Mid-camp review

Now that we've passed the midway point of fall camp let's take a look at how some of the position battles are shaking out.

QB

 

Matt Leinart has done what the coaches hoped he would do this fall, he has taken the step forward to separate himself from the other quarterbacks and make it clear that he is the top guy.  When the coaches made the somewhat surprising announcement at the end of spring to move Leinart to the top of the depth chart it was done partly to give him the off-season to adjust to the role and he has responded beautifully.  Matt has taken on the stature of a team leader and his poise and decision making are at a high point.  Matt Cassel and Brandon Hance remain solid options and both have had their moments in camp.  It hurt John David Booty to miss a few days with a bad back but it's obvious he has great potential. 

 

RB

 

Hershel Dennis has shown his usual assortment of impressive runs and he's ready to be the starter at tailback on opening day but a lot of the buzz in camp has surrounded freshman Reggie Bush.  There's no denying that Reggie has a dazzling element to his game and those two should make a nice combo in the coming years.  On top of that, LenDale White and Chauncey Washington are becoming known as the "Bruise Brothers" for their hard running styles.  We're in good shape at tailback right now.  Brandon Hancock has performed well at fullback although he might have a minor setback with an ankle injury suffered on Saturday.  If he can't go, look for Lee Webb to fill in and he's done a good job blocking.  Whitney Lewis was moved to fullback to take over a lot of the duties taken on last season by Malaefou MacKenzie.  Whitney tweaked his knee last week in a scrimmage and isn't scheduled back until the end of this week or early next week. 

 

WR

 

Keary Colbert and Mike Williams are ready to show that they are the top receiving duo in the country.  Keary is so professional in everything he does from work ethic to route running while Mike is simply a man among boys at times.  We needed to see a third receiver step up and after spring ball we thought that would be Justin Wyatt but Steve Smith has done so well that it looks as if he will get that spot.  Steve learned from Colbert this summer and he couldn't have had a better teacher for his skills as he has great hands and an instinct for playing the position.  Justin can make things happen with the ball in his hands if given the opportunity.  Among the players fighting for time we've seen Chris McFoy make some big plays and Sandy Fletcher has also had some bright moments. 

 

TE

 

At this point it looks as if Alex Holmes will redshirt but the good news is that Dominique Byrd is an excellent pass catching option who can get down field with his speed.  Gregg Guenther has been steady as well and that would be a nice boost if he can remain healthy and an effective part of the offense. 

 

OL

 

There have been a few guys banged up on the line (notably seniors Jacob Rogers, Lenny Vandermade and Norm Katnik) but luckily to this point none of the injuries appears to be serious.  Vandermade was back practicing at the scrimmage on Saturday and if we can get Rogers and Katnik back this week they should be able to get plenty of work for Auburn.  Winston Justice has picked up right where he left off last season and he looks great.  Fred Matua seems to have solidified the right guard spot.  John Drake could end up filling the absence of Eric Torres for the time being as a key reserve who can play multiple spots.  So far John has seen the majority of his action at left guard in place of Vandermade and he's looked physical with better movement than most people would think for a man his size.  Kyle Williams is ready to contribute this year and Nate Steinbacher is an experienced guy at tackle.  Among the freshmen, Ryan Kalil has earned the most notice so far but Sam Baker and Drew Radovich have looked good as well.  Fili Moala was moved to offensive tackle last week.

 

DL

 

With Shaun Cody back the d-line is whole again and ready to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.  Shaun appears to be moving well and showing very few lingering effects from his injury last year.  Kenechi Udeze is dominant, there is no other way to describe it.  Omar Nazel is performing like a senior leader and doing a great job of holding off a talented Frostee Rucker behind him.  Frostee has a bright future but Omar is playing so well that Frostee will probably have to be content with a reserve role this season.  Mike Patterson looks as good as ever in the middle.  We've also got impressive depth on the line, particularly with the young players coming up.  Frostee is only a sophomore and LaJuan Ramsey is another 2nd year player who is ready to go.  LaJuan is a physical guy who is working hard.  Travis Tofi has a quick first step off the ball.  Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson and Chris Barrett have shown the most among the freshmen.

 

LB

 

One of the major question marks heading into camp was at middle linebacker and so far Lofa Tatupu looks more than ready to accept the role.  Lofa has good instincts and always seems to be around the ball.  Oscar Lua has put in part-time duty as he returns from a knee injury and he's shown enough to let us know that he'll be fine once he's healthy enough to be out there on a regular basis.  Danny Urquhart is a dependable option if needed.  Tatupu will benefit from two experienced guys on either side of him with Matt Grootegoed and Melvin Simmons.  Both players are having great camps.  Dallas Sartz also is making a strong case to get him on the field any way we can and he should be a key reserve and special teams performer.  Bobby Otani has been healthy enough to be the top back-up to Simmons while Thomas Williams is a freshman who is physically ready to go right now. 

 

DB

 

The battle for the corner spots has been extremely competitive.  Marcell Allmond is all but guaranteed to be the starter on one side and he just looks very comfortable and smooth out there right now.  He's had some good battles with Mike Williams that will prepare him well for the big receivers he will face this year.  On the other side, Kevin Arbet and Will Poole are fighting it out with both players making a strong case to be the guy.  Regardless of who starts we will see a rotation that will also include Ronald Nunn and Will Buchanan.  John Walker is going to be a contributor at some point in the near future.  Darnell Bing has been held out of a few practices but there's no doubt about what he can do.  He's set as the starter at strong safety with Mike Ross providing a terrific option in reserve.  Mike continues to throw his body around in impressive fashion on the football field.  Jason Leach has also missed some time but is back now and should be fine for Auburn.  Desmond Reed has provided some big plays.  Ryan and Brandon Ting will contribute primarily on special teams this season while Greg Farr and Chris Bocage are two walk-ons who could see time as well.

 

Special teams

 

Ryan Kileen faced a brief challenge for his job from walk-on Mario Danelo but Pete Carroll made the announcement after the Saturday scrimmage that Kileen would be the guy against Auburn.  Ryan has only had the benefit of working with new special teams coach Dennis Slutak for a few weeks now and hopefully that extra attention during practice will pay off in the games.  Tom Malone looks even better than last year.  We should have a lot of weapons in the return game as Bush, Arbet, Greig Carlson, Allmond, Dennis and Bing are all in the mix.   


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