Anyone who took in practice on Tuesday was sure to see one thing, a football dozens of feet in the air and landing dozens of yards down field. That would be thanks to senior punter Adam Anderson during special teams drills. Anderson, continuing his form of last season, knocked out several punts at over 50 yards from scrimmage with his average punt going 45-50 yards. Last season Anderson averaged just over 43 yards per punt, a team record.
Who Anderson was punting to was just as exciting to watch. Osborn Curtis, a wide receiver, returned several punts making the defense work hard to catch up to him in non-contact drills. Also returning punts was freshman running back Lawrence Cannon who showed great lateral motion and was able to break free for a few long returns.
The battle for starting quarterback continues to be tight as both Robbie Haas and Oseloka Keys had solid practice sessions. Haas showing an accurate throw and Keys showcasing his athletic abilities.
The favorites for the QB job continue to be Blayne Baggett and Ryan Cubit with true freshman Alex Engram close behind, although Haas is playing with the third team right now. Athletically Engram is just as strong, accurate, mobile and confident as any of the other QBs, but whether he gets a chance to play or not may depend on how well he can read defenses in the more complex college game and head coach Gary Darnell's decision on a redshirt year.
At tight end Tony Scheffler and Tyson DeVree are a 1, 2 punch. Both are playing well with Scheffler healed from his season ending injury of last fall against Michigan State, and DeVree having a year under his belt after playing as a true freshman in Scheffler's place. In practice the two rotated with the first team offense with a few plays that featured both of them in the line-up at the same time.
Depth at wide receiver is quite evident with Greg Jennings, Tyron Walker and freshman Brian Jackson playing with the first team. With the second team are Justin LeMay, Joe Chapple and Osborn Curtis. With that depth and skill at wide receiver that leaves Kelly Martin and Antwain Allen who were both highly regarded recruits, stuck on the third team offense despite showing the same level of skill and athleticism as many of the players ahead of them.
One area that has been a concern for the past couple of seasons has been the offensive line. This fall the line will likely return 4 or their 5 starters from a season ago. Kyle Ras is one of those starters and has been having a great spring so far.
The one hole to fill is that of departed center Charles Missant, but freshman gym rat Robbie Krutilla is filling that void nicely. A player that Kyle Ras had singled out last year as having a great work ethic and the talent to be a contributor as early as this coming fall, Krutilla has been working at center this spring with the first team.
One of the jobs of the offensive line will be to open up holes for Phil Reed's replacement at running back. This battle is as tight, if not tighter, then the battle for quarterback. Trovon Riley and Daniel Marks have both spent time with the first team showing great burst speed and also showing good hands on screen passing plays. On third team is Nick Saad who is making a statement for playing time next fall with great runs that, at times, rival Riley and Marks. Lawrence Cannon is currently the #4 running back, however his best shot at playing time this season will likely be if he can crack the line up on kick returns.
On the defensive side of the ball "nasty" Jack Gitler and linebacker Mike Giorgianni have stepped into leadership roles while Josh Behrens is back from injury for his junior season. Paul Tithof continues his outstanding play, as does Scott Robinson. Chad Feldpausch, younger brother of standout safety from the 2003 senior class Jason, has been a standout of his own on punt coverage as well as at safety.
Spring Football Update (3/24/04)
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