Once the individual drills came to an end, the offense had a red hot start in the wide receiver/defensive back 1v1 period. They dominated the first half of the period, which is all routes in the open field. Every receiver was running great routes and seemed to be getting open at will, while the quarterbacks were throwing pass after pass with pinpoint accuracy. One player who looked fantastic during this period (and all day) was X receiver Tavares Martin. Everyone was getting open, but Martin was turning his defenders around and creating huge amounts of separation on a variety of different routes.
The second half of the drill, which consist of routes near the goal line, was a much different story as the defensive backs won the majority of the reps. Cornerback Darrien Molton, in particular, did a nice job of consistently sticking with his man. The defense was great in this part of the field, but that did not stop H receiver Kainoa Wilson from making an amazing diving catch in the corner of the end zone, a play that caught the attention of inside receivers coach JaMarcus Sheppard.
The 7v7 period was all about the offense. Quarterback Luke Falk had 15 plays in his first round of reps in this drill, and on those plays, he was a perfect 15-of-15 passing. He completed balls to seven different receivers during this period, and one of the completions was a beautifully thrown 40-yard seam route to H receiver Kyle Sweet for a touchdown.
Quarterback Peyton Bender took second team reps in this drill, and his first round of reps were as impressive as Falk’s. He was 12-of-13 passing, and his only incompletion was on a dropped pass by a receiver. Bender had one touchdown pass of 40 yards when he hit Martin on a 15-yard dig route, and the speedy receiver took it the rest of the way. While Martin made a great play after the catch and it may seem that he did the majority of the work on the score, if Bender does not perfectly place the ball where he can catch it in stride then there would have been no touchdown on the play. Bender’s accuracy continues to be one of the strongest parts of his game.
The defense did a little better during the second round of 7v7 reps as they finally got an incompletion out of Falk, and linebacker Aaron Porter intercepted a pass from Bender, but the offense was still the dominant group of the period.
The 11v11 period was very competitive, but the most dominant group of the drill was the defensive line. On the first snap, Tyler Hilinski, the second team quarterback of the drill, was sacked by defensive lineman Ngalu Tapa. This was the first of five sacks on Hilinski in the period. Defensive end Nick Begg saw some reps with the 2s during this drill for the first time this spring, and helped make a stop in the backfield on the second play.
After a completion over the middle to Sweet, the defense stayed hot as Rush lineman Dylan Hanser had a sack, and defensive lineman Robert Barber moved his big body out to the numbers to make a tackle on a receiver screen in the backfield. Y receiver River Cracraft had a catch and run of 20 yards after Hilinski hit him over the middle, a play that momentarily got some momentum back for the offense.
The momentum did not last long as defensive lineman Logan Tago sacked Hilinski, and on the next play safety Jalen Thompson made an excellent break during an out route by Kyrin Priester and nearly came down with an interception. A few plays later, linebacker Nate DeRider did not let his opportunity for an interception get away as he made an excellent fingertip grab of a Hilinski pass over the middle.
The defense was dominant over the second team offense until Cracraft caught a 5-yard option route, and took it 30 yards for a touchdown. Cracraft continues to show his much improved ability to gain yards after the catch this spring.
This gained some momentum back for the offense and helped it finish the drive on a high note, scoring on rushes by running back Jamal Morrow and receiver John Thompson, who came in motion to get a quick handoff.
Falk and the first team offense tried to get a little tricky with a reverse on their first play from scrimmage, but senior nickel back Parker Henry sniffed out the gadget play and made a stop in the backfield.
The offense got back to the basics as Falk completed his next several passes, including an out route to H receiver Robert Lewis, who made an outstanding sideline catch while dragging his toes in bounds, and a screen to Gabe Marks that looked like a replay of his touchdown in Tucson last year.
The defense battled back as Hanser came up with his third sack of the period, and Peyton Pelluer flew out to the flat to make a play on a running back screen. These two guys have made big plays all spring and are emerging as leaders for the Cougar defense.
Linebacker Frankie Luvu also made a big stop in the backfield on a running back handoff. This guy has really taken off in the last few practices and brings a special kind of athleticism to the linebacker position. Luvu has an extremely high ceiling and will be exciting to watch as he gets closer to his potential.
When down in the red zone, the offense came up with two touchdowns. Another handoff to Morrow, and an excellent throw and catch on a 5-yard out route by Lewis.
The day ended with another excellent play by Henry. It looked as Lewis was open for another touchdown catch, so Falk fired it in his direction, but Henry came from nowhere to make a diving deflection and win the last rep for the defense.
Whether it was the defense getting sacks, Falk completing 15 in a row or any other of the impressive feats that were accomplished today, the Cougs showed that they have talent all over the field as they put together a very impressive ninth practice of spring ball.
- Isaac Dotson, Sulimon Hameed and C.J. Dimry were inactive today.
- John Thompson took reps at Z today.
- Nick Begg took reps with the 2s today.