The buffs have finally started to hit. It was a fun day to be at practice. Incredibly lively and a lot to see. Also, the big news of the day occurred right in front of us as a staffer ran down from Dal Ward to the practice fields mid-practice to let the Coaches know that Travon Patterson was cleared to practice (there may still be issues about him playing according to Kyle Ringo). He was given a helmet, a #2 jersey, and a blue mesh jersey to put over it so that he wouldn't get hit too hard (no pads for Travon). Best part of the day was when he ditched the blue jersey and just went out there and played. He was fielding punts, and was running some routes when the WRs went one-on-one with the DBs. Our offense just got even better!
Also I ended up next to a very nice gentleman named Mark Fribbs, who is Travis Sandersfeld's uncle and father of CU golfer Derek Fribbs. He's a RalphieReport reader and he provided some good insight. We had fun watching practice together. One potentially awkward moment came when Parker Orms Mother asked a question about whether Sandersfeld was a Junior or a Senior and Mark answered. Orms and Sandersfeld are competing for that Nickle DB spot. As much as Orms is a ballhawk, so is Sandersfeld, and we will see plenty of both of them this year.
They were allowed to really hit for the first time today, and they wasted no time doing so. They would spend time working by positions, and then come together and scrimmage a few plays. The offense would break open a lane for the running back, and then the D would come right back and shut the O down. It was fun and very lively. The D-line worked on trying to intercept and bat down low passes while during their rush. The O-line worked on the usual. One thing I'm noticing is that I hope Eric Richter wins the left Guard spot. He still has a tendency to lean too far forward while blocking and overextend himself. But Ethan Adkins hasn't looked great to me. He's got the size, but he just doesn't seem to have the mean-streak you need to play inside. If Richter can refine his technique throughout camp, I think he'll be our starting LG.
One of the more fun drills to watch was the O-line and D-line squaring off. Each Offensive lineman got his turn to go one-on-one against his Defensive counterpart. For example, Nick Kasa v Nate Solder (a fun matchup to watch). All five guys would line up, and when the ball was snapped, Solder would try to keep Kasa from getting to the QB (who wasn't actually there, but you get the idea). They would go up and down the line, and when a first teamer was done, his backup would take his place. Notes from this drill:
-David Bakhtiari as great feet, and can hold up to bull rushes pretty well. He's got good balance and he's pretty consistent (probably the reason he's running ahead of Givens)
-Nate Solder still has things to learn and things to see. He's good, don't get me wrong, but he's got some work to do before he can live up to his pre-season hype. He's got all the physical tools. He's got everything but experience. Sure he's started for two years, but he's not an all-american yet.
-Will Pericak has developed a couple of solid pass-rush moves from the inside. Good news. He continues to improve. He might be my favorite player on the team.
-Conrad Obi looks like he's finally found a home on the D-line. He's going to be a part of the DT rotation. He's as athletic as any of our linemen at 295 lbs.
-Curtis Cunningham is a better run-stuffer than he is a pass-rusher. Not a bad thing, but he's just not super quick.
-Nate Bonsu is right up there with with Cunningham and Pericak. If they are 1a and 1b, than he is 1c.
-Marquez Herrod is a load to handle. He looks to be about 290 right now, and is still pretty quick. He led the team in sacks last year, and there's a pretty good chance he'll do it again. He's a guy you want on your team. Works his butt off.
-Nick Kasa is a beast. He's got long arms and is beginning to figure out how to use them. If he can continue to work on his pass-rush moves and how to use his hands, he's going to live up to his hype, no problem.
Zach Grossnickle had some pretty good punts when they went to the live drill, and the snaps all looked pretty good today. That's good, because I've been worried about the snappers. Grossnickle had a few boomers, which is why the staff is willing to let him be the primary punter. With all the snaps he'll get in fall camp, he should iron out some of his consistency and accuracy issues. When he connects well with the ball, he really connects with it. He had a few that just soared.
It's still hard for me to tell how the Kickers are doing. I wish I could give you more updates, because I know we all want to know if we can escape the god-awful kicking we've had to deal with the past two years. But I don't know right now. They have multiple guys competing though, and I think that'll help. The guys behind Aric Goodman aren't scrubs, so hopefully that'll push him to improve.
We have no fullbacks on the roster, but that doesn't mean we don't have any fullbacks. Ryan Deehan has been motioning into the backfield as is a pretty good lead blocker. Luke Walters and Alex Wood have also gotten their snaps at FB. On a goalline play, Deehan did a great job to seal off the LB on the edge and spring the back for a TD.
And the highlight of the day for most people (I enjoyed it too, though I was also a huge fan of the O-line/D-line drill) was the WRs and the DBs squaring off. One WR would run a route, the DB would try to cover him, and the QB would try to hit the WR whether he was open or not. The best matchups were Toney Clemons v Jimmy Smith and anyone v Jalil Brown. The Clemons/Smith battle was pretty epic. And we know Smith is good, but Clemons found ways to get open against him. He's one special Wide Receiver. Jalil Brown was lighting people up left and right. It looked like he might've gotten flagged on some of them, but he was really pumped up and so was the rest of the team. Scotty McKnight just gets open. He's going to do well in the slot. Travon Patterson showed some impressive moves and wheels in this drill. He will definitely see the field. And I said this a couple of days ago, but Jarrod Darden will be huge for us in a season or two. He's big, has good hands, and is really good at using his body to shield the defender from the ball.
Overall the practice was extremely high energy and a lot of fun. Guys were really into it, and I can't say this enough times, but this looks like a different team than a year ago. Mark and I were talking about the CSU game, and we both feel that anything less than a blowout will be disappointing. Also, Mark was smart and brought binoculars. I might try to scrounge up a pair. I can't believe I didn't think of that...