Report on Tuesday's Practice

A player is suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, another who had just recovered from injury gets injured again, and an unlikely candidate probably has the hit of fall camp so far...

Personnel Update:

Safety Chris Horton, who just start practicing fully after recovering from foot surgery last winter, dislocated his right wrist in practice today. It's expected that he'll have surgery tonight. After that, we'll know more about his prognosis.

Center Mike McCloskey watched practice in just his football pants and a t-shirt. He spent half of practice getting re-hab on his shoulder.

Freshman wide receiver Gavin Ketchum did some running in a helmet and shorts, looking like he could return sooner than a month's time.

Defensive end William Snead competed fully in practice, as did linebacker Bruce Davis.

As Karl Dorrell said in his video interview, running back Derrick Williams has been suspended from the team indefinitely for violating a team rule.

Kyle Morgan practiced in full pads for the first time. It was the first practice of the fall that every d-lineman was able to practice.

Performance Update:

Perhaps the most encouraging performance of the morning's practice came from punter Aaron Perez. Perez easily had his best practice day that we've seen. He hit one 50+ punt, five that were in the 40-45 yard range, and probably three that were around 40 yards, with no shanks. His punts had good hang time and he looked confident and strong punting them.

Junior place kicker Justin Medlock kicked in the field goal drill from over 45 yards, and made 5 of 7.

It's looking like the coaches intend not to redshirt many of the true freshmen, which has been their practice for the last couple of years, using many freshmen at the very least on special teams. Freshman linebackers Reggie Carter, John Hale and Kyle Bosworth were all getting time with the #1 kick-return team in one drill.

You could see the linemen better today, with the linemen one-on-ones taking place close to the Spaulding Field bleachers.

Offensive tackle Ed Blanton had looked very hard to get around in the previous one-on-ones this fall, but looked nearly impossible to beat today. He's so big it's tough to get around him, and he now has learned how to keep his weight under him and stay balanced. He looked excellent today.

Probably the second best performance by an OL today came from Blanton's back-up on the depth chart, redshirt freshman Tony Lee. He was nearly as unbeatable as Blanton, with very good lateral quickness and strength. Defensive end Nikola Dragovic, in the pass-rushing one-on-one drills, is really the Litmus Test for an offensive tackle, whether they can contain a good pass rusher. Dragovic beats just about everyone he goes up against in practice, but Lee had his number today, containing him on a number of reps.

While Lee looks to be getting groomed to take over the weakside tackle spot when Blanton leaves, how good he's looked this camp makes you wonder if possibly he could move over to the strongside tackle position, even though there has been no indication from the coaches that this would happen and Brian Abraham looks like he's nailed down that starting job at this point.

The future of the OL is very encouraging overall. In the one-on-ones, true freshman Aleksey Lanis looked very impressive. He was going up against youngster like Chris Johnson and Jess Ward, but he did thoroughly dominate them nonetheless.

Noah Sutherland, who is competing at the strongside tackle position, also has had his moments. This morning, Sutherland looked very good and balanced while beating Nathaniel Skaggs in the one-on-ones.

Defensive Justin Hickman turned in the same kind of performance he has just about every day, being very good on both running and passing plays in getting to the ball carrier, and getting a couple of sacks in the 11-on-11s. Kevin Brown also was dominating at times today. He is not only very good at rushing the passer, but probably better in run defense, able to penetrate into the backfield consistently. In the one-on-ones, perhaps the only interior lineman who can stay with Brown (with Mike McCloskey still out) is Shannon Tevaga. Their one-on-one battles have been epic, with them alternating beating each other. Tevaga has really been the only linemen we've seen actually get the best of Brown more than once.

Kyle Morgan, practicing in full pads for the first time, stepped into the left defensive end spot with the starters. He looked strong, and held his own most of the time.

William Snead, who is second on the depth chart behind Morgan, didn't have a great practice. Of course, he's still recovering from his sprained ankle, but even before the injury he didn't seem to have the pop off the line we saw in spring, and there are times when he still physically gets manhandled. Dragovic, who is behind Snead at that left end position on the depth chart, is one of the best pass rushers on the team and is definitely improving at his run defense, so it will be interesting to watch how the depth chart plays out at that position.

Chris Johnson, the back-up defensive tackle, seems to be struggling some. Kenneth Lombard and Nathaniel Skaggs look to be options over Johnson to back up the tackle positions at this time. In the one-on-one drills, Johnson was having a hard time; offensive guard Robert Chai worked him pretty considerably on one rep.

