Offense and Olson Step Up

While parts of the offense continued to struggle, other parts stepped up in Friday's scrimmage, particularly quarterback Drew Olson, along with running back Maurice Drew. The defensive front four also dominated...

It was a day for the offense to finally step up and get some respect.

At least make a few plays.

And it all began with Drew Olson. He had a very impressive performance, completing 15 of 20 passes for 184 yards and five touchdowns. He started the scrimmage hot, completing his first six passes, including a 37-yard go route down the right sideline to redshirt freshman receiver Matt Slater for a touchdown. Cornerback Matt Clark had good coverage, but the ball was perfectly thrown. That was only deep ball completed on the day but Olson did a good job of reading through his progressions and found the open receiver most of the time. Sustaining drives, Olson checked out of many plays, consistently finding Craig Bragg on many short routes. He utilized the screen, and looked to have much better timing on it than he did all of last year.

Bragg led the receivesr with six catches for 58 yards, also drawing a P.I. call on Matt Clark. Joe Cowan brought in four balls for 46 yards, and Matt Slater collected two passes for 50.

Running back Maurice Drew also looked particularly impressive, running 11 times for 109 yards. It included a 52-yard touchdown run around the right side in which he juked redshirt freshman safety Chris Horton by cutting back to the inside and out-running the secondary to the end zone. He was also quick again through the hole, when a hole was created.

The offense struggled in plays between the 30 yard lines, but when backed up against its own end zone it was able to forge two first downs to get Chris Kluwe room to punt. In the red zone, though, the offense was effective, scoring three times on passes to receiver Joe Cowan, Bragg (off a tip by Marcedes Lewis) and one to receiver Idris Moss.

The JC tight end, Matt Raney is still having trouble catching the ball. He dropped a 10-yard pass from Olson that would have prolonged a drive. It wasn't the best of Olson's throws, Raney having to reach back over head to get to it, but it was a catch that should have been made.

Defensively, the front four dominated the line of scrimmage most of the time, many times driving the offensive line back on their heels. Maurice Drew made a couple of quick cuts to escape the push, and actually gained some yards on a couple of plays where the DL penetrated well. C.J. Niusulu continues to be impressive, and Junior Lemau'u spent a lot of time in the back field. The d-line kept getting pressure through the middle, which is why most of Maurice Drew's big runs came on plays to the outside. Defensive end Bruce Davis used his speed around the end for a sack, as did Justin Hickman, as the quarterbacks were constantly under pressure. The defense had six sacks, but five came against the second offensive line unit. Linebacker Spencer Havner looked very active, always being around the ball. Middle linebacker Justin London was solid, but not spectacular. Wesley Walker started as the third backer but was shuttled in and out of plays.

Interestingly, though, walk-on quarterback Brian Callahan played ahead of JC transfer quarterback David Koral. It might be nothing more than Koral still learning the offense at this point. Callahan was 0 for 6, while Koral was 6 of 8 for 80 yards.

Cornerback Jebiaus Brown took some reps with the first team, and it was acknowledged that he and Marcus Cassel are in a battle for the right corner spot – at least until Nnamdi Ohaeri also is able to compete for it.

Paul Mociler was the first-team center for many reps. Walk on defensive tackle Robert Garcia also had some moments on the defensive line.

There were two injuries. Running back Derrick Williams missed the second half of the scrimmage with a sprained ankle, which isn't expected to be serious. Defensive end Nikola Dragovic sprained his left shoulder late in the scrimmage, but it was uncertain how serious it was.

Karl Dorrell on the scrimmage overall: "There was some good work today. It looked like we had some good work on both sides. The defense did some good things and kind of stagnated the offense for the first part of the scrimmage, and then the offense did some good things in the red zone. We saw progress, and that's what I wanted to see going into Monday for leading into Friday to see how we can improve. It was a good day."

On Drew Olson's performance: "He looked good. He made great decisions. I thought in the red zone he didn't hold onto the ball for too long. He threw it away when he needed to, and made some plays when he needed to and saw some openings. That shows that he's grown in what we're doing offensively. That was a good performance on his part."

On the relief after a good scrimmage: "I feel better. I just hope we keep getting better as we finish this week that we have left. We've got one week left. It would be nice if we can scrimmage next week and show even better signs of what you saw today. I'm pleased with the direction everything is going in. We can still get better. We can still get a little more crisp. We still have some of the penalties issues from time to time. The defensive penalties cropped up a little bit, so that is going to be a concern. We have to do a better job of it. But I saw a better level of football than what I saw the last week and that's what I'm trying to keep building on and improving as we conclude our spring drills here."

On the performance of the defensive line: "I think we're kind of young at the d-line position, and you're going to see us, particularly at the d-line position, rotate a lot. A lot more than you saw last year. You saw a second group of players that probably played 15 plays total. You're probably going to see guys play half the game. I think it's going to be a continuous rotation, like a hockey team. We feel good about our inside guys, and rotating them in there"

On Callahan being second on the depth chart at quarterback: "He and David (Koral) both split some time with our second group. We don't have a third, but I'm not taking any credit of what Brian has done. He has done well with spring drills and he's battling for our No. 2 spot along with David. And David did some good things today, and it's going to be a tight battle. Both of those guys are trying to prove (themselves) and they're getting better week by week."

On Maurice Drew's performance: "Maurice Drew is really, I think, a pretty good player, and we're lucky we got him. When we get Manuel (White) back, we'll have a pretty good backfield."

On Jebiaus Brown getting reps with the first team defense: "That's where a battle is going right there, with Cassel and Jebiaus Brown. That battle is going to go all the way through next week. It's going to be good. Both of those young guys want an opportunity to be a starter, and that's a position that's open and they're going after it. We'll see what happens."

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