It's so much more fun with the pads on. Another great day of practice, and I got to watch with another very nice and smart Ralphie Report reader. I must say, y'all are awesome. We should get some credit for being an awesome blogging community, and I really appreciate the support and nice things y'all have said. I say we pick a home-game and have a little Ralphie Report tailgate or post-game meetup. Or maybe try to find a place to meetup after every game and discuss.
Another team-wide observation: These guys have an attitude. They're more competetive in practice, guys are going after each other long after the plays are over, and they're all working hard to make each other better. If Ray Polk plays up to his abilities this year, it's because he's got to try to match up with Toney Clemons downfield or track Rodney Stewart through the traffic. Same at all the other positions. There was one play in my favorite drill, the one-on-one O-linemen v D-linemen drill, where Will Pericak torched Ryan Miller with a strong bull rush. Miller wasn't getting low enough, but it was mostly a much improved Pericak. Working against guys like him and Bonsu in practice is only going to help Miller with his consistency issues, and vice versa.
So todays practice was again like all the others, and began with the team breaking up by position. The defense worked on recognition and coverage responsibilities, with the position coaches drilling their guys hard about who's doing what when. Romeo Bandison is making sure every single linemen could step onto the field and know what's going to happen and what they should do for any given play. They're trying to simplify things enough, while also making sure guys know exactly how to react to what's happening in front of them. It's interesting, and I'll talk about this more soon (I'm working on positional analyses and outlooks), but it looks like our Defensive alignment will hinge on Forrest West. We've mostly played with 3 down linemen (two tackles and one end), and all of the ends are practicing at the one spot. But when they run these drills, West tends to stand on the opposite side, where he lined up last year. But he's the only DE that rushes from/lines up there. When they put the D together, the OLBs line up there, and either rush the QB or drop back in coverage. He won't be back in time for the scrimmage, so I don't know if we'll know what the deal with West and the defensive alignment is until Sept 4th against CSU. Keep an eye out for updated depth charts to see if we're still listed as a 4-3.
Someone asked yesterday about Doug Rippy, and he hadn't really stood out to that point, but today he did. He's still practicing behind Sipili and Webb, but he made the most of his time on the field. He had a couple of very nice plays when they scrimmaged: one was a very nice tackle after knifing through traffic, and the other was a pretty big hit. Another backup who played pretty well was freshman Terrel Smith. He apparently is now running with the twos, and had a great stop at the line of scrimmage against one of our RBs (don't remember who because I couldn't get right to a computer). While we're talking about safeties, Anthony Perkins does a nice job of lining guys up and making sure the D is on the same page. He's also a pretty feisty tackler for a guy who's only 5-10.
They put Sione Tau at Guard today, but he's even a little too slow-footed for that. He could really stand to lose some weight. He got beat badly by the infamously not-so-quick Eugene Goree. Like, Tau barely got a hand on him before Goree was around him. Goree is looking improved this year, but he's no Alfred Williams out there. Tau just can't really compete at 350 lbs
What is it with our fascination for really tall OGs? Ryan Dannewitz is backing up Ryan Miller at RG, and only a shade shorter. Denver Johnson told him to "sit down" quite a few times during the drills, mostly because he's going against guys many inches shorter than he is. He was having trouble getting and maintaining leverage. It's something he can fix because he's got pretty good balance, but he just needs more time to work on his technique.
Speaking of balance, that's one of the big reasons why David Bahktiari is ahead of Bryce Givens at RT for now. He's got great balance and a really strong core. Givens has longer arms and might be a tad stronger, but he's still trying to get away with relying on this athleticism, instead of precise technique.
And speaking of athleticism, the O broke out a nifty play where they got Nate Solder out in front of Scotty McKnight, got McKnight the ball, and let Solder clear the way to the Endzone for him. It was fun watching the DBs try to get around and through Solder.
And man, for a great cover corner, Jimmy Smith can sure drop the hammer on guys. Lockridge got outside and tried to run up the sideline, but Smith sent him sprawling out of bounds.
Eric Richter (the guy who I hope wins the LG spot) got into it with somebody. He's nasty, and I really hope he can beat out Ethan Adkins. Richter got yelled at later for being way off on his assignment, which is one of the reasons he's backing Adkins up, but he's got three weeks to iron that stuff out. He's already looking a little bit better technique-wise and Adkins still looks pretty consistently average in all areas. Not a bad thing with Adkins, because you know what you're going to get, but Richter could be very good for us there.
Travon Patterson saw some time as the kick returner. If he gets the job, he should make us all forget about Josh "not-a-football-player" Smith. Patterson is not only faster than Smith was, but he's much quicker, can change directions, and understands how to follow his blocks. He's also been getting reps catching punts. Please o please, coaches, let Patterson return punts and kicks while he works his way onto the field as a WR. He brings a dimension to Special Teams that we haven't had since Jeremy Bloom was here.
And he'll have to work to get onto the field, because Will Jefferson has looked pretty darn good. He's blocking downfield on runs and when the other guys catch the ball, and he's finding ways to get open. He's not going to relinquish his spot easily.
I don't know if anybody cares about the makeup of our 3rd and 4th offensive lines, but Shawn Daniels is now the 3rd Center while Gus Handler is the 4th. Also on the third line are Blake Behrens and Matt Bahr, two former starters...what does that tell you about the talent of this years team? Hopefully that our O-line can finally play well as a unit.
Someone besides Stewart needs to step up at RB. Lockridge looks slightly quicker, but I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable with him if Speedy went down. It could be Hildreth, who's looked pretty good on the carries he's gotten. He can run with a little power, but he's still only 5-8, 180.
Hirschman has looked good on some plays, and like he's hurrying on others. Of course, that could be because the third O-line is pretty porous and he's constantly trying to avoid pressure.
Our defense can go pretty deep in the front 7. The D-line is a solid two deep at each spot, as can the LBs, and I believe they all will rotate this season.
As I told my friend (much to his chagrin), Aric Goodman is still our best kicker. Justin Castor, the freshman, isn't as consistent as Goodman is, nor does he have quite the leg. Marcus Kirkwood seems closest to him, but I don't think he's going to really challenge him for the primary spot. Goodman did hit another goalpost today, though I believe it was on the skinnier uprights.
And that's most of what I remember from practice! Today is my last one before the scrimmage. Hopefully I'll see some of you there. I can only stay for the first hour or so, but I'll be wearing a felt cowboy hat, my walking boot and I'll have a cane. I'll definitely be the youngest guy there with a cane, so I should stand out. I'd love to see what y'all think about what's going on and about what we see in the scrimmage!