Emerging Stars

With San Diego Chargers camp well underway at the Home Depot Center in Carson, it is time to reflect on the best of camp thus far and more importantly the emerging stars of tomorrow as players have upped the ante from spring drills. Today one faltered, but the outlook in the long run still looks good.

The Risers

A lot of stock is put into the players that are out of the gate early. As in being the first on the field to get those extra few precious minutes and making the most of their opportunities once practice starts. Excluding the veterans at this time we look at the rookies and undrafted free agents as so little is known about some of them.

The first mountain of a man who has taken the coaching of Hudson Houck to heart is Phil Bogle. Back in spring drills Coach Houck singled out Bogle more than any other lineman. Did he see something special in him? Regardless of that answer it has proven to be true. Bogle has gone from wandering aimlessly and not sliding off initial blocks to pick up blitzer, to hammering people at the point of attack and looking for more. The man who was slated to go to Syracuse before ending up in New Haven has seen his stock rise more than anyone. From third string to work with the first team he has seen it all and benefited from reps against varying degrees of competition.

Tall receivers are coveted more and more in the NFL. Look no further than the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers who used the services of two receivers who were over 6'4"to pound opposing defensive backs into the fine art of ladder climbing, something that makes defenses take chances and when they fail, big plays are produced. Kassim Osgood has taken his baby walk from spring and turned it into a marathon run where he is determined to be the winner. Osgood lacked concentration, dropped balls consistently and simply looked overwhelmed. And this was before contact was even initiated!! Today out in the afternoon practice was not his day however. He dropped two very easy catches and that was noticed by the coaches as well as the fans.

One day does not make a team.

Today aside, Osgood has become a "go to" guy. He is constantly around the ball making plays and instead of leaving his feet on most catches he stays grounded, going up only when he is shielding the defender away with his body. Training camp has become his stomping grounds as he is creating separation and getting plenty of throws come his way because of it. Osgood has made the fight for five his to lose.

Coming from a National Championship team to the NFL should not have been this difficult. The problem is, it was difficult for Matt Wilhelm. He struggled during the spring with recognition and was slow to react. As a linebacker, the odds are it was a product of learning the system and playbook. Now Wilhelm has surpassed the stagnant Carlos Polk and is primed to battle Zeke Moreno for the middle linebacker spot. He has progressed that much.

Always the hustler, Wilhelm is now shedding blocks where before he was getting caught in them. His playmaking ability is evident, and if not for the stellar play of Moreno, Wilhelm would have already pulled a Ben Leber.

As one of the leaders of the defense Hanik Milligan must not only play his position well but also know where his cornerbacks will be in coverage. It is his job to be the deep man back over top of his cornerbacks and react to the way they play and be a stopgap should a receiver get past the corners. In May, Milligan did not fully grasp his position and was biting a little too often on play fakes. The result left him scrambling to get into position to help cover a receiver. The receiver in turn often made the reception.

Fast forward to today and Milligan is reading and anticipating the action. When the ball is in flight towards a receiver, Milligan is quickly closing in and even if he does not make a play on the ball, he is poised for the tackle.

The progress of these four men, more than any other has been noticeable. It is hard to imagine a Chargers team without them, but that is still why they play the games.

Honorable mention:

Terry Charles has taken a more physical approach to his game and is starting to use the size that got him drafted in the fifth round last season.

Today's Notes:

No Sump on kickoff returns. While it is likely the coaching staff is rotating players around, it was worth mentioning that Brian Sump was not in on the drills. Sump did see action on punt returns, looking like he was born for the role, but today was an effort to see what Tim Dwight, Drayton Florence, Jesse Chatman, Nick Maddox, and Reche Caldwell could do. Florence has impressed in this role as he takes a full head of steam and is in a full run when he catches the ball.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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