Cory Paus, though,continues to show imcrements of improvement. He's throwing the ball stronger and generally with more accuracy and looks far more comfortable in the pocket.
John Sciarra is also improving. While he obviously has a long way to go to understanding the offense, he looks more confident in the practice's mini-scrimmages, aand his throws continue to improve in the drills.
Probably the hands-down star of spring practice has been Mike Seidman. Not only is he the best receiver on the field in spring (especially with Cragg Bragg sitting the last few practices), but the quarterbacks are going out of their way to try to find him. He looks big and quick, and very sure-handed. When he gets locked in to his route, the defensive backs, who have mostly owned the receivers this spring, really can't defend him.
With Bragg out, the receiver who has slowly stepped up is Junior Taylor. Tab Perry, of course, looks physically imposing, but has dropped some balls this spring. Obviously he and Bragg and the #1 and #2 receivers on the team, but Taylor has come a long way since the first few days of practice and will definitely be among the top four receivers on the team, along with Ryan Smith. The surgery on Smith's ankle,by the way, went very well, and reportedly he will start running next week and says it feels very good. Taylor, though, is still raw, but his route-running is getting better, he's made some nice catches, and he runs very, very well. Jon Dubravac continues to be out of practice, possibly due to a strained hamstring. If by next fall Dubravac can't get healthy, the fifth receiver in the rotation could be from among the trio of walk-ons, Garrett Lepisto, Russell Thomas, and Josh Roenicke. While Thomas has had the dropsies lately, all three have looked good in spring. There is, of course, the possibility that incoming freshmen Antwuan Smith and Idris Moss could break into that five-receiver rotation, or that Marcedes Lewis could be used extensively enough at receiver also.
In the mini-scrimmages of yesterday's practice, it still appears that the offensive line is continually getting beat by the defensive line. While tackles Bryce Bohlander and Mike Saffer are getting praise from the coaches, it appears in practice that the defensive ends are beating them with their quickness on the corner. The second- and third-string tackles are cleary getting beat by the likes of the Ball Brothers and Asi Faoa. While you would think that the interior of the line would be the primary concern, with a starting center that needs to be discovered and a guard out with injury, it appears, at least to this untrained eye, that containing the ends in passing situations is an area that needs improvement. Paul Mociler and Mike McCloskey are alternating at center with the first team and both appear to be doing well.
The running backs were pretty much more of the same: Akil Harris looks solid, if unspectacular; Manuel White looks like the workhorse; and the freshmen Jason Harrison, Wendell Mathis and Tyler Ebell all look ready to contribute. Harrison continues to show some great moves, Mathis shows his explosiveness, and Ebell his elusiveness. Ebell is struggling still at catching punt returns.
At fullback, White is getting some reps, while it's pretty clear that Pat Norton is going to be the starter.
On defense, there is quite a bit more to be optimistic about. The interior defensive line looked very good again Tuesday. The defensive ends perhaps were even more impressive. The Balls and Faoa were everywhere. Faoa went up against the first team and second team offense and, in passing situations, looked too quick to block. It really isn't fair when Faoa gets up against one of the younger offensive tackles. Rusty Williams was in a boot and crutches.
At linebacker, the ranks are thin. Brandon Chillar, Patrick Pierre-Louis and Dennis Link all sat out of practice with minor injuries. Working with the first team defense at strongside linebacker was walk-on defensive end and volleyball player, James Jessen. Jessen moves and runs very well and has very good athleticism. He actually appears to know what he's doing, too, which is a surprise. He just lacks strength. But he looked very comfortable at the strongside backer position. On the second team, Tim Warfield was filling in at middle linebacker.
The defensive backs had another good practice. Ricky Manning is looking tough, stepping in front of a couple of passes with ease (it might help that, at this point, he knows all the passing routes). Matt Ware looks very good at free safety, and Joe Hunter had a good day at cornerback. Matt Clark also continues to impress.
In attendance were incoming freshmen Matt Moore and Alex Potasi.
Among the rising high school seniors watching practice were Dennis Keyes, RB/DB from Van Nuys Birmingham, and Devin Stearns, WR/DB, Gardena Serra. Also watching were Chris Piligian, OL/DL, Newhall Hart (along with the Hart coaching staff), Aleks Blagojevich, OL, Gardena (Calif.) Serra, and a big young man from Paramount High School that might have been David Rivera, the noted offensive line recruit.