The practiced got started with a very impressive performance by punter Tom Malone during a special teams drill as a crowd of boosters standing on the sideline was amazed at the hangtime and distance on his kicks. Make no mistake about it, Malone is the real deal and when I spoke with him after practice he said he is still adjusting to directional kicking but he felt that today was a pretty good day. You don't often see fans laughing in amazement when watching a punter but that is exactly what was happening today on some of his monster kicks.
A drill featured the RB's going against the LB's in both pass protection and routes out of the backfield. Melvin Simmons beat Darryl Poston bad on one play and then Brandon Hancock looked good going against Lee Webb. Chad Pierson put a nice block on Aaron Graham and then Justin Fargas caught a pass and was tackled hard by Melvin Simmons which caused a fumble. Kennedy Pola came flying from behind the play to let Justin know that fumbling the football was unacceptable and there was no doubt from Pola's words that he was not pleased that the ball was on the ground.
The team moved to Brian Kennedy Field for a run drill that began with Fargas moving the pile forward two yards after being stopped at the line by Shaun Cody. Graham put a nice hit on Poston and on the next play Troy Polamalu came on a blitz and blew right through a block attempt by Hancock to nail Sultan McCullough for a 3 yard loss. Norm Katnik is at 278 lbs and has played well so far this spring, the next play was a run behind him by Poston that went for 12 yards. Melvin Simmons put a big hit on McCullough for no gain and then Lee Webb stopped Poston for a 2 yard loss.
A 7 on 7 drill took place on Howard Jones Field with Carson Palmer stepping back on the first play and firing a strike deep down the middle to Doyal Butler who made a wonderful fingertip catch. Carson then hit Mattos on a deep pattern and the Matt Leinart tried to go to Jason Mitchell but the ball was dropped. Leinart went to Darryl Poston coming out of the backfield but Miguel Fletcher made a nice play to bat the ball away and it was almost picked by Simmons. About this time a fire broke out on the roof of the nearby Seeley G. Mudd building but it caused nothing more than a minor distraction for the team. Matt Cassel threw a beautiful fade pass to William Buchanan and William has shown the ability to get off the line as well as any receiver we have.
The highlight of the day was an 11 on 11 scrimmage to close the practice which featured several good plays. Carson dropped back and threw a pass that was a little high but Buchanan used all of his lanky frame to go up and make a terrific catch. Billy Hart avoided the rush and scrambled nicely to his right to pick up 10 yards before taking a nice hit from John Walker. Hart then went over the middle to Gregg Guenther who made a good grab as he put together one of the best practices we have seen from him. Fargas then broke off one of the prettiest runs we've seen on the practice field in a while as he ran right and exploded through a small hole, got outside and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown. Austin Jackson knocked down a Cassel pass at the line of scrimmage before Sultan took a handoff and tried to go right but there was no hole so he bounced to the left for a 9 yard gain. Nazel and Simmons combined to put a major lick on Fargas for no gain but Justin responded on the next play by getting in the open field and putting a juke move on DeShaun Hill that left the safety grasping for a whole lot of air. Poston got through the line of scrimmage but John Walker came up from his free safety spot and put on the lick ofthe day which drew oohs and aahs from his teammates. To his credit, Poston came right back with a nifty run up the middle for a 10 yard gain. Leinart then hit Guenther over the middle for a 20 yard TD. Carson tried to hit Fargas with a screen but Shaun Cody, who is up to 275 lbs, showed tremendous vertical to get up extremely high and bat the ball down. The DL continued their fine play as Omar Nazel, who is up to 240 lbs and is starting to play very well, trapped Fargas behind the line and no matter how many moves Justin tried to put on Nazel stayed with him and forced the loss.
Among the bystanders watching practice were Fred Matua, Manuel Wright (who is down to 270 lbs), Hershel Dennis, Winston Justice, LB Poly soph WR Derrick Jones, LaJuan Ramsey, Ronnie Nunn, Van Brown, Justin Wyatt, Dallas Sartz, Blair Jones and former Trojan DB Martin French. Devin Pitts spent the entire day running up and down the sidelines as punishment.
Spring Ball Day 3
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