Monday practice report

The Trojans got in one of the most intense Monday practices of the season this afternoon on Cromwell Field.

The defensive line is really starting to get after things during their drills early on as the coaches are letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that the lack of a pass rush won't be tolerated much longer. Bruises were left on each one of the bags as the big linemen punched their way through, with great effort shown especially by Jeff Schweiger and Avarell Spicer. The rest of the linemen performed exceptionally as well, but those two really stood out today for their effort.

The team got to it pretty quickly after the initial drills, with John David Booty going against the linebackers and secondary in a skeleton passing drill. Booty completed just about all of his passes against both the first and second teams, finding Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith over the middle on post patterns, and checking down nicely to Smith again on a crossing route.

During scout team drills, the defense worked against the scout team offense, led by Stafon Johnson at tailback and David Ausberry at wide receiver. Johnson started off slowly, but really turned things around in both the effort and results department as practice wore on. Meanwhile, Ausberry had another wonderful catch as he one-handed a ball that sailed over a leaping Taylor Mays deep down the middle of the field.

Two scrimmages took place to end the practice, as the first-team offense worked against the first-team defense while the scout teams (with some additional players) went against each other at the other end.

With Chauncey Washington missing the practice and CJ Gable working with a trainer on the sideline, Emmanuel Moody took just about every handoff for the first-team offense and looked very good. He is definitely seeing and hitting holes quicker at this point and is securing the ball nicely.

During the first couple of practices, when Moody broke long runs, veterans such as Dallas Sartz would run him down far behind the play just to knock the ball out of his hands. Today, Sartz tried that and Moody hung on with no problem. It helps when Moody breaks through the first line of defense and is greeted by several coaches constantly reminding him to carry the ball high and tight.

One of the most promising plays of practices occured when Booty hit Jarrett on a post pattern in front of Cary Harris. Booty didn't exactly have a clear throwing lane and he put the ball where Jarrett had to outmuscle Harris for the spot and go up strong for the ball. It's the kind of catch we've come to expect from Jarrett, but haven't seen all that much this season.

After that, the defense stepped up on back to back plays, with Terrell Thomas stepping in front of Jarrett to knock down a pass and Cary Harris dropping deep down the sideline to break up a corner route to Travon Patterson. The defensive back coaches have been stressing catching the ball for the past two weeks and the results haven't been there yet. Coach Seto also spent a lot of time today at practice focusing on Mozique McCurtis and Shareece Wright. With Kevin Thomas going down, one of those two needs to step up and will play a significant role in the nickel package. Right now, it looks to be McCurtis.

The final two plays of the first-team practice were thrown to Fred Davis. The first one was overthrown and intercepted by Taylor Mays, but the second was caught by Davis on a nice connection down the middle.

The scout-team scrimmage ended a play later with Michael McDonald connecting with Vidal Hazelton on a nice fade route that was thrown at Hazelton's outside shoulder in the corner of the endzone. It was nice to see Hazelton finally get one in practice, after he spent much of the day trying to chase down deep passes along the sideline.

Occasionally at the conclusion of practice, several players will stay late with coaches or other players to get in some extra work. But the amount of guys who stayed late today was more than had stayed late all season. Just about every defender stayed, with the defensive line going through some extra drills, the linebackers running sprints and the defensive backs working on coverage. The wide receivers stayed late (as they almost always do) and Fred Davis got in some time running routes with John David Booty throwing to him.

Overall, it certainly seems that the Trojans are ready for the second half of their season.


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