Preliminary Spring Ball Review: Day 1

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I have some other commitments tonight so there will be a full report tomorrow but I knew that it would be bush league to keep you hanging out there so here are a few bullet points about the afternoon:

  • We were only allowed to stand in the south end zone so most of the close viewing was the offense particularly the offensive line. The defense was well hidden towards the other side of the field. We were in the bubble, I would say about 25 - 40 people showed up, of course filled with the media folks (Ringo, Adam from Rivals, Dan Johnson, etc)
  • I definitely got stopped by the SID department from taking notes, camera use and phone use. They were really nice about it but rules are rules. We will try to get media passes.
  • Shorts and t-shirts today.
  • Cody Hawkins got most of the first team reps, then it went Tyler Hansen and Matt Ballenger. I thought all looked good at times and a little rusty at times. That should be expected on the first day. No cameras on the helmets, just tape. It is hard not to like Hawkins for his energy, excitement and leadership. Every drill he was the first one there and at the end of the practice, regardless of position, he was the first one to finish conditioning drills. He just has fun and loves to play. I thought Hansen was the most athletic looking. Good arm, tight spiral. All three will improve, it is hard on day one. Ballenger and Hansen had towels under their armpits most of the day during throwing drills. They must want them to stay more compact in their motion. I like Hansen's ease of motion much more than Hawkins right now but nothing will be learned until the scrimmages. In 7-on-7 drills, the defense dominated, often forcing the quarterback to dump the ball underneath or run. From what I saw, I thought the back seven on defense look solid and athletic.
  • Quote of the day was when EVERYONE (QB's included) on the team was doing form tackling drills, Coach Hawkins was giving pointers about how to swing the arms through and said "its just like last year, don't be afraid you aren't going to punch him in the sack."
  • Starting offensive line consisted of Nate Solder at left tackle, Matt Bahr at left guard, Mike Iltis at center, Ryan Miller at right guard and Bryce Givens at right tackle. I think it is Iltis job to lose as he was the guy getting the most reps. Nate Solder is a monster and every time you would look away, you would hear the pads pop and know it was him. He was the most aggressive of any lineman and he really got a good push off the line. I like Denver Johnson, he was really working the lineman. Bedell was there as well chiming in every so often but certainly stayed a little ways back to not get on Johnson's toes. Johnson spent a large part of his time tutoring Bryce Givens, making him do things over to get him to learn, and really congratulating him when he did something well. I think the Buffs have big plans for Givens based on what I saw today. Solder and Givens definitely were the guys that stuck out the most today.
  • Darrell Scott looks trim and fantastic. Great footspeed and the quickness overall was there. He looks a ton better than he did last fall where he looked more like a power back. He looks quicker for sure. Rodney Stewart does what Rodney Stewart does...and that is impress. Fast, strong, hits the hole hard, would run down the wide receivers. He is a hussler in every sense of the word and outworks everyone. We need to find a place for Lockridge this season. He has unbelievable quicks, the way he turns that corner is amazing. I think if you get him in a little bit of space, he can go the distance. Again, it is easy to look good in shorts but the running backs did not disappoint today.
  • Nothing too new on the wide receiver front. Simas looked good for the most part. He missed a few assignments and one assistant coach had to get on him a little bit for being slow after the catch. He will be an upgrade at the position. Josh Smith always looks good in shorts. Fast, took a slant route 80 yards for a touchdown on Burney in one on one drills. McKnight is Mr. Consistent and Blackmon got a lot of time today. Those are pretty much the four receivers we have now. Sort of scary if one of them goes down to injury.
  • As for the play calling...Hawkins was never in the shotgun. They sprinkled the gun in with Ballenger and Hansen. A ton of end arounds called today, probably the play they called the most. I don't think we should freak out about it yet because I think it was strictly to get the lineman spread out in their blocks but it is still in the playbook and every wideout and running back ran that play. A couple of times, Darrell Scott and Speedy Stewart were in together. They would flex Scott out to a flanker spot and either run a slip screen to him or work with Stewart.
  • I don't have a lot to report on the defense as they were on the opposite side of the field. Marcus Burton seemed to add more weight and looks destined for a defensive line spot. Sipili looked a little thiner. Shaun Mohler was all over the field making plays along with Beatty. Doug Rippy passed the eye test. I couldn't spot Major but linebacker is not a worry for me at all. CB Jimmy Smith made a nice interception at the end of practice to make the offense run. That was probably the play of the day.

More to come tomorrow

 

(photo from Marty Caivano)

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