Head Coach Karl Dorrell and his staff have been pointing toward the scrimmage as the culmination of camp – and the final exam when it comes to making decisions on positions and the two-deep.
Even the warm-ups had more energy, courtesy of defensive linemen Ryan Boschetti and the Ball Bros.
During the early QB/WR passing drills, it was the same story, different chapter: Craig Bragg is The Man. Good throws, bad throws, overthrows, underthrows, but Bragg finds a way to haul them in. And the rest of the receivers looked good for the most part, most notably was Idris Moss, Ryan Smith and again Jacques Lazarus (Junior Taylor sat out the majority of the drills).
The best sight of the afternoon session, and possibly camp, was sophomore running back Jason Harrison sneaking his way into a couple of drills, catching the ball out of the backfield, and running up the sideline. Though he was running with a noticeable limp, the smile he sported each of the times he turned around to head back to the huddle was encouraging (even though the kid never stops smiling regardless), and each time, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy greeted him with a smack on the back and a smile.
"It was frustrating always sitting around. It sucked. I just wanted to do something," said Harrison. While it still is expected to be awhile until he plays again, seeing him out there, after days where all he could do was yell and coach, was encouraging.
During the 7-on-7 , Drew Olson ran with the first team offense, and on the first pass, completed a 20-yarder to Blaine Kezerian. Later in the same series, Matt Ware, who had a monster day, didn't bite on a Bragg fake, stepped in front of Bragg, tipped the ball in the air, and caught it one-handed, taking it back to the house.
Later in the series, Ware did it again to Olson, stepping in front of Smith to bat a pass away. Olson concluded his reps with a deep post to Marcedes Lewis, complete for 20+ yards and a pass at the goal line that he overthrew to Lewis, but was caught with no notice by Head Coach Karl Dorrell who was in his usual position, deep behind the defense, showing the second-best hands of anyone at camp.
Matt Moore took over and completed a pass to Kezerian for 15 yards and a deep out to Bragg. And Lazarus came alive again, catching a Moore dart to the sideline. Moore had an ugly throw that Spencer Havner read perfectly, dropping back into the zone.
In a slower paced 11-on-11 drill, J.D. Groves had a couple of carries as a single back, with Maurice Drew also getting some carries, including a nice 7-yard run in which he lowered the boom on Dennis Link.
Later in the series, Ware had a "sack" of Olson. Then Moore threw an out to Bragg, but again, Ware read it, stepped in front of it, tipped it, only to be taken out by a diving Asi Faoa, looking for his own glory. As the crowd gasped, Ware popped back up.
The drill ended with Moore hitting Lewis on a pop pass in the end zone for a TD, though "referee" Dorrell called him out of bounds. After some cajoling, Dorrell overturned his decision (an offensive guy at heart).
With a 2-minute, field-goald drill next (the team drives quickly to get in position for a field goal) , Olson led the first offense, but was "sacked" by Havner. Kevin Brant also made a solid play, deflecting an Olson pass. Olson hit Ryan Smith and Lewis for long gains, but the drive ended when Marcus Cassell took an Olson pass back for a touchdown.
Moore came in and hit Idris Moss for a trio of passes, and Groves had a couple of carries during the series.
The scrimmage ended with a couple of missed 45-yard field goals by Justin Medlock, the second one coming with the entire defense standing five yards behind him, yelling and taunting, to simluated a loud stadium environment.
Overall, while the offense had more energy in the afternoon session, the defense again had their number, defending most of the receiver routes tightly. Dorrell speculated that the defense now knows the offense as well as the offense, and is easily anticipated the routes.
-- Tyler Ebell was dressed out for practice, but did not participate, and his status for the scrimmage Saturday is doubtful.
"I took some tests, and I'm feeling healthy, and the results were good," Ebell said. "I'm still trying to hear word if I'm going to play tomorrow."
When asked what symptoms prompted Ebell to undergo what he said were a series of urine analysis over two days, and what specifically the doctors were looking for, Ebell said, "I don't know. I didn't feel like myself."
When asked if it was fatigue, he said, "I would probably say so."
Being a bit elusive, reporters pressed Ebell a bit, and he said, "It's nothing that big of a deal, but I don't think the public needs to know. My team and parents should know, and that's all. It's about privacy."
-- Junior Taylor had a sore ankle, but Dorrell said they expect he'll be ready to go for the scrimmage.
-- Marcedes Lewis, who has probably been the player who has improved his stock the most in camp this fall, worked out with the wide receivers in the drills during the afternoon session. But Dorrell said, "Marcedes is not a wide receiver. He's one of those kids that will play a lot of different roles for our offense and we're trying to utilize his talent."
With the quarterbacks seemingly looking to him on every passing play, and going to him probably more than any receiver this fall, Lewis is excited. After Friday's practice, when asked if he's enjoying it, Lewis smiled broadly and said, "This is fun."
Dorrell said that Lewis' blocking is getting better, too. "He has the capability of doing it. If there's any weakness for him, he needs to get better in terms of his run blocking," Dorrell said.