April 12, 2008

Position-by-position scrimmage breakdown

Quarterbacks: For Graham Harrell, it was a very solid afternoon. For everybody else, not so good.

In some ways, Harrell and Taylor Potts had opposite outings. Harrell was a bit off with some of his earlier passes, but soon found the range, and finished very strongly. Potts actually looked pretty darned good at the outset, but just as I was about to pronounce him a reborn quarterback, his game went into the crapper.

The highlight of Potts' day was a long TD pass to Ed Britton, which beat Lance Fuller over the middle. Later, however, he through interceptions to Marlon Williams, Daniel Howard and Fuller, the latter two on tipped passes. Potts was frequently overshooting his receivers. He has a great arm, of course, but he needs to learn how to rein it in. Potts also seems to lock in on old high school teammate, Lyle Leong. On the plus side, Potts is at his best when rolling out or throwing on the run. His accuracy actually seems to improve.

It was a rough afternoon for Seth Doege. Just as he was lazar-sharp in the first scrimmage, he was equally errant in the second. Passes were high, low and behind, but rarely were they on the money. This sort of inconsistency is to be expected from a true freshman.

Running Backs: It was not separation Saturday. Once again, no running back grabbed command of the starting position. Every back ran hard and physically-Aaron Crawford perhaps less so than the others-but Kobey Lewis and Baron Batch had ball security issues. Darcel McBath caused a Batch fumble that was scooped up by Daniel Charbonnet. Later, Charbonnet the Elder scooped up a Lewis fumble. On the whole, Batch was probably the most impressive runner, with Lewis a close second, followed by Woods and then Crawford. And all of the backs seemed to do their best work between the tackles. One thing that is noticeable, however, is the lack of long runs by the backs. This entire spring I'm not sure I've seen a single run of over 15 yards. That may be to the defense's credit. None of the backs figured prominently in the passing game Saturday.

Receivers: Iron man Eric Morris sat out the scrimmage with an (of course) undisclosed injury. In his absence, Adam James had himself a very nice outing. No drops from James, and a lot of solid grabs, including one for a touchdown from Harrell on a deep slant. He beat Marcus Bunton and L.A. Reed for the TD. Tramain Swindall was extremely active. He had a few drops, it must be said, but also caught a bucket full of passes and was getting open all day. Michael Crabtree had a typical Crabtree day. Lyle Leong and Blake Kelley also did their fair share of damage. Productivity from the X position was almost nil. Neither Todd Walker nor Ed Britton did much of anything. Britton did drop a pass, however.

Offensive Line: It was a great day for the starters. It was one the backups would just as soon forget. On the positive side, the starting offensive line consistently provided excellent protection for Graham Harrell, and was also able to get a nice push on interior running plays. Even the blitzes, which were not infrequent, did not faze this group. Marlon Winn had one of his better days, and contributed a whale of a block on a tough Kobey Lewis run very late in the scrimmage.

The backups struggled. Dominique Delpeche suffered a leg injury early in the scrimmage and was helped off the field. He could not put weight on the injured leg. Later on, Mike Leach halted the scrimmage and had Bennie Wylie escort the backup o-linemen to the corner of the stadium where Wylie conducted them in a performance of the Up-Down Concerto in B-minor. Leach was displeased by the group's lack of focus, exemplified by Justin Keown who had a terrible time attempting to block Ra'jon Henley.

Defensive Line: And speaking of Henley, he was dishing the "dirty laundry" all day long. It was a multiple-sack afternoon for the ultra-quick tackle. Colby Whitlock started the day strongly, beating Keown for a sack and a pressure, but then tailed off somewhat. Daniel Howard was all over the field-literally-as he even lined up at linebacker a time or two and blitzed from that position. He also had an interception. The single most impressive play from a defensive lineman, however, came compliments of McKinner Dixon. He absolutely blew by Louis Vasquez for a sack. It is one thing to beat Justin Keown, quite another to embarrass Louis Vasquez. Dixon takes a play off from time to time, but when he brings it, he is more than a match for any offensive lineman in the nation. Dixon and Howard both need to work on containment, however, as each was sucked inside and beaten to the outside on running plays. Brandon Williams was ill today, and was never much of a factor.

Linebackers: Marlon Williams was the defense's MVP. He snagged a pair of interceptions and was making tackles left and right. Bront Bird and Sam Fehoko were somewhat less stellar insofar as both had their difficulties in pass coverage. Fehoko was often beaten by mere inches. Brian Duncan was adequate, and Tyrone Sonier showed signs of coming to life. He had a massive hit on Aaron Crawford