Saturday Practice Report

The first two-a-day practice session was split between the Stadium and grass practice fields, and yielded mixed results.

The morning session which began in heavy fog but ended with beautiful conditions, was conducted in "shells" or shoulderpads and shorts. Offensively, two tight end sets were the focus of much of the early work, both in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

Special teams had their heaviest day of work thus far, as kickoff, kickoff return field goal and punt units were all put through their paces. The punt team was broken down into its basics as protection was worked on first individually, then groups of two and three blockers and finally the entire team. Also in use during individual drills were sets of rubber strips, which helped each blocker with his alignment and footwork in the overall punt protection scheme. Wide receivers coach Steve Bird oversaw this session, while tight ends coach Herb Hand ran the placekicking unit.

Transfer Phil Brady again worked with the first punt team, and appears to have a slight edge over Eric Daugherty, mostly due to consistency. Daugherty can boom the ball, but Brady, at the moment, is more consistent, having fewer poor kicks.

The depelted wide receiver coprs, still missing Tito Gonzales, Miquelle Henderson, Eddie Jackson, Dorrell Jalloh and Milo Austin, worked on ball security during individual drills. Using a jugs gun, each receiver caught the ball and worked on seeing it all the way into the hands before securing it away against the body. Bird reinforced that work later during skeleton drills as he repeatedly reminded receivers to secure the ball as they moved upfield after receptions.

Rayshawn Bolden and Brandon Myles were impressive during the morning session, getting open and making several excellent grabs. Chris Henry, who has been slowed by a virus, returned to action and picked right up where he left off, making several catches duing skeleton and scrimmage work.

Defensively, Davanzo Tate made a sharp break on the ball for an interception during two-minute drill work, and Scott Gyorko pounced on a fumble. That recovery was a portent of things to come in the afternoon, when several fumbles and dropped passes drew the ire of head coach Rich Rodriguez.

While warmer, the afternoon full-pad session was still not the weather hoped for by Rodriguez, and didn't seem to stress the players a great deal, although the practice was lengthy and included a good deal of hard hitting. The tone was agin set by a grinding inside running session, with the offensive and defensive lines butting heads in a limited space. Jason Colson seemed to be a big more aggressive than he had been in past sessions, and freshman Alphonso Gross also ran hard.

The units then split up with the skill positions running full skeleton passing, while the lines remained behind for one-on-one pass rush and protection work. Some titanic battles, including Tim Brown vs. Joe Sykes, and Jeff Berk vs. Ernest Hunter, would be worth the price of a game ticket to watch by themselves.

Bryan Wright and Mike Watson returned to action for the afternoon's session, but Wright was again shaken up after a nice run during the session-concluding 11 on 11 practice. That series of plays concentrated heavily on third down plays of all length, including a long sequence of red zone work.

Vince Beamer, who had a solid morning session, was again sidelined halfway through the afternoon, presumably by the same abdominal ailment that has plagued him throughout fall camp. Beamer returned to the field late in the afternoon, but was obviously ailing as he jogged around the field.

Rasheed Marshall seems to have improved his short and medium-range accuracy, and although Rodriguez notes that the absence of so many receivers has hurt him, does agree that Marshall has been throwing the ball more consistently. He reamins worried, however, that the lack of reps Marshall is getting with some of his primary targets, such as Jackson and Henderson, will hinder him once the season starts.

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