I made it a point to make it to Saturday's practice for two reasons: 1) it was football and 2) there was finally 'semi-live' hitting and tackling.
Let's lay down the scene:
Photo STOLEN via i238.photobucket.com
Nice weather, not too hot, around 300 people were there.
The majority of the practice time was either skeleton drills (7v.7) or full-team plays (11v.11). I think they ran about 75 plays of 11 vs. 11, but they split it up into 3 different scenarios, and spent about the same amount of time on each of them:
- 1st and 10-they just ran plays from 1st and 10, with the ball always returned to the original spot. I was standing on the field, about 15-20 yards behind and to the right of the Right Tackle (more on this later).
- 3rd and long-same thing, same vantage point.
- Red Zone-they advanced the ball when yardage was gained, but didn't seem to keep track of downs. ("Practice. We talkin' 'bout practice.") I moved to the endzone to watch this part and got to see the Move of the Day, brought to you by Jacquizz Rodgers, straight-on (more on this later).
- They ran skeleton drills of each scenario first, then added in the linemen and did it with the full-team. (Since I don't take any notes, there may be some fuzziness in this report about whether a play was in skeleton or full team.) Like OSU always does in Spring and Fall camp--until they decide who's on the scout team and have them run opposing teams' plays--it was First Offense vs. First Defense and 2nd Offense vs. 2nd Defense, etc.
Here are my impressions:
- The most important-to-tell you impression is that the pass coverage was very good yesterday on all levels of the depth chart. I would have to say that we're in good shape with the defensive secondary for many years to come. A lot of people say that Keenan Lewis, Brandon Hughes, and Tim Clark are the 3 best cornerbacks in the conference, but there's also about 2-3 guys behind them who could pinch hit for a series in league games. Cornerback and safety are the deepest part of this year's team. The guys lower down the depth chart are developing into the kind of corners that Banker's defense requires--guys who can cover one-on-one with no safety help. At this point, I thinkTim Clark , James Dockery, Brandon Hardin, David Ross are nearly equal to where Lewis & Hughes were back when they were forced into starting roles 3 years ago (Clark is past them at that point, and he could start on almost any Pac-10 team not named OSU). Give 'em another year in the system, and they'll be finished products.
EXCITING DEVELOPMENT: there were 2 different nickel packages in the 3rd and long portion of the practice. There were many differences between the two packages, but I'm not going to say anything else besides this: one had Tim Clark, the other had....Cameron Collins. If there is a God in Heaven, the defensive coaching staff is reading this, and they'll go along with my idea to run the Cameron Collins Nickel Package as the base defense against every 'Shotgun Wishbone' offense we face this year (i.e. Penn State, and the red-ribbon team from this state that finished 5th in the Pac-10 last year). Too much defensive speed on the field for any offense to contend with in that package.
Cameron Collins is my bet as the safety opposite Greg Laybourn for the Stanford game, they used him a LOT. There's no doubt that he flies to the ball and is physically ready. He had an interception--I believe it was with the 2nd team defense, against Justin Engstrom in 11v.11.
- Justin Engstrom was running the 2nd team offense--Sean Canfield was in street clothes--Ryan Katz (best arm on the team, besides a healthy Sean Canfield) is still on the redshirt train, apparently. Justin looked fine against the 2nd team defense, except for that one pick. He made some passes to Damola Adeniji that were decent, but I don't remember anything else that stood out. Between Skeleton and Team, he ran about 50-75 plays and only threw one pick--I'll take that from any first string QB, let alone the backup in his first week as the 2nd string guy.
Canfield? I'm starting to worry. He's sore for more days than he's throwing.
LYLE MOEVAO keeps looking more and more like a quarterback. His decisions in the redzone portion of the drill were impressive; he's starting to make good plays on he tucked it down to run a couple times and even threw away 2 passes when nobody was open. He's so much better than last fall. His only interception came on a great play by Keenan Lewis: Moevao had Stroughter streaking down the right sideline with Lewis in single-coverage, about a step behind. Moevao laid it in front of Sammie (so Stroughter could catch it in stride), but by the time the ball was there, Keenan had caught up and stuck his right shoulder in front of Sammie's left shoulder. Keenan had the inside position on the path that would give him the catch and was able to haul it in over his own left shoulder while keeping Sammie away with his rear end and right side of his body in the way. It was an acceptable interception--you always bet on Sammie Stroughter making the play in single-coverage with one step on his guy. In a game, it would have worked out to be just like a punt.
