There were also sixteen players who sat out the day because of injuries, which also made the second-string defense a patchwork second/third string defense, which helped the first string offense even more.
In previous scrimmages this spring, when the first team defense went up against the first team offense the defense was dominating, mostly because the defensive line overpowered the offensive line But Saturday, by facing only a patchwork second string defense, the first string offense was effective. Most notably, Cory Paus was generally given enough time to throw the ball. When Paus has enough time, he can be very good. The problem in recent years is he hasn't had enough time, through the fault of poor pass protection and his own lack of quickness.
But for the day, Paus was the offensive star of the scrimmage, completing 9 of 13 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for another, if you really want to count it since the defense can't touch a quarterback. As one fan noted, it'd be great if Paus could wear a red jersey in the games.
Paus, with time like he had Saturday, was throwing accurately. He even had some balls that were right on the money that were dropped. Tight end Mike Seidman was definitely his #1 target. He scored on a 54-yard crossing pattern on a strike from Paus, but also after Seidman plowed through a couple of would-be tacklers. Seidman also made a nice one-handed catch on a 37-yard throw that got the first team offense down to the one-yard line on one series. Paus threw some nice long balls, one a 53-yard completion to a streaking Tab Perry, who made a nice catch. Paus also looked good on the short ball, his bane of last season, making nice throws on a 15-yard completion on a curl to Perry, and a nice 13-yard strike on an out to Perry.
Tab Perry was, as you can see, was a main target along with Seidman. While Perry caught some nice balls, he also dropped a pretty easy catch, too. But still, given the injuries Perry had at the end of last season, it's just good to see that he's playing and healthy. Hopefuly by fall he'll get cured of the dropsies. Junior Taylor was the other starting wide receiver, and he caught a couple of balls on the day, but didn't really get the ball thrown at him too much.
The running backs also looked very good, and present the coaches with a variety of weapons. Akil Harris looked solid, but didn't do anything particular eye-opening. One one run, he broke some nice tackles for about a 17-yard gain. He also scored on a two-yard plunge. He had about 35 yards on the day.
Manuel White, though, continues to look like the back that will garner most of the carries next season. Being used at tailback and fullback, he had 67 yards on 6 carries. It's a very exciting image when he gets into the defensive backfield, someone 6-3 and 240 plowing through little defensive backs. He scored on a 14-yard run, ran for 27 yards right up the middle from the fullback position, and caught a nice screen pass and then rumbled for 20 yards. And by the way, it was perhaps the best set-up of a screen pass by Paus in recent memory.
The freshmen tailbacks also shined. Jason Harrison is a force that will have to get on the field. He's not particularly fast, and at 5-9 not really big, but he's a playmaker that makes things happen. On a play that was called back because of offensive illegal motion, Harrison took the handoff in a sweep, reversed direction, juked some defenders, and make a 17-yard TD run. He had a number of other good runs on the day, and they were particularly impressive since Harrison was working with the second team offense, specifically the second-team offensive line, against the first team defense. Wendell Mathis also exploded for a couple of nice runs. Working with the first-team offense on the last series of the scrimmage, Mathis ended the scrimmage on a burst around the right side that resulted in a 67-yard TD (pictured above). I don't know just how much you can take from Mathis working with the first team offense, but it might be a sign that the coaches are thinking he's third behind Harris and White at this point.
Tyler Ebell was utilized in many ways – as a tailback, a slot receiver, and punt returner. After having the dropsies in practice, it was good to see Ebell hand onto his runt returns Saturday. As a tailback, he really didn't get on track, especially facing the first team defense. He did, also, fumble a hand-off at the one yard line.
The first string offensive line looked okay, facing the second string defense. They are lacking some of their best bodies – Shane Lehmann and John Ream. But the scrimmage didn't dispel the concern over the OL. Going against the second string defense, they did give Paus more time to throw, but they also got beat a couple of times, particularly by the quickness of defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti. He was pressuring Paus quite a bit and had two bat downs for the day. And taking nothing away from walkon sophomore defensive end Matt Amundson, but when he's beating your first string offensive line and sacking your quarterback it's a concern. Both Paul Mociler and Mike McCloskey worked at center with the starters.
The second team offensive line actually fared better than what you would have expected facing the first team defensive line. When realizing that this was the matchup, it's natural to think it was going to get ugly, but it didn't. The younger OLs generally held up against the first string DL. Early on John Sciarra, working with the second string offense, was under a lot of pressure and looked lost trying to get the ball off. But as the day wore on, the second string OL gave Sciarra more time and he settled in. Sciarra started off very shaky, throwing an interception to linebacker Marcus Reese in his first series. Under pressure, he was throwing off balance and inaccurately. It didn't help when he made a nice throw to walk on wideout Josh Roenicke, and Roenicke dropped the pass. But then when Sciarra got more comfortable, he improved. He threw a 47-yard bomb to walk on wide receiver Russell Thomas that seemed to give him some confidence. He then moved in the pocket well, rolling and throwing across his body to hit Harrison on what ended up a 33-yard play. He threw a duck to Roenicke, who then redeemed himself (and save Sciarra) by making a nice play by coming back for the ball and making the catch, beating starting cornerback Joe Hunter to the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, the starting defense wasn't as dominating as you would have expected going up against the second-string offense. The defense, though, is missing some key personnel, including Brandon Chillar and Ricky Manning, so they weren't at full strength. Tim Warfield started at the strongside backer position in place of Chillar, and Matt Clark too over at Manning's corner position. Both did okay, but didn't make any plays that really stood out.
Asi Faoa continues to impress, making some nice tackles, pressuring the quarterback, and showing some great quickness. He made a play on a draw that was very impressive – firing off the ball around the end rushing the quarterback, then cutting back inside and tackling Jason Harrison after only a 3-yard gain when it seemed like he initially had a lot of running room. Mat Ball had a sack, where he threw Sciarra to the ground like a rag doll. Sean Phillips had a pseudo-sack.
Audie Attar made probably the biggest two defensive plays of the day, and could make a case for being the defensive star of the day. He had two very impressive tackles for loss, where he fired into the backfield and caught the running back before he was able to even get moving.
For the defensive backs, Joe Hunter was in on quite a few plays, and mostly it was for positive results. He had some nice covers, including some knock downs on some post patterns where he was stride for stride with the receiver. He also made a nice tackle on a run at the one-yard line to prevent a touchdown. Matt Ware generally also had a solid day. He made some nice plays in coverage, and almost caught a bobbled pass for an interception. He did, though, get beat on a little flare pass to backup fullback Ray Cassaday, where he missed the tackle. Jibril Raymo was in blue, shuttling in with Kevin Brant at strong safety with the starters.
Perhaps even more fun that the scrimmage is the post-scrimmage time when you can see the players, coaches, fans and especially recruits milling around on the field.
Quite a few of the incoming freshmen attended the scrimmage, including Matt Moore, Robert Chai, Marcedes Lewis, Glenn Ohaeri, Wesley Walker, Thomas Patton, Kevin Harbour, Eric McNeal, and Jarrad Page (pictured from the left are Kevin Harbour, Wesley Walker and Glenn Ohaeri).
There were also some recruits at the scrimmage, including many big-named prospects. Among them were Quintin Daniels, WR, Loyola; Fred McNeill, LB, Loyola; Sam Baker, OL, Tustin; Chris Barrett, TE, Tustin; Tom Grady, QB, Edison; Michael Okwo, LB, Mira Costa; P.J. Irvin, OL, Agoura; Sedric Ellis, DL, Chino, and Dominic Breazeale, QB/ATH, Alhambra.
A few notes and observations about the prospects:
Thomas Patton has gotten bigger since last year. He's a good 6-4 now, and said he's 270. He told me his dad is 6-5 and he thinks he could get even bigger. He also said that he's doing really well in school this year. "I swear I got straight As," he said. Accompanying Patton on the ride south for the weekend was his best friend, a kid named Humberto Padilla, from Logan High School in Northern California. Padilla is a 6-6, 280-lb. defensive tackle. He said he didn't do well academically as a senior, and is going to San Francisco City College next year, but had intentions of following his best friend Patton to UCLA. "Or Miami and maybe Oregon State," he said.
All of the Loyola boys look close – like Harbour, Daniels and McNeill. Okwo was hanging with Wesley Walker and Glenn Ohaeri.
I spoke with P.J. Irvin. His recruiting update is coming soon and it's very positive.
DON'T-READ-THIS-IF-YOU-DON'T-WANT-TO-BE-TEASED DEPARTMENT: Also, there was a sleeper wide receiver at the scrimmage that I spoke with who told me that UCLA has offered him a scholarship. We'll look into whether it's safe to talk about him…
A huge photo gallery is also on the way…
Photos by Sam Levi