Wednesday Morning Practice Report

It was a light practice Wednesday morning, with plenty of individual and install. We're starting to get a sense which true freshmen might not redshirt...

It was a light first practice Wednesday, with the team in helmets and shorts. Luckily no one was injured in the making of the practice today.

There was also very little team periods, with a good amount of individual periods and installation. It seemed clearly the coaching staff was trying to give the players a little break, especially after the amount of injuries and the scare of Devin Lucien Tuesday night. In fact, even in 11-on-11 it felt like no one really even touched each other.

We reported late last night that Lucien is expected to be fine, and returned to Cal State San Bernardino from the hospital, which is an encouraging sign. The program was generally relieved and optimistic about Lucien Wednesday morning.

As we reported earlier today, we're hearing the offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry will be out for the remainder of the week in San Bernardino and it's uncertain if he'll return to practice next week at UCLA. We’re not at liberty to reveal his injury.

It’s a considerable blow, given that Quessenberry is the second-string center and first-string center Jake Brendel was still walking pretty stiffly in the knee brace today after suffering an MCL tear, and isn’t expected until probably the second game of the season against Memphis. Right now, the uncertainty with Quessenberry’s status is probably the most pressing injury issue on the team, given the diminishing depth on the OL.

Starting guard Alex Redmond didn’t practice, still suffering from what we hear is severe heat symptoms.

The starters for most of the day were, left to right, Malcolm Bunche, Kenny Lacy, Ben Wysocki, Najee Toran and Caleb Benenoch. Wysocki is considered the fourth-string center with Carl Hulick still out. When Benenoch took an occasional breather, Conor McDermott stepped in for him at right tackle. Toran returned afer taking some time off from the last couple of practices. He told us in a post-practice interview that he’s fine, and that he weighs 268. We’re hearing, too, that there are a number of unreported injuries among the OL that are limiting their play, so OL depth is definitely a huge issue right now for the offense.

Wysocki was better in his snaps today, but still not what you would call great.

Priest Willis
Running back Jordon James did a little bit more work today. Randall Goforth returned to practice entirely. Beyond that the same guys missed practice that have recently. Defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy seems like a permanent fixture on the stationary bikes. We are hearing, though, that receiver Thomas Duarte is expected back soon, and he did more today.

Perhaps the biggest personnel development was Randall Goforth not replacing Tahaan Goodman at safety with his return. Goodman remained at safety and Anthony Jefferson slid over to the starting cornerback position, with Priest Willis taking most of his reps with the 2s. Now, this might not stick permanently, but it’s been coming for the last few practices, but it was delayed because of Goforth’s injury.

It resulted in Jefferson having one of his better days of fall camp, looking very good in coverage, breaking up a number of passes, particularly against Eldridge Massington, who’s been very difficult to cover as of late. Jefferson, as we’ve always thought, looks more natural at corner than safety.

Freshman linebacker Kenny Young was again the starter inside when they were in the base 3-4 defense. In fact, he lines up even more inside with Erick Kendricks shading on the edge a bit. Before practice, assistant linebackers coach Scott White has been spending time with Young on technique, clearly preparing him for playing quite a bit and, from the way it looks right now, starting in the 3-4.

We’re starting to see what true freshmen are going to play, since they’re getting more and more reps and appearing on first-string special teams. Obviously there’s Young and Toran. Receiver Mossi Johnson looks like he’ll be in the receiver rotation, looking very quick, even though he still had a bit of the dropsies today. Even though he’s only been here for three practices, we’d say that receiver Jordan Lasley has a good chance to see the field this fall. Like we said, he has fresh legs so he stands out, but he looks very good in drills and he took some reps at kick-off returner, obviously being tried out there. It makes sense, since he looks like has one of the best sets of hands on the team. Safety Jaleel Wadood looks securely in the two-deep at safety, and is being seen on first-string special teams, so it looks like he won’t redshirt.

Freshman defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner stepped in for a few reps with the first-string defense today, spelling Owamagbe Odighizuwa. The freshman DLs, Tuioti-Mariner, Matt Dickerson an Ainuu Taua all look to have a chance, but are probably still right on the precipice of playing or redshirting.

Quarterback Brett Hundley had another solid practice, even though he didn’t do too much. There were quite a few situational drills, with a great deal of time spent on end-of-game situations, and Hundley did very well in managing the offense down the field in two-minute.

The competition for second-string quarterback is still very much alive, with Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafaul seemingly getting more reps today with the 2s than Asiantii Woulard. Neither Neuheisel or Fafaul fared very well, struggling to string together some completions even in the 7-on-7. Both looked a little better when they went up against the third-string secondary, but struggled otherwise.

Logan Sweet
It was our first look at freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp, and he was interesting. He’s probably 6-2, a good inch shorter than Hundley, but has a good body for a true freshman QB. The left-hander jumped into the throwing lines and did pretty well, throwing the ball naturally, with a fluid motion. He placed balls well – and effortlessly. It was just a first glimpse, on his first day, but we’d say that, from this, Sharp has a chance to be a quarterback. It’s not like it was with Devin Fuller; when we first saw Fuller we were pretty certain he wouldn’t be a quarterback. But the take-away from the short glimpse of Sharp today is that he has a chance at QB.

With Lucien out, walk-on receiver Logan Sweet pretty much stepped into Lucien’s reps with the ones. Sweet, as we’ve been saying for a while, isn’t a walk-on-level receiver, but could probably play on most teams in the Pac-12.

There was the beginning of a kick-off competition between Kai’imi Fairbairn and Matt Mengel Wednesday. It was curious, though, with the field mis-marked, they were kicking off from the 45-yard line, which enabled both kickers to put it in the endzone easily for touchbacks. We’d say, though, that Fairbairn won the competition, more consistent in his kick-offs while looking like he’s improved his leg strength. Mengel looked a bit nervous, mis-hitting a couple of kick-offs, but then really popped a few others. Fairbairn is probably leading the competition merely due to consistency.

The open outside linebacker spot still saw a rotation among Deon Hollins, Kenny Orjioke and Aaron Wallace, while Wallace seemed to get the most looks with the 1s today. He actually stayed on the field when they were in nickel, and dropped into coverage, which he hasn’t done that much. It looks like the primary competition is between Hollins and Wallace at this point.

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