Sammie Stroughter! Sammie also had about a 60-70 yard touchdown catch. From what I remember, it was a play-action pass. Sammie's guy left him when he bit on the fake. It's never a good idea to abandon an All-American receiver in the passing pattern, but I bit on the run fake, too!! I could SWEAR that Rodgers had the ball in his belly--I SAW IT THERE!! Anyway, Sammie lined up on the left side, the run fake was towards the right, and Lyle rolled back out to the left (which is kind of weird for a righty, must be a Sean Canfield play? However, that's what he would do on a handoff that went to the right. MIKE RILEY = CRAZY LIKE FOX). Sammie ran a slant to about 5-15 yards (hard to tell from where I was standing) in front of the left tackle's original position, and then waited for the ball since there wasn't a lot of defenders who didn't bite on the run play. Lyle found him, and Sammie took off diagonally for the left corner of the goal. Nobody caught him, and he finished it off with a flip into the end zone. That's a Personal Foul in this conference, unless you're Reggie Bush.
Al Afalava crumpled a tight end (Camp, I think?). Lyle threaded it into a crowd, and as soon as the tight end turned around to face upfield--CRUNCH--they both hit each other standing straight up and the tight end fell onto his back. Camp didn't have time to pucker up for it, but still held onto the ball.
RIGHT TACKLE: Well......everyone had a chance, at least. TIMI OSHINOWO even got time with the 1st team--I don't think I've EVER seen that. (Further, I didn't think I would ever see that until 2009 or 2010.) He's decent in run blocking, but not aggressive enough in pass blocking--he needs to make the defensive end worry about how HE is going to block him, instead of worrying about what the defensive end is going to do--easier said than done, when it's Victor Butler--but he didn't do too bad. Mike Remmers seemed to get the most reps with the first team, there was also another player who got reps there, but I forget who (maybe McNeil?). This position is my #1 biggest question mark, but I am more concerned with the effectiveness of the punter spot--we can run to the left and roll out to the left, and stick a tight end in there to help, but we probably can't avoid punting the ball.
Alex Linnenkohl and somebody named Johnson were the starting centers. They seemed to do fine, Johnson had one low shotgun snap to Engstrom, but Engstrom recovered and made a good play.
- Ben Terry had the best pass rush play of the day. He was playing against the left tackle and was getting nowhere going outside on one down, so he changed it up by deciding to double back and try to run straight up the middle between the defensive tackles. He got there in a hurry, and forced a bad throw. He might have nailed the passer in a real game. I don't know if that was a planned stunt or not, but it was cool. The kid has serious closing speed.
- #1 most interesting development: Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to have the majority of the snaps with the first team offense. He also ran some with the 2nd team; not bad for his 9th practice. I think this was mostly to give Jacquizz a chance to work with the first team offensive line, and Lyle, since McCants has had a full spring to run with the first team. They're trying to get Jz. up to speed as quickly as possible, and the only way to do that is to move him to the front of the line for reps. Jacquizz had the Move of the Day in the redzone team drill. I believe he was running with the 2nd team offense, against the 2nd team defense (that's how I remember it, at least). A hole opened up in the left side of the line and Jacquizz took the ball towards the linebacker who was intending to close the hole. It happened in pieces: Jacquizz skipped hard to the left, squatted on his left foot, dipped his shoulders to the right-then-left, and I got the impression that he could have gone either way--but chose to break right based on the linebackers momentum--and was full speed again in less than two steps. It all happened faster than you could say, "600 eyebrows raised as one." The linebacker was frozen--he might still be there.
- I don't see Jacquizz running with the First Team as a demotion for RYAN McCANTSTOPHIM or Jeremy Francis. McCants might have had a better day running the ball. I couldn't see it from my vantage points, but he was moving the pile more than Rodgers, and it took two guys to bring him down almost every time he touched the ball.
- The defense was swarming. There was only 2 or 3 passes that went for more than 10 yards, and I don't think there were any running plays that went more than 10 yards. I have to agree with everyone who says that the 2008 defense is faster than the 2007 defense, especially in the middle of the field: Paea, Booth(who didn't play yesterday), Cornell, Afalava (he obviously played last year, but he's lost weight and is faster now) are all faster than their departed counterparts. Kristick isn't as fast as Doggett, BUT Pankey is--and all three new linebackers are faster than Darlin and Larocque (but don't tell them I said that).
Notable things: Marcus Henderson, Jeremy Perry, Pernell Booth, Sean Canfield, Wilder McAndrews didn't play due to various owies/maladies.
Keynan Parker has changed from wide receiver to cornerback. Umm...geez...I don't know how I feel about this (Rodney Landingham, minus the transfer to UN-Reno and the bank robbery?). On the one hand, I didn't think he was so great in his first week as a receiver (he was a running back in high school), but...there's also 3 other very good true freshmen receivers and zero cornerbacks. I just hope that they use him for the flysweep eventually. His wheels are perfect for that play. Also, I will predict that Keynan Parker and James Dockery both moving to cornerback so recently will cause someone else to change to another position eventually. Maybe a corner will move to safety and/or a safety to linebacker? Just a feeling I have.
I'm sure I forgot some things. If you have any questions, or would like clarification, please leave them in the comments.