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Re: Notes from the first day of practice
That’s it for this edition of the scrimmage. They move back to punt returns. Holmes shows off with a one-handed catch of a punt, looking back at Reid as he does it. Showoff.
- Closer to us, they are practicing the punt coverage. Keyaron Fox is almost un-blockable. This guy’s the best special team coverage guy on the team. He is agile and quick, and the defenders can’t get in front of him.
- As far as catching the punts, Holmes easily has the best hands and the most speed, not to mention he’s the most daring of the prospective return men. Mewelde Moore is steady, returns it well, and has a nice low center of gravity, but not that much speed. Reid is catching it as well as Moore is, and he has more speed, but he seems to be a little more erratic on the returns. I wonder if he won’t try some side-to-side stuff that will cost yards. Bloom is the most intriguing. He is easily the quickest of the return guys, a little jitterbug. But, in order to keep Bloom, we would have to keep a full regimen of receivers on hand besides him, because he’s not gonna be much help if we’re shot on receivers.
- Timmons is giving the punt return blockers fits. He’s too strong and shifty for them to block.
- Ryan McBean is used as a punt return blocker and he does a great job, driving Jonathan Dekker out of the play by overpowering him.
- Next scrimmage:
- Play #1: Ben hits Willie on a quick screen on the left side and Marvel and Essex open a nice hole. Willie look okay hitting the hole, but he doesn’t have that extra gear he had in 2005. He better get it back before the start of the season, because Mendenhall is the most pro-ready back I’ve seen at these practices since I started coming here, and I go back to the days of Sydney Thornton. Everyone may assume Willie is the starter, but I don’t think Mendenhall is ready to concede that just yet. If Willie doesn’t get that extra burst back, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mendenhall start right away. He sees the hole better than Willie, He cuts better than Willie, he has a better lean to the end of his runs (remember that Barry Foster lean that got a couple extra yards at the end of runs?), and he’s a better blocker. Willie is faster, that’s what he has.
- Play #2: Farrior has perfect coverage on Washington on a 10 yard in. Ben throws it at their feet.
- Play #3: Woodley fakes outside, then slaps Colon on the shouler to get him leaning out and blows right by him on the inside. Play over. Colon actually falls down on the play, he’s faked out so bad.
- Play #4: Handoff left, but Andre Frazier fills the hole immediately and stuffs it at the line of scrimmage.
- Play #5: Ben (and everyone else) sees that Roy Lewis is out to the side, one-on-one against Holmes. Holmes fakes him out of his jock with a head fake outside, then runs a 15 yard crossing pattern and Ben hits him in stride.
- Play #6: Spaeth shakes Foote loose on a 6 yard slant, and Ben hits him in stride. Good thing it was a short pass, because Timmons drove Starks into the backfield and had shaken by throwing him aside.
- Play #7: Hartwig picks up the blitz in the middle beautifully, and Baker makes a sweet catch on a 10 yard crossing pattern four feet over his head.
- Play #8: Mendenhall runs right and cuts through a tiny slit of a hole between Simmons and Colon, and puts on a couple fakes that buckle the linebacker’s knees.
- Play #9: Starks doesn’t pick up the corner blitz over RT, and Batch checks down nicely to Lasko, but Lasko drops the ball.
- Play #10: Mixup on the line, nobody blocks McBride and he’s in on the QB before the play gets started.
- 7 on 7 drills:
- Ben hits miller over the middle with Frazier draped all over Miller in mice coverage 15 yards down field.
- I blow off the 7 on 7 drills and run down to the line drills, one-on-one. Coach Tomlin comes along. He’s obviously interested in the line. He’s glaring at them, and letting them know he’s watching:
- Kirschke tries to throw Essex to the side, but Essex shows very nice form and stones him.
- Eason tries to bull rush Hartwig, but Hartwig gets under his pads and stands him up.
- Hills gets to meet Harrison, and it isn’t pretty. Harrison is by him before Hills can get his knuckles off the ground. Tomlin barks out to try again, and at least Hills gets up before Harrison gets to him, but he still has that baby fat jiggling on his love handles and that rookie look in his eye and Harrison does a rip move and gives us a chuckle by hopping into the arms of Zerlein who is standing back there acting as the QB.
