Day Three in Shells

The team dons shoulder pads, which was obviously key for the defense as they laid some nice hits on their offensive counterparts Friday. Wesley Walker is building a lead for that open starting linebacker position...

To start practice, Maurice Drew walked off with the trainer, which is what the injured traditionally do. He was kept out of practice Friday again because of the groin pull he suffered Thursday.

The team practiced in shells –helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. They'll spend one more day in shells and then don all the pads for Sunday.

A few number changes: Safety Dennis Keyes is now #11. Wide receiver Brandon Breazell had enough guts to take over cursed #1, on Friday the 13th no less. Defensive lineman Justin Hickman is now #47.

Matt Slater got a long look as a possible #2 punt returner, but didn't have a good day, mishandling four punts in a row.

Freshman wide receiver Marcus Everett did a rotation in a drill with starters Craig Bragg and Junior Taylor.

Coincidentally, Joe Cowan was a standout Friday, making a great over-the-should catch on one ball, and probably making the juke of the day when he did a little hesitation move and lost Ben Emanuel on a post. In fact, in the one-on-one matchup of receiver against defensive back, Emanuel didn't fare well, getting beaten decisively three times – once by Cowan, once on a Junior Taylor juke and then another when Bragg accelerated past him for a catch.

It's hard to say if it's a matter of the DBs not having great speed or whether the wide receivers have great acceleration, because the WRs definitely got separation in the one-on-one drill Friday. Everett burned fellow freshman Byron Velega on a nice deep route. Alex Ghebreselassie had a couple of nice grabs, and Matt Slater ran past his defender with good speed.

On the defensive side, Marcus Cassel had a nice break-up and a pick where he jumped the receiver perfectly. He's probably too thin to make an impact this year, but Rodney Van displayed some great quickness and an ability to come out of his plant and close. He's working as a corner at this point.

Trey Brown also had a nice break on a ball, and Jebiaus Brown had a nice pick of a quick-hitter by Drew Olson.

Marcedes Lewis had his first blatant drop of the camp, missing a pass in his hands on an over-the-middle route. He had been doing so well, so you have to give him one.

Back-up quarterback David Koral had some better moments Friday, but mostly continues to struggle. He definitely likes to move around in the pocket, and is good at stepping up into it to give himself time to find a receiver, which he did effectively a couple of times. Walk-on quarterback Brian Callahan looks so much more poised and able to execute at this point. While Koral has an edge, according to the coaches, you would bet that if they had to go with a #2 in a game right now, it would probably be Callahan.

Usually, in early scrimmage periods during the beginning of fall practice, most of the time the defensive line rushes the quarterback almost too effectively. It's usually a combination of the offense still not being together and, of course, the defense knowing the quarterback is going to throw since it's primarily a passing drill. The offensive line, though, Friday did a fairly good job of giving the quarterbacks time in the 11-on-11.

So far the hit of the first three days was a big pop linebacker Wesley Walker put on Marcus Everett as he tried to advance the ball after the catch. Everett sat out the last half an hour of practice after the hit. Walker followed up that hit with a very nice tackle for no gain on the succeeding running play. Walker, at this point, is definitely far out ahead to win that open linebacker spot.

The other standout in the 11-on-11 defensively was walk-on, second-string defensive lineman Robert Garcia. Garcia is 5-11 and 275 pounds, and you can barely find him when he lines up before a play. But the reports are that he's one of the strongest players on the team and he has earned the respect of his teammates and the coaches. Friday he made two nice stops, one where he shot through the line for a tackle for loss on a running play, and another when he made a nice stop for no gain. And he did it going against the first string offensive line.

Derrick Williams had the best run, finding a hole up the middle, bouncing off a few tacklers (or thudders we should say, since they're not really tackling), staying on his feet to go 10 yards for a touchdown in a red zone drill.

Perhaps the second best hit of the first three days of practice was by freshman linebacker Fred Holmes, standing up a receiver coming out of the backfield on a quick flair.

Karl Dorrell's post-practice comments:

"It was a good practice, to put the shoulder pads on. There are always some ball exchange issues the first time you put on the shoulder pads, but in the second half of practice everything started clicking pretty well. I think our defense and offense made a few good plays. We had some separation down in the redzone, and some nickel situations, and third-down situations, so we did some things that are putting us way ahead of schedule. So, we pleased with the progress so far.

"There are a couple of guys with nagging majors but nothing major. Maurice Drew we knew would be sore today, and we decided to hold him out one more time with his mild groin strain. And then Marcedes Lewis pulled up just a little with a mild strain of his hamstring, but we don't think it's anything serious."

On Everett getting his bell rung: "It's his welcome to college football. He's okay. It wasn't anything serious. No concussion or anything like that. He's done some good things. He's doing a nice job of picking up our offense fairly quickly, which is why we're able to put him in some situations with some of the veterans, and he's responded very well. We're hoping he continues that trend. He's physically the biggest of the three freshmen receivers. I like all three of those guys. They all bring something that we can benefit from. All of them are going to be pretty good players for us in our future. Everett has done a lot of work over the summer with the veterans, so that's helped. He's been here most of the summer throwing with the veteran guys, so he has a bigger head start than the other guys, and that's why he's doing as well as he's doing. He's has some skills, he's a smooth runner and he has the size you would like that he'll be able to take a hit. And he's picking up our offense very well. I know that one or two of those guys is going to be able to help us this year, and so far he's been the first to step out in front."

On how the new OL line-up has looked in the first three days: "Things are steadily improving. With Steven Vieira playing guard, that's a little bit different for him, after playing tackle for a year. So that's a little change he has to get used to. I think other than that I think it looks pretty solid in there. They've done some good things. To the credit of our defensive line, they've still be able to put some pressure on our passer. We have some good young players on the DL. Nobody knows their names, but they're going to find a way to get to the passer. They're also going to do some good things for us."

On Koral's development, and whether he's still just learning the timing: "That's a portion of it. But it's also that the other guys have to know what they're doing, too. There are some times out there where a lot of the quarterbacks are in there and they might be doing the right thing in terms of their progression of their reads, but the receiver runs the wrong routes, and they look like they're holding the ball too long. That happened quite a bit. Koral has done a nice job. I'm impressed where he is now compared to spring. He seems more comfortable. He likes to move out of the pocket and run around. You notice he's finding those check-downs pretty well. That's showing some growth on his part. I'm very pleased with what he's done."

On who is the #2 quarterback: "They're the two fighting for #2. Koral has a leg up right now, after what he's done this summer. You can tell that he's different than what he was in the spring. But Brian Callahan had a couple of nice throws in there today, too. We're only on day three, and we'll see how things unfold. The biggest test will be the scrimmage, on the 21st."

On Wesley Walker's play: "Yeah, isn't that great? He's come up and had a couple of big plays each day. He's comfortable. He did a lot of work this summer, too, and he's not making very many mistakes out there, busting any coverages or calls, and he's made a few plays. Yeah, he's actually made a good, strong start. I hope he keeps that up for the rest of the camp."

On trying to find the #2 punt returner behind Craig Bragg: "Maurice Drew still has a long way to go, in my opinion. I'm working with those guys. There is no doubt he's talented and can do some good things back there but he has to catch the ball first. So we'll continue to work with him. He wants to do it. Right now we don't have a two. Matt Slater is trying to be the #2. If I had to lineup tomorrow, and name my two, it'd be Jarrad Page. I know he and Bragg are solid. Those two guys catch the ball. And you know they'll do well making good decisions. The other guys need work."

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