Today's practice report won't be too terribly long because I feel like a majority of it would be repeating myself regarding the offensive play-calling, quarterback situation, receivers and how they are doing.
Firstly, the threat of lightning moved us into the IPF for the day. Jeff Scott was there, but not dressed after being sent home yesterday with a fever and flu-like symptoms. Zack Stoudt was simply in practice jersey and shorts today. Issac Gross came over from Batesville to watch practice and see what Chris Kiffin is asking of his guys. This was also the first day that, unless you made it to practice yesterday at 5:30 in the morning, many of us got the chance to see Nick Brassell in this offense. Obviously, his speed is still there and, for two days, his routes are pretty tight. While this was good, he still has to get up to the offense's pace in the two quarterback drill and is having to work more on his downfield blocking with Grant Heard.
Speaking of the two quarterback quickness drill, the offensive line they used with Brunetti & Wallace is probably the best offensive line I've seen and the competitions are starting to settle. The offensive line was Aaron Morris - LT, Justin Bell - LG, Evan Swindall - C, AJ Hawkins - RG, and Emmanuel McCray - RT. They got a majority of the reps and each one looked noticeably tighter and quicker than their back-ups, outside of McCray, who will probably keep getting pushed by Pierce Burton. Hugh said post-practice that part of Burton getting moved down is result of a poor practice Monday. Darone Bailey may make a push at Morris on the left once he gets a little more healthy as well.Today, during swing and screen pass drills, the two receivers working with the QB's were Philander and Ja-Mes. For a few passes from Brunetti and Wallace, the coaches moved Mackey out with the receivers and worked him there. He didn't drop a ball and has shown the speed this spring to be a potential playmaker in space. I just hope they get his attitude in order first. With the skills Brunetti and Mackey have been showing to get on the field, Wallace is trying to show his athleticism too. On a broken play in the scrimmage at the end, Wallace broke down the right and showed how his long legs can get him up to speed quickly.
On the zone read drills, with Jeff out, they moved Tobias into the backfield. He's got that speed in space on those zone reads to really get to the edge quickly. He was really adept at waiting for his blocks and did some start-stops that made some d backs look bad(but they atoned for that). As a fan, I would love to see him back there some more to get more speed on the edge and really wear down some defenses by just out running them.
Two guys who kinda took me by surprise were #20 and #27. (This is where the official website doesn't even have them on the roster, so I don't even wanna try to come up with a name.) 27 is a about 6'2" white slot receiver with decent possession abilities and decently strong, but is probably a little small to get a whole lot of playing time, but is trying to earn his way onto the field. 20 is MAYBE 5'7" and has some of the quickest feet I have ever seen, so quick that he even loses control of them. I know Hugh will want some speed on the field, but this guy is gonna have to control it first.
In the passing skeleton, Donte made a few good catches, as did Ja-Mes, but overall, the offense really struggled to get open. I think part of it is on the defense just playing really tough under Wommack and McGriff, part of it is lack of time to really get the timing of the offense down, and part of it are some very average passes from all the QB's, but especially Mackey and down on the depth chart.
The secondary has really worked their positions well on getting inside of receivers and not letting them simply catch passes uncontested. The 1st team secondary looks to be Dehendret Collins and Wesley Pendleton, who has really turned himself from a corner who would celebrate a receiver screw-up to someone who has the upside to be a really good cover guy, at the corners and Charles Sawyer and maybe Frank Crawford at safety. Brishen is looking solid at "Rover" because the guy can cover and knock the stripes off a tiger.
Wommack is trying to get the 11 best guys on the field anyway he can. Today, the defense looked to be working out of 4-3, 3-4 and 3-3-5 at different times. Aaron Garbutt and Denzel Nkemdiche have moved up into the linebacking corps. Denzel coming off the end was a great way to add speed coming off the edge. He made a pursuit from one side of the defense all the way to almost the other sideline to make a tackle. Wommack will respond from a big play with still keeping the heat on. After a big touchdown where Terrell Grant broke two tackles by Prewitt and, I want to say Burns, Wommack brought the house on the next play and got the sack. The squad just always seems to have 3 or 4 people around the ball and knocking the tar out of them.
When I look at this team at this time, we seem to have more SEC caliber talent on the defensive side of the ball, and while Hugh's offense will get a lot of the glory because that's his calling card, but this defense could really surprise some people. When they say they will relentlessly pursue the ball and knock the ever-loving crap out of somebody, they ain't lying.