Tuesday Practice Report

The battleground is laid for a war over the starting quarterback spot, and some players allay some worries about a couple of positions at practice Tuesday. Also, an update on the players sitting out...

Kyle Morgan, the senior defensive end, has not participated in the first two days of practice. His brother was shot and killed in the Bay Area last weekend, and he is spending time with his family.

One source expected him to return to practice Wednesday, but it could be anytime this week. When he does return he'll have to go through the NCAA acclimation process, which will set him back as many days of practice as he missed.

Wesley Walker, the senior linebacker, is still out with his knee injury. It's uncertain whether he'd return soon.

Sophomore safety Chris Horton is moving well on his surgically-repaired foot, but his status to return is also uncertain. One source thought he could be out for a while, which would then set him back substantially before the season even started.

Walk-on running back Ryen Carew underwent arthroscopic surgery today on his knee, mostly to determine the extent of his injury.

Carew being out is an issue since the team isn't particularly deep at tailback, and sophomore Chris Markey hasn't practiced fully due to a hamstring injury.

Bruce Davis, the sophomore linebacker, isn't participating fully, still recovering from his athroscopic knee surgery.

It's not difficult to perceive when watching the quarterbacks that the two redshirt freshmen, Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan, throw the best, most accurate balls among the QBs. Cowan went about three-quarters of the practice without throwing a bad ball, until Rodney Van stepped in front of one of his passes but dropped the interception. In fact, as of right now, judging just purely on their throws, you'd have to say that Cowan might have a slight edge, being more consistent in his accuracy.

But not being a coach, it's hard to figure in just how much experience and knowledge of the offense will benefit Drew Olson in the fight for the starting quarterback job.

After just two days of practice, it's not a stretch to think that Ben Olson and Cowan will probably see time this season in some situation.

The reps are going predominantly to the four quarterbacks – Drew Olson, Ben Olson, Cowan and David Koral – with walk-on Brian Callahan getting less.

Overall the team looked fairly good for just the second day of fall practice, without pads. The defense, in the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, had a good showing, particularly the secondary, recording a number of picks and coverage sacks.

What's encouraging is that what you might perceive as potential weaknesses on the squad – the cornerback and receiver positions – appear to be better manned than you might think. Looking good at corner was Van, who had a pick on the day, and senior Marcus Cassel, who also had one. Michael Norris played his man tightly most of the day.

Among the receivers, Junior Taylor and Patrick Cowan looked solid. Cowan had a nice, one-handed catch thrown by his brother at practice. Marcus Everett looked good today, running good routes and making strong grabs. Matt Slater had a good catch, and then a nice run after it, showing a great juke to get him space. Alex Ghebreselassie has put on some weight and looks thicker. Freshman Gavin Ketchum had a couple of nice catches, particularly on a throw from Drew Olson over the middle. Matt Willis is easily one of the quickest athletes among the receivers and continues to show that he has a chance to contribute. He caught a nice ball on a slant from Cowan. Receiver coach Dino Babers was riding Ketchum and fellow freshman Jamil Turner some in the drills, emphasizing more precision in their footwork and route running. It's the first few days of fall practice, and it's what Babers does.

The offense is dominated by Marcedes Lewis, with the quarterbacks looking to him constantly. Lewis made a very impressive shoestring grab.

Freshman tight end Ryan Moya certainly has some hands, he just looks particularly small physically. Standing next to Drew Olson he looks an inch shorter.

On defense, there aren't any surprises at defensive line. Redshirt freshman Nathaniel Skaggs has been working primarily as a defensive end.

The linebackers are being mixed and matched throughout the 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. With Davis out, Aaron Whittington seems to be running the most at the outside linebacker position with the two other starters, Justin London and Spencer Havner. One of the best aspects of the beginning of practice is to see Justin London healthy.

Two freshman linebackers are getting some long looks – John Hale at the weak inside linebacker position, and Reggie Carter at middle linebacker. Also getting many reps at back-up MLB is Fred Holmes.

The two freshman twins – Korey and Kyle Bosworth – look fairly small out there and will almost certainly need a redshirt year to bulk up.

At safety, the ones are Jarrad Page and Dennis Keyes. Eric McNeal was with the twos, and the three freshmen – Bret Lockett, Shawn Oatis and Robert Kibble – have been seeing a good amount of time with Horton out.

Shells (shoulder pads and shorts) start tomorrow.

A video of Karl Dorrell's comments after practice is coming up...

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