I got the chance to attend the Meet the Rebels Day Scrimmage and came away with mixed feelings. There's some legitimate cause for tempered optimism, just as there's great reason to expect a frustrating football season.
Before we begin, though, please allow me talk about the third unit we saw on the field. They stayed in for TWO FULL DRIVES, so the coaches must really feel like getting them practice was imperative.
These undersized, walk-on warriors were playing with both of their chinstraps buckled. After a few Zarold Wilder runs (brought on by some huge plays by [someone who may or may not exist]), Evan Ingram dropped back and threw to (insert person whose name no one on the coaching staff knows). Because the elite ability of Kyle Horine (the corner who simply stopped trying to defend Terrell Grant on a fade last week), the ball was intercepted and returned a few yards.
I was thrilled to see two players on the field who might play for us eventually. I bet the rest of the team didn't need any of those reps. WE'RE BADASS!
Click the jump for analysis of players you might have heard of before you began reading this report.
Randall Mackey - Mackey struggled with a few throws Saturday night, hitting the ground twice and being picked on a horrendous throw (as well as decision), but he also made a 53 yard pass that no one on our team could throw. Moncrief was running a deep post, and Mackey hit him for a huge gain with a ball that was thrown with tremendous power. Mackey finished 4/9 for 69 yards with a TD and a pick.
Barry Brunetti - Brunetti was the second quarterback to see the field and finished 4/8 for 73 yards. He also had several productive carries, and it's difficult to say just how successful they could have been had the whistle not been blown whenever players got near a quarterback. The problem for Brunetti is that his deep accuracy isn't very nice, and he is too quick to check down (to passes we still don't complete).
Zack Stoudt - Zack Stoudt is simply not going to start. He actually made a few strong throws and appeared to read the defense relatively well, but he just can't do what Mackey or Brunetti can do in the pocket, and he holds the ball too long. To give perspective, when Brunetti and Mackey are in, we don't run the Wildcat. When Stoudt is in, we do. He just doesn't bring enough athleticism to the position. He finished 7/15 for 91 yards.
Brandon Bolden - Bolden didn't get many carries, because he really doesn't need the practice, but he ran well when they did use him. We really only gave him carries out of the wildcat (since it actually is important that he gets that timing down) and on the goal line. We know what we're getting with Bolden.
Jeff Scott - similarly, Scott barely played. He ripped off a beautiful 15-20 yard run and was tackled at the two. Then he came out and didn't go back in. There's just no reason to risk injury to him.
Enrique Davis - Enrique had a few more runs than either of the first two, but even Enrique didn't register too many carries. He did hit a hole well early in the day, and I guess it's possible he'll be better this year than he has been in his first three. I still just don't believe it though.
Devin Thomas - Devin Thomas continued his trend of running very well against the #1 defense only to likely see a minute number of carries during the actual season. Thomas is fast and displays good vision in finding creases, but for whatever reason our coaches just never talk about him. It's ridiculous.
Nick Parker - Parker didn't have a good day. Last week, I thought he ran well, but he struggled this week. In his defense, the third team offensive line wasn't opening any holes for him. Even though our coaches apparently tried moving him to defensive end last week, I still think he can contribute next season in a 30-40 carry way. We have to give SOMEONE the ball in a power back situation.
Sorry fullbacks. Your position is boring.
Donte Moncrief - Moncrief started yesterday, and I think that's likely to carry over into the season. He's simply a beastly route runner with more speed than I anticipated. On his deep post for a score, he was being covered by Wesley Pendleton (who is faster than Moncrief). It didn't matter though since Moncrief cut well and positioned himself in a way that Pendleton simply couldn't make a play on the ball and had to try to hit Donte after he caught it. That's not going to work for small corners. Moncrief's hands are too good. I hesitate to do this, but I'd say that Moncrief is already playing the way that Shay Hodge did as a sophomore. That year Hodge had 43 catches for 600 yards and 6 TDs. I'm not going to venture to say that Moncrief will do that, but I wouldnt' be surprised. Moncrief also had a very nice long touchdown run on a trick play. He didn't have to make any moves with the ball, but he showed his speed on the end around.
Nick Brassell - Brassell was the other starter yesterday, but he's not as much a sure thing as Moncrief. Brassell is excellent, but he's not quite as disciplined as Moncrief. It doesn't really matter whether he starts though since he's certianly in our top three at receiver. One thing Brassell did that I liked yesterday was he showed the ability to run curls and quick ins and outs. I assumed Brassell would only be used this year to run deep routes, but that's not the case. The corners respect Brassell's deep speed to much that he often had a ten yard cushion. We responded by giving him quick dumps, and he's capable in that role. Like Moncrief, Brassell took an end around for a long gain. At one point, it appeared that a defensive end had an angle on him, but Brassell simply got faster and beat him to the corner.
Ja-Mes Logan - Honestly, I didn't notice Ja-Mes at all. There's no doubt he'll play, but I don't think he caught a ball yesterday.
Collins Moore - Moore had a great catch along the sideline on an out from Stoudt. He was well covered, but the ball was placed well. Moore brought it in before running out of bounds. Still, I don't expect much from him this year.
Jamal Mosley - Mosley looks like a large wide receiver on the field. We threw to him twice, and both plays were effective. I didn't pay attention to his blocking, but as a receiving threat, he's going to make an impact this year.
Ferbia Allen - This goes for both tight ends, but Allen did a good job of picking up momentum by going in motion and didn't whiff on any blocks I can remember. He's not the receiving threat Mosley is, but he's bigger and quicker than expected.
I didn't watch the offensive line very much, but here are a few notes.
Emmanuel McCray cannot be a left tackle. He simply can't. Our backup was beat around the end nearly every single play and drew a false start in an effort not to be beaten once.
For the first time, I said to myself, "okay. Maybe the offensive line's run blocking hype is justified." Maybe it's just that our defensive line isn't good (which may be the case), but our starting offensive line did a strong job of opening massive holes for the backs. If they can do that against other SEC lines, we could finally have a team capable of running against elite defenses. We still have a lot of trouble in pass blocking. It's pretty disheartening.
It's certainly interesting to see how big our line is. I know everyone's harping on this, but to see the first team offensive line take their place on the field, you'd think they were 13-year-olds playing in an 8-year-olds league.
I'm pretty sure Kentrell Lockett didn't play.
Wayne Dorsey - Dorsey does a good job getting into the backfield on passing plays. I'm not sure how successful he is against the run though.
Gerald Rivers - Rivers was quiet yesterday, though I did notice him getting around the edge on one or two plays. I worry that means he's going to overpursue.
Cameron Whigham - Whigham played a lot due to the number of injuries. He appears to be a better run stopper than pass rusher. I will say that he plays disciplined football. He's probably not fast enough to play coverage at all, but when he was asked to do it, he did a good job of being near the fullbacks or tight ends instead of abandoning the flat in order to attempt a sack. I always respect defenders who are disciplined and don't make me cry by leaving players open all over the field or abandoning their lanes.
[Editor's note: The defensive tackle portion of this report is brought to you by Lortab and EtOHReb. No joke.]
DT: The most surprising depth chart move over the course of the fall has happened at this position. Starting in the fall, things looked really promising for both Madison Central grads Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett...Both are undersized rush-type d-tackles, but clearly Martin had the edge. Bennett very quickly dropped down the depth chart and was running with the 3rd team at one point. Now, to my surprise, things have flipped and Bennett is the first tackle rotated into the first team. Martin seems to have dropped to a full time second and third team player. This could be a good sign, as I have heard from sources that Bennett is a better long term prospect and possibly just needed some motivation to get in gear. I expect to see him more and more as the year goes on. I also expect us to rotate 3 or 4 tackles heavily in most games. Expect to see Justin Smith(who has been a 'promising' player for longer than I've been hitting on MILFs at City Grocery) and Urinary Grant(hehehe....4th grade humor) as the starters. I expect decent play out of both but nothing spectacular. Bennett and Martin are our best chance of spectacular play, but they are both a few years from such. Gilbert Pena will also rotate in and eat up space as he manages to eat whatever else he can find within arms reach(I hear he loves mayo on his Mormon sandwich). On goal line situations, don't be surprised to see Corey "My life peaked at the Army All-American Game" Gaines or even Terrell "I'm a mythical ten foot creature" Brown, whom they used some on third team duty yesterday. He's still massive and really fuckin' tall. Just stand there Terrell. You're doing great. Don't move. Seriously. Thanks.
CJ Johnson -Johnson had 5 1/2 tackles yesterday, and when he got to the ball carrier, he stood them up. He's still struggling a bit to get up to speed, but it's reassuring to see him pick up tackles.
Keith Lewis - Lewis is probably faster than CJ, but he doesn't hit as well. I think he'll be fine at linebacker in time. Not sure he's ready yet this year even though he'll be forced to play.
Mike Marry - Mike is going to start for us. I don't have much more to say. One thing of note about the linebackers is that they don't do a great job of getting off blocks. That's discouraging considering our inexperience at DT.
Charles Sawyer - Sawyer was fine Saturday, but he wasn't as dominant as last week. Last week, he was in perfect position on every play and just had his way with receivers. Saturday, he gave up too many short passes. If we've got him reverting to the "don't get beat deep' philosophy, I'm frustrated. I want him to be aggressive on receivers and not let them pick up easy yardage. That was our downfall last year.
Senquez Golson - Golson, while looking over his shoulder, is faster than Korvic Neat. He's going to be very, very good. That is all.
Marcus Temple - He would make a good nickel corner. I worry about him on the outside.
Wesley Pendleton - He can stay with receivers, but he needs to work on his positioning better before the ball is thrown. Too often, he's taken out of the play because of a sharp and well-timed cut by his opponent.
Brishen Matthews - We blitzed Brishen at least six times on the day. Maybe more. He's going to be playing in the box a lot, which will highlight his "skinny Clay Matthews" thing he's got going on for him.
Frank Crawford - Frank's an adequate coverage safety. He's really our only safety who can consistently help with balls thrown over the top.
I didn't notice other safeties. I don't know if that signifies anything.
Bryson Rose - True to form, Rose nailed a couple of 40+ yarders. I think he'll be alright.
Tyler Campbell - Tyler is getting more hangtime on his punts this year. He's still kicking the hell out of the ball too. He punted one from the 25 that ended up hitting at the opposing 20 after spending a good amount of time in the air. Maybe we won't see his net punting average and actual punting average be drastically different this year.
That's it and that's all, folks! Practices are closed up from now on as the team prepares for BYU, so we won't be doing a whole lot of reporting on them. We will, however, be in full-on football season mode starting one week from today. Get ready.