“We started off slow. The offense was dinking and dunking us, getting passes and yards,” Jackson said. “We came together and we just wanted to finish. We knew that one of the things last year is that we didn’t finish enough. With us coming together, we knew we broke down in the beginning. We started off slow and the offense had the momentum.”
But the defense came together, trying to change the fate of the day. Jackson pulled the defensive backs aside and reiterated a quote that position coach Keith Heyward had read to them earlier in the week: “Our best is yet to come, even if it’s good or it’s a failure, our best is still yet to come.”
“We came together as a defense and I told them no matter what we had today in the beginning, our best work was yet to come. You see in the last period, we ended up doing great.”
The defense had three interceptions during team sessions in the second half of practice with Jonathan Lockett nabbing one and two coming on back-to-back plays. Leon McQuay III took the first one and Uchenna Nwosu was the benefactor on the second one when Ykili Ross popped the intended receiver right as the ball arrived and Nwosu collected the ricochet.
The defense also won the “Final Five” by winning the final two reps with back-to-back sacks, but the play of the day came courtesy of Mr. Action Jackson.
Freshman running back Dominic Davis took a handoff left and tried to get around the edge. Jackson met him there for the tackle, but suddenly, it was more than a tackle as he stole the ball away, spun away and was gone off to the races where its a forgone conclusion that Jackson would score in a game setting.
“I was just going to make a tackle and wrapping him up. I got my hands on the ball, stripped it out. It kept bobbling and bobbling into my lap. I finally got ahold of it, did a spin move and got out of there.”
It was a welcoming of sorts for Davis to what Jackson is capable of if you run to his side, and it was a subtle reminder of the playmaking ability Jackson presents any time he is on the field.
“I just want to get a turnover. You seen in the Utah game last year, I wanted to get that turnover because he caught the ball. For me, it’s just trying to make plays for the team. If I can make a strip or if I’m the one holding [the ball carrier] up and they’re stripping it or if I’m recovering it or however it may go, that’s an awesome feeling.”
- Top Skill Player Tuesday: Juju Smith-Schuster
While Jackson and Rogers have been having a fun training camp battle going back and forth, the most entertaining receiver-defensive back matchup is the daily competition between sophomore wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster and senior cornerback Kevon Seymour.
Smith-Schuster definitely won the battle on Tuesday, producing his best day of practice yet. He seemed to catch everything thrown his way and there were a lot of passes headed in his direction. Smith-Schuster was physical off the line, helping to create early separation. He made plays in the air, above his body as well as in traffic. Cody Kessler threaded the needle to him a couple of times, including the catch of the day.
The early frontrunner for play of the day was Smith-Schuster’s grab on a deep post in between Seymour and safety Chris Hawkins. He caught the ball and was immediately sandwiched by the two defenders. Yet, it was Smith-Schuster who bounced free while both defenders crumpled to the ground. He took it in for a touchdown and dunked the ball over the goalpost for extra emphasis.
- Top Lineman Tuesday: Delvon Simmons
There were several candidates for the top lineman on Tuesday. During the “Final Five” offense versus defense showdown, Greg Townsend had a sack and pressure that led to another sack by Scott Felix. Claude Pelon earned his way back to working with the first-team unit. The offensive line also opened up some gaping holes, particularly on the left side, in the final 11-on-11 session, leading to some big runs from Tre Madden.
But we’re sticking to the defensive side of the ball where Delvon Simmons had a strong day while switching back and forth between defensive end and nose tackle. Simmons played primarily end and looked good going up against Zach Banner during one-on-ones. In a back-to-back rep situation, Simmons got around Banner on the first play and used a bull rush to collapse the pocket on the next rep.
Simmons biggest play came on live field goal attempts when he burst through the line and swatted down a kick attempt. The ball bounced away to the right where Adoree’ Jackson scooped the ball up and would have been off to the races for a touchdown in an actual game.
- Top Newcomer Tuesday: Tyler Petite
The tight end position went from being barren to having a surplus of bodies and that’s even without Bryce Dixon or Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick as of now. Connor Spears has stepped forward as a legitimate starter candidate and right behind him has been Tyler Petite.
Petite has shown good hands and good athleticism, especially from the tight end position. He has run mostly with the second team, ahead of Taylor McNamara, Caleb Wilson and Daniel Imatorbhebhe, but Petite has also seen some time with the first-team unit as well.
- Top Backup Tuesday: Jonathan Lockett
With the addition of Iman Marshall and Isaiah Langley at cornerback, people seem to have forgotten about Jonathan Lockett. The former Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei product is the guy that Marshall and Langley are going to have to beat out for the nickel cornerback position behind Jackson and Kevon Seymour.
Lockett had his best day of fall camp thus far on Tuesday, snagging an interception on a low throw to the right side. He followed that with a great defensive play on a post route, swatting the ball down right before it got to the receiver, only to receive what appeared to be a bogus pass interference call. Lockett was undeterred. He added a couple of more pass breakups during the final 11-on-11 team session.