Due to injuries, the O-line played without five of its top eight players for the majority of practice -- Derrick Roche, Phil Locker and Riley Fitt-Chappell all sat out. Tyler Hunt saw limited action, and Josh Parrish isn't suiting up this spring to concentrate on the books. As a result, Billy Knotts got some time in at center, and second and third stringers got extended action throughout the day.
Not surprisingly, the defensive line reaped the benefits of the patchwork O-line, dominating the trenches for most of the day. D.D. Acholonu and Fred Shavies registered two sacks apiece, and Isaac Brown, Rien Long and Jeremey Williams added one each. Not only that, but many running backs were stopped for losses or minimal gains.
The D-line also welcomed back senior Tomasi "King" Kongaika, out the past eight months with injuries. Kongaika wasted little time shaking off the rust (and blockers) today. His long snapping was much improved, as well.
DESPITE THE offensive line woes, the top two offensive units did look improved over last week's scrimmage, in which neither could manage a single score. The first offense scored a pair of touchdowns Saturday -- the first a perfectly executed 60-yard screen pass from Jason Gesser to Jermaine Green, and the second a 9-yard pass from Gesser to Curtis Nettles in which Gesser checked out of a running play to throw a perfect strike to Nettles streaking across the endzone.
Kegel threw his first touchdown pass of the spring, a 3-yarder on a fade to Devard Darling. Both quarterbacks looked pretty sharp, as Gesser completed five of 11 pass attempts for 164 yards and the two touchdowns, and Kegel was good on nine of 15 attempts for 101 yards.
Four other quarterbacks -– Chris Hurd, Josh Swogger, Dayton Dennison, and Dan St. Mary -- saw limited action today.
DARLING HAD a long-awaited coming out party Saturday morning. The sophomore transfer from Florida State hauled in four passes for 103 yards and the touchdown, including a 54-yarder from Gesser and a 30+ yarder from Kegel. With his speed, he can run circles around many defensive backs, and it looks like his hands are benefiting from a little extra concentration.
JC transfer Green was perhaps the most impressive offensive player, tallying 138 total yards, including 78 on the ground on 10 carries. Watching him run, it appears that he has only two speeds -- fast and faster. Get him in the open field, and there aren't too many players in the country that could catch him, as evidenced by his 60-yard touchdown catch on a short screen. His only weaknesses right now are learning the offense (something that will happen with more practice) and learning when to make the right cuts against the defense. On several carries, he was stopped for losses when he cut back across the field and ran into defenders.
Trandon Harvey, pushed into starting duties, caught four passes four 53 yards, making several tough grabs. In addition, he caught three touchdown passes in the team's red zone skelly drill before the scrimmage. He got some extra looks Saturday, as starting receivers Jerome Riley, Mike Bush (injury) and Collin Henderson (in Seattle with the baseball team) missed the scrimmage.
Running backs John Tippins (five carries for 55 yards) and Jevon Miller also looked solid. Miller, a freshman, carried seven times for 22 yards -- not a lot, but he showed the coaches he had the ability to hit the hole quickly and make good reads on cutbacks. Although he won't see a lot of playing time in 2002, look for Miller to be making contributions in the future.
The highlight of the day, however, was kicker Drew Dunning, who closed out practice hitting a 60-yard field goal with a breeze at his back. After missing the first two attempts from that distance, Dunning requested one final try, and as the Mom's Weekend crowd cheered, drilled it through the uprights. Dunning also hit from 55 yards and 47 yards twice. He seems to have the perfect mentality for a kicker -- always demanding a shot, even if it's a difficult kick -- not to mention a little cockiness. When Dunning hit the 55-yarder, he didn't even watch it go through the uprights. He merely kicked it, told everybody it was good, turned around and told Price he wanted to try from 60.