“So far so good," he said. "I think we’ve worked hard. This has been a very competitive camp. Every day, the Zs have a competition to see who stays up on the varsity field, the Xs have been working their butt off, so it’s been a very competitive, productive camp.”
Simmons said the biggest challenge at this point is ensuring the receivers carry over the work they have done in practice to game-time situations. There was certainly no shortage of showing off Tuesday. Kristoff Williams, who is manning the Z position, made a few difficult catches look easy, flying in the air and diving on the ground to corral the ball thrown his way.
Williams has been dominating since his move to the outside receiver role, and he is a big part of the three-way race for the starting Z receiver spot once game day arrives (Isiah Myers, Gabe Marks.)
“He (Kristoff) did really well and excelled out there in the spring,” coach Mike Leach said about moving Williams to the outside. “He’s a big target, and River Cracraft was doing really well on the inside, and we knew Robert Lewis (pictured) was emerging. You try to spread your eight guys the best you can, and Kristoff has the ability to do either one, but he’s been playing pretty good.”
At this point, Simmons said nothing is set as far as selecting starters, and that likely will be a decision made at the last possible moment. Until then, each individual receiver will need to continue battling for playing time. Simmons also was reluctant to say who has put on the best show in camp.
“That’s really hard for me to say because it’s been a closely contested competition with all of those guys,” Simmons said. “There’s been some things that Isiah (Myers) has done that has been phenomenal, there’s been some things that Vince and Dom have done that’s been phenomenal, and Kristoff with the physical play that he had.”
Williams caught the final touchdown pass of the day when the team was working on overtime rules at the end of practice. He rose up in the back of the end zone to catch the ball thrown by backup quarterback Luke Falk against the first-team defense. Williams made a couple of tough receptions with Connor Halliday at the helm of the offense, as well.
Halliday also found Vince Mayle for a long gain that likely would have turned into a touchdown if Mayle was allowed to keep running and break tackles en route to the end zone. That was against the second team, and then later in the period, Halliday hooked up with Mayle again for a touchdown in the red zone against the first-team defense. River Cracraft caught a touchdown pass from Halliday against the second team, as well.
EVEN THOUGH IT seemed like the defensive backs, Simmons said the group of guys in that unit are providing a solid test for the receivers in camp.
“I feel like our secondary has played very well,” Simmons said. “They’re very competitive. They don’t take a backseat to us. They’re getting up in is, and they’re challenging us every day, which has made us better.”
In fact, the second-team defense was able to intercept a pass during the 11-on-11 session, and it took teamwork to pull it off. Falk threw a pass and Ivan McLennan was the first player to touch it, tipping it in the air. Then Chester Sua was right next to him on the coverage, and he was able to record the interception.
The offense received another boost today, and this time it was from the running game. After a short drought of long runs, Gerard Wicks was perhaps able to break open the floodgates for more to come. Against the second-team defense, Wicks broke through the hole and accelerated downfield for a touchdown run that was longer than 50 yards. Wicks has been competing for a job with fellow running backs Theron West and Jamal Morrow.
“We come out here every day and push each other, no matter what, who goes in first team or second team,” Wicks said. “We’re all a family so we come out here every day and compete against each other.”
Wicks also might be thanking the outside receivers on a few plays this year as Simmons said there are a couple of his players who are exceptional at blocking.
“Vince is, with his size and strength, very dominating,” Simmons said. “I would say Dom Williams has learned how to use his leverage. You get tied up in those long arms and it’s going to take you a couple of seconds to get off of him, and by then, the ball carrier is by you.”
Wicks said he has been coming out to practice early to catch tennis balls in order to increase his proficiency at receiving the ball, in the backfield on screen plays, or in the middle of the field.
The winner of the battle between the running backs remains open as well, but Leach has said that if the season were to begin now, West and Morrow would be the starters. He did add Tuesday that some of the young guys continue to push the older ones on the roster.
Isaac Dotson, Gabe Marks, Cody O’Connell and Brett Bartolone were limited today in practice.
Primarily taking reps with the 1s
QB: Connor Halliday
RB: Theron West, Jamal Morrow
X: Vince Mayle
Y: River Cracraft
H: Calvin Green
Z: Kristoff Williams
LT: Joe Dahl
LG: Gunnar Eklund
C: Riley Sorenson
RG: Eduardo Middleton
RT: Cole Madison
E: Destiny Vaeao
NT: Kalafitoni Pole
T: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Kache Palacio
WILL: Tana Pritchard
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
CB: Daquawn Brown
CB: Tracy Clark
FS: Taylor Taliulu
SS: Darius Lemora
Primarily taking reps with the 2s OFFENSE
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Gerard Wicks, Teondray Caldwell
X: Drew Loftus
Y: Robert Lewis
H: Rickey Galvin
Z: Isiah Myers
LT: Devonte McClain
LG: Sean Krepsz
C: Sam Flor
RG: Jacob Tweten, B.J. Salmonson
RT: Jacob Seydel
E: Darryl Paulo
NT: Robert Barber
T: Daniel Ekuale
BUCK: Ivan McLennan
WILL: Chester Sua
SAM: Mitchell Peterson
MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
CB: Kevin Griffin
CB: Patrick Porter
FS: David Bucannon
SS: Beau Glover