Practice #2: Olson Looks Sharp

On the second day of fall practice, starting quarterback <b>Drew Olson</b> got his spiral under control and looked non-rusty. The defense jumped on the offense for sacks and picks...

Practicing in just their jersey, shorts and helmet, the team had generally a good second day of practice.

The starters didn't change on either side of the ball.

The coaches are trying out practically half the team at returning punts. The first group includes Craig Bragg, Maurice Drew, Junior Taylor, Jarrad Page, Matt Slater, Ryan Graves and Brandon Breazell. And that was just the first group.

Maurice Drew tweaked his groin in the punt return drill, which made him sit out the second half of practice for safety measures.

The tailbacks look good, with all of them looking particularly quick. With 6-2, 230-pound Manuel White and then the other four who are 5-10 or shorter, you could call it White and the Dwarfs.

The coaches busted out a new drill, or at least one we hadn't seen previously. It is a four-on-four, consisting of a quarterback, a running back and a tight end, and then either one additional running back or tight end, going up against three linebackers and a strong safety in short passing situations. There were plenty of interesting rotations, one actually with Fred Holmes, the freshman linebacker, working with starters Justin London and Spencer Havner.

As the coaching staff said they would, in many drills Robert Chai rotated in at center with the starting offensive line.

At the one open cornerback spot, the rotation of Nnamdi Ohaeri and Marcus Cassel with the starters continued.

In the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, the most prominent note was how good quarterback Drew Olson looked. After having a tough day throwing the ball for the first day of practice, his ball improved quite a bit for the second. He was throwing nice, accurate spirals. It's again obvious just how comfortable he is in the offense, looking off receivers, knowing where he's going with the ball with no hesitation. He looked very good all day.

Back-up quarterback David Koral struggled. He hesitated quite a few times, which led to incomplete passes and sacks, and one nice pick by linebacker Wesley Walker in one scrimmage.

Other standout moments:

Matt Clark made a nice diving break-up of a pass.

Receiver Matt Slater caught a slant and then accelerated very impressively to the outside and outran the defense down the sideline.

Jarrad Page had a good break-up on Craig Bragg on a well-thrown out by Olson.

Olson hit Joe Cowan for a 20-yard gain.

With the scrimmages limited to just passing plays, the defense has an unfair advantage, which they took advantage of rushing the various quarterbacks. It led to a number of sacks, one by Kyle Morgan, who looks quick and strong at defensive end; a combined sack by Bruce Davis and Nikola Dragovic; one where the rush flushed the quarterback right into the waiting arms of C.J. Niusulu, one by Noah Sutherland and another individual sack by Davis.

Trey Brown had an interception on a poorly thrown ball by freshman quarterback Pat Cowan. Brown also had another pick in his hands, jumping a receiver nicely, but he dropped the ball.

Alex Ghebreselassie, who is working as the fifth receiver, had a couple of nice receptions.

Back-up strong safety Dennis Keyes had a nice break-up of a pass over the middle.

Spencer Havner tipped a pass into the hands of safety Ben Emanuel for an interception. Quarterback Cowan has a long throwing motion and looks awkward on short throws, but he looks quite a bit more comfortable when he can unwind his arm and throw the ball down the field. He's tall, and has a good presence in the pocket, but he's still a very long ways away from be a contributor. He is, though, the fourth string quarterback behind Olson, Koral, and Brian Callahan, since walk-on Eddie Miller has to sit out the year because of his transfer. It was thought going into fall camp that Callahan could be the #2 guy, but it's pretty clear with how much they're using Koral that, as of now, he's the #2 quarterback.

Walk-on redshirt defensive lineman Phillip Rauscher is getting a tryout as a longsnapper. He was considered a good longsnapper in high school.

Even though he hasn't been cleared yet academically, cornerback Joe Garcia practiced today, anticipating he would get cleared soon.

There was no news on the status of wide receiver Tab Perry.

Brigham Harwell had a knee sleeve over his right knee. Defensive end Kevin Harbour was wearing a brace today on his injured knee, after not wearing one the first day as he walked around practice.

A couple of walk-on position changes: fullback Mark Magensdorf has switched to linebacker and defensive back Justin Sieber to wide receiver. Josh Roenicke, a walk-on wide receiver for the last two years, is not currently on the team. Head coach Karl Dorrell's post-practice comments:

"We had some good work done again. It went pretty well. We're putting in more information. The guys are doing a nice job of trying to learn things. We put in our goal line, short yardage and nickel stuff in just day two in our five-day pre-practice period. So we're way ahead of schedule, and I'm pleased with that. I'm happy with how everything is going."

On whether you can attribute being ahead of schedule to the off-season work: "That's part of it. They did a nice job this summer, doing some of the studying on their own and picking up where we left off in spring. There is a lot of carry-over from spring through summer. It's allowing us to go at a little faster pace."

On Maurice Drew's injury: "He had a little sore groin. He did it in a drill with me, fielding punts. He was bursting to a ball that was short and tweaked it a bit. We have a long way to go in camp and we want to make sure we do the necessary things to get him through the two-a-days. We just want to take it slow with him. He'll be ready to go tomorrow."

On today's standouts: "Let's start on the defense. Wesley Walker made a few plays today. He did it in the 7-on-7 and again in the team period. We had a couple of young DBs make a couple of plays. Trey Brown did. Ben Emanuel had one. Those guys are doing a nice job making plays for our defense. Our defensive front is a very active front. They're young and no-names, but you know what? We're going to be okay. We have some guys who can rush the passer and we'll utilize a lot of guys. We're happy where with we are defensively. Offensively, the skill is starting to come around. It seems like we have some good depth and quicknes and speed in the backfield. At receiver, we have some good young receivers doing some plays here and there. The older guys are being the older guys. Bragg is Bragg. You tend to understate how special he is because he does a lot of things well. We're ahead of schedule."

On Drew Olson: "Drew looks sharp. He knows where to go with the ball quickly and that's the idea of learning this offense. He has a great feel for what we're doing right now. I think David (Koral) is showing us some signs and progress, too. He's did some great things yesterday, but made some mistakes today. He's come a long way from the spring to now. I'm really happy with the work these guys put in during the summer. You can definitely tell the difference."

On any update on Tab Perry: "None yet. We're closer but still nothing else we can account for right now. It's a process. It's about getting some information into us, and some are slower than others."

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