The biggest worry on the team is still whether the defense can stop anyone from running the ball. It's tough to make a judgment just by fall camp so far, with so many players having been out with injuries on the DL. Plus it's tough to judge when they're going up against the same offensive line every day. Going out on a limb, you'd have to say that the line does look improved, and that they're calling card will be quickness, but there are moments when a gaping hole opens up and a running back waltzes through it, which is worrisome. Most of the time it has been when the first string offensive is going up against the second string d-line, though.

Bruce Davis worked with the first-string linebackers for most of the day. He looks like he'll be particularly effective in matching up against bigger tight ends, actually containing Marcedes Lewis a couple of times in coverage.

Probably the defensive star of the day was middle linebacker Justin London, who, every day seems to get closer to 100%. Today he had a couple of huge hits, one on fullback Michael Pitre, and then a nice pop on receiver Andrew Baumgartner on a short route over the middle. London has been all around the ball in the last several days of practice as he gets more time with the 1s.

Rodney Van also got in one of the best hits of the day, on Baumgartner, on a crossing pattern, but Baumgartner held onto it.

Freshman safety Bret Lockett is looking more and more comfortable, getting a sack today on a safety blitz.

Dorrell said that he plans to travel with 7 or 8 receivers, so it will be interesting to see who they will be. We know Junior Taylor, Joe Cowan, Brandon Breazell, Marcus Everett and Matt Slater are on the bus. Baumgartner has been playing so well in fall camp he could get one of those 7 or 8 slots. Matt Willis has been looking better the last couple of days, catching the ball more fluidly, and you'd have to think with his athletic gifts he has a chance. Ryan Graves has also come on in the last couple of days. Then there are the freshmen – Jamil Turner and Gavin Ketchum. If Ketchum is healthy and up to speed, you'd have to think that he has one of those spots, based on his performance in camp before he was hurt.

Cowan had a good practice, catching every ball that was catchable thrown at him.

At tight end, ideally one of the two freshmen tight ends will redshirt, and two won't. Logan Paulsen probably made a step forward in his case not to redshirt today. He made a number of good catches, and on one in particular, he caught a ball crossing over the middle and took it up the sideline breaking tackles, looking like a veteran. It's clear he's getting far more comfortable and it's coming more naturally to him.

With Derrick Williams out, both Maurice Drew and Chris Markey had a chance at many reps, and they didn't disappoint. Drew broke some runs, and Markey looked particularly shifty. Freshman Kahlil Bell also was impressive, finding daylight after a nice cutback on one run.

The hit of the day goes to Maurice Drew. That's correct, a 5-8 tailback. Drew Olson threw an interception to an unidentified defensive back that Drew then popped good. It was one of those bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, stun-the-ball-carrier type of hit, and probably the best hit of fall practice yet.

The 11-on-11s went through many third-down situations and it was fun to watch. The defense stuffed the running game on two successive plays. Ben Olson then bootlegged for a first down – and while it's exciting to see him running the ball you also tend to hold your breath when tacklers are flying at his knees.

Quarterback Watch:

You'd have to give the day to Ben Olson. Up until throwing one interception on a bad decision about two-thirds of the way through practice, he looked close to flawless. Ben made a perfect throw to Lewis on a streak; he hit Slater with a great throw on a long hitch; he hit Lewis again perfectly in stride in his hands on a crossing pattern; and hit Cowan in the numbers on a long slant where he again had to thread the needle. On his interception, he was under pressure and made a bad decision to dump off the ball, and it was picked by Spencer Havner. But it appears that Ben is getting to the point that he's not having to think as much and is able to throw freely, and his passes have been beautiful in the last few days.

Ben Olson and Drew Olson worked mostly with the 1s for the day, and Ben probably had the better performance. Drew didn't make any particularly big plays, but looked solid in the basic offense.

David Koral executed a screen to Markey on a blitz, which broke for at least 30 yards.

Patrick Cowan had another better day, throwing a nice slant to his brother, and lofting a nice pass to a smooth-catching Adam Heater, the freshman tight end, in the end zone.

Recruiting Update:

With high school starting in many districts it could be difficult for many recruits to make practice during the week.

Quarterback Jeff Jansen from Diamond Bar attended, as did defensive end Toby Turpin from Los Alamitos.

Christian Browne, a 6-3, 270-pound lineman who will be a junior at Verbum Dei, also attended.


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