I was only able to stay for about an hour (I'm recovering from foot/ankle surgery, so if any of you want to say hello to the young guy in a walking boot, I'm pretty friendly) and they weren't in pads, but I've got some observations.
And I'll try to keep them 'tame' so us bloggers don't get called out again for giving away all of Hawk's secrets
I mostly got to see the offense, so this won't be that complete. First, some player notes:
-Nate Solder finally looks like an O-lineman. He's getting a little beefier, which is good. He looks the 315 that he's listed, if not maybe a few pounds more.
-I hate to add to the hype, but holy cow is Toney Clemons a player.
-Will Jefferson looked pretty crisp and quick.
-DeVaughn Thornton is a very smooth route runner and is pretty darn fast.
-Dakota Poole is huge. He's only a shade smaller than Nick Kasa on the D-line.
-Nate Bonsu looked full speed and full strength, which is good news.
-Keenan Canty looked good. He's small, but I don't think that'll be a problem for him.
-Ryan Deehan looks very solid. Good hands, good speed, good routes, good blocking.
And now, onto practice stuff:
For a pad-less practice, it was nice and physical. One of the first things that the team did, was work on proper tackling technique, and I mean the WHOLE team. Even the kickers and punters worked on it. They spent most of this practice working on fundamentals. The O-line worked on punching out without overextending, staying low and staying on their blocks. Tight ends did some pass-catching and some blocking. Kyle Slavin is the biggest of the 3 new TEs. Mobley and Griffon definitely need a year or two in the weight room. The QBs did some footwork drills and worked on routes with the TEs and then with handoffs with the backs. Pretty standard stuff.
When they got into doing a Offense v Defense, some things stuck out:
Bryce Givens was running with the twos. This is the first practice, so don't think too much of it, but David Bakhtiari was the first RT. He looked pretty good, with solid footwork and hand placement. He's not that hefty, but Givens isn't much bigger. The rest of the ones were (left to right) Solder, Adkins, Stevens and Miller. The twos were (left to right) Harris, Richter, Iltis, Dannewitz (who was practicing at Tackle mostly last year) and Givens.
On the D-line, they started Cunningham and Pericak, but Bonsu was rotated in there quickly. And Herrod started (they seemed to stick with 3 down-linemen on what I saw), but Kasa got in there pretty quickly. I think we've got a nice rotation going here, which will be good.
The rest of the ones are pretty much what you'd expect, though Ahles got the first couple of snaps over Beatty. Again, it's only the first practice, so nothing is set in stone. Major and Sipili were inside, Perkins and Polk behind them, and Brown, Smith and Orms were all out there. Considering the offenses we're going to see this year, I have a feeling we're going to go with this 3-3-5 nickel quite a bit. The second ILBs were Webb and Mahnke.
Hansen worked with the ones, as did Deehan, Stewart (with some Lockridge), McNight, Jefferson and Clemons. I would bet that's pretty much what it'll look like come gameday (with maybe some Patterson sprinkled in for Jefferson).
My leg was killing me after that, so I had to head home, but here's what it looked like from where I was standing.
-Orms might be our most active defender this year. He's going to fill up the stat sheet. He's an impact player and I'm glad they're finding ways to get him on the field.
-Jarrod Darden, who was unimpressive in practices last fall, looks like a different player. He's going to be huge for us a year from now.
-The team spent a lot of time working on both forcing turnovers and protecting the ball better. They had guys falling on the ball, picking the ball up on the run, ripping the ball out of someones hands and protecting the ball from swiping defenders, etc...
-The practice was pretty fast paced and lively. Guys seemed more into it than they were last year. More guys were focused on what the people being drilled were doing and the instruction they were getting.
-I really need to bring something to sit on to the next one, I was only out there an hour and my leg was killing me, hehe
I'm going to try to hit as many practices as I can. Hopefully this was helpful