- Woodley punches into Colon, then swims by him effortlessly with the right arm swim over.
- Tomlin tells them to try it again. Woodley blows by Colon again, this time with a rip move under Colon’s right elbow.
- Hartwig stones Ryan McBean. Doesn’t even give an inch. I’m not sure even Hartings was ever this perfect at technique. Wish Hampton was here to give Harwig a real test.
- Tomlin tells them to try again. This time, McBean tries a spin move, but it’s not quick enough and Hartwig shoves him back.
- Martavious Price takes a turn at Hartwig, and Hartwig gets under his pads and straightens him out.
- Jordan Reffert is stoned by Jeremy Parquet
- Tomlin tells them to go again, and this time Reffert jumps offside They have a ball on a stick, and they call out signals. They’re not supposed to move on the signals, just the movement of the ball)
- They try again, and this time Reffert beats Parquet on the outside with a bland “speed” rush. Don’t expect either of these guys to make it.
- Starks comes in to line up against Woodley, and Tomlin announces that this is the matchup he’s been waiting for. Woodley blows right by Starks on the outside. At this point, I know Starks isn’t THAT bad of a pass blocker. He looks good, trimmed down, and he can’t handle Woodley either. I decide that, this first practice, Woodley is the best player on the field.
- Tomlin tells them to go again, and Woodley jumps offside.
- Again, and this time, Woodley gets by Starks with a spin move. Who knew he had one. Woodley attacks the tackles arms so fiercely, and his arms are so powerful and he chops so quickly, I can honestly say we haven’t had a pass rusher like this since Kevin Greene.
- One more time, and again Woodley chops Starks’ arms right out of the way and slides around him in a split second.
- I noticed something during this drill. All the coaches at the other positions give players, the younger players in particular, a lot of one-on-one instruction. Russ Grimm used to give a lot of one-on-one by getting down into the dirt with these guys and demonstrating what he was talking about. What I’m seeing from the Zir man is nothing like that. Yes, he did tell Hills to keep his elbows down and in when he’s setting up so as not to give guys like Harrison an easy target for the rip, but that was the only bit of advice I saw him give. It seems his coaching style is to cheer guys on when they make a mistake and tell them to try harder.
- Last scrimmage:
- Play #1: Ben overthrows Hines. He had time to throw.
- Play #2: Nice trap to the right, Essex pulling opened up a nice hole for Willie who outran Farrior, then cut inside of Carter.
- Play #3: Ben overthrows Holmes deep down the middle. Ike had good covergage on Holmes, and Ben apparently didn’t see Moore who was wide open underneath.
- Play #4: Timmons stunts around the right tackle and is free and clear. Batch has to throw the ball away.
- Play #5: Handoff to Mendenhall over the right guard. Again, Mendenhall cuts back and to his left through a hole he had no business knowing was there.
- Play #6: Moor takes one up the middle for a nice gain. He gets so low when he’s running and gets going north and south so quickly, it’s hard for the defenders to see him.
- Play #7: Russel takes a pitch to the left and cuts it back for a nice gain. The first and second lines are doing a decent job of run blocking. Looks like we’re running a lot of student-body left and right types of runs, rather than offside guards pulling and trapping.
- Play #8: Darnell Stapleton mauls Jordan Reffert and Justin Vincent takes it up the gut for a nice gain.
- Play #9: Starks rolls his man 5 yards off the line, but Carey Davis trips over the grass and falls in the backfield.
- Play #10: Parker sweeps to the right, but Woodley stuffs Colon at the line and throws him aside with ease when the ball carrier gets there. Damn, this guy’s something else.
- Play #11: Ben drops back and has nobody open. Good coverage by our starting secondary. He dumps it into the flat to Spaeth who makes a nice grab, but Harrison is there right away to give him a pop, just to let him know that he would have decked him.
- Play #12: Handoff to Moore, and he slices nicely through the hole between Hartwig and Simmons.