut worked generally with the 1's, and Prince and Neuheisel worked generally with the 2's. But, at times, that switched as well, so I wouldn't take too much from it.

So, not a great day for the quarterbacks, but on the bright side, it doesn't look like it'll take much for one of these candidates to emerge as the guy. The first one of the three to put together a few consecutive practices as the top dog should win it.

In injury news, Librado Barocio suffered a torn ACL on Tuesday, and will obviously be out for the rest of the spring. Center Tre Hale, who had been working with the 2's primarily, sat out practice to get a groin injury checked out. In his place, Kody Innes took the snaps with the 2's at center, and only had one bad snap that I saw, although he didn't hold his own very well at the point of attack.

Wade Yandall sat out practice with some neck soreness, as Coach Mora talked about in the post practice video. You can probably guess that any time Yandall feels soreness anywhere near his head, the coaching staff is going to take precautions. With Yandall out again, Jeff Baca moved back to left guard and Jacob Brendel worked with the 1's again. He was better on his snaps, though he still had a couple not so great ones.

We got our first kickoff return practice of the spring, and it looks like Jordon James and Steven Manfro will be getting the primary responsibilities to start out. James has kind of an awkward catching technique, with his hands up and palms facing forward, almost like he's catching a baseball. Coach Yarber says they're just trying to get him comfortable catching the ball before they really work on the technique of how to catch it, and it seemed to work fairly well, with James catching the ball cleanly on each rep.

Manfro has a much more natural catching technique, using his hands to get under the ball. That being said, in the category of what the heck do I know anyway, he dropped a kickoff, and James did not. Both he and James seem to have good vision for kickoff returns, although it's tough to tell because it's one of the few drills that seems to be run at about 75% speed.

At punt return, it looks like James, Johnathan Franklin, and Manfro are all going to get a shot to be the guy. Franklin also doesn't have a really natural catching style, letting the ball hit him in the pads quite a bit. James catches punts a little more naturally than he does kickoffs, with his hands underneath the ball, but still lets it into his body a little too much. Manfro, again, probably had the best catching technique.

Jerry Johnson and Aaron Hester were back fully practicing, and neither looked the worse for wear. Hester had a couple of interceptions, one on a really poorly thrown ball from Richard Brehaut in the final period of 11 on 11. Johnson continues to make plays throughout spring. He had a couple of catches during individual drills where he stretched himself out, got his fingertips on the ball, kept it alive by bouncing it a little, and then made the catch. He's really been impressive thus far in camp, and looks like he's finally ready to play.

The second string offensive line was shaken up a little. Brett Downey moved to left tackle, Alexandru Ceachir continued at left guard, Innes was at center, Ben Wysocki moved back to right guard, and Michael Padovese was once again the right tackle.

Neither the second string nor the first string offensive line had a good day. During the 11 on 11, Prince, especially, was so disrupted that he had to tuck and run a number of times. Damien Holmes and Keenan Graham are wreaking havoc on Xavier Su'a-Filo and Torian White, but the interior isn't a whole lot better. Pass protecting is a major, major weakness of this offensive line at this point, and it's easy to see why they're doing extra conditioning after every practice, because they need to move a lot better to have a hope against good defenses.

Run blocking has been much better (or maybe the 3-4 isn't yet suited to run defense…take your pick). Even when they couldn't get a pass off during 11 on 11, Johnathan Franklin, Malcolm Jones, James and Manfro were all able to gash them for significant yards at times. Jones is running a lot stronger, but he doesn't really have the play making ability of the other three, and you have to wonder if he's going to start getting pushed for the number two reps.

Toward the end of practice, Coach Mora had the team run through a new set of drills, simulating end of game situations. The offense would run out on the field against an empty field, complete a pass, and then down the ball to stop the clock so that the field goal unit could come on and attempt a kick. During this drill, Joe Roberts was 1 for 3, with one horrible kick that barely got to the end zone from 42 yards, one from 32 yards that barely missed, and one very good kick from 37 yards.

After that, the defense came on the field to simulate their version of the same- recovering a turnover, running it toward the end zone and then taking a knee at the one yard line to drain clock.

It's clear that game situations are starting to become a point of emphasis. On the last play of Prince's 11 on 11, where he threw the interception to Thompson, it was a 4th and 20 situation. When Thompson didn't immediately take a knee, but instead returned it, Mora was emphatic in his displeasure (as is discussed in the post practice vid).

Cleaning out the notes, Eric Kendricks has also looked a lot better in coverage. He had a nice play where he dropped into coverage on Roosevelt Davis, out of the F position, and stayed with him pretty well over the middle to break up a pass. He also looks like he's gotten a little bigger through the shoulders.

Aramide Olaniyan was with the second string at outside linebacker, and looked like he might be a playmaker there. He had a near pick on the Neuheisel throw, but also had what would have been a sack later on, beating Torian White badly to take out Neuheisel. With Olaniyan outside, Ryan Hofmeister got some reps with the second team inside, and didn't look half bad, making one nice play on a Jones run where he stuffed him after about 2 yards.

Stan McKay was showing some headiness today. Right before Hester made his pick off of Brehaut, he was yelling over to Hester, "Hey, watch the curl." Sure enough, the world's slowest-developing curl ensued, and Hester made his interceptions.

Hester also had the biggest hit of the practice, standing James up at the one yard line during 11 on 11 after James had gotten a full head of steam. Given how depleted it is, the secondary has looked good. Devin Lucien has had a tough couple of days because Anthony Jefferson is finally getting his legs back under him. Jefferson has had two pretty good days of practice, and if he can keep receivers in front of him, he's a really tough guy to throw against.

Also Prince looks like he's lost some weight, looking a fair bit leaner now that he's not running the pistol anymore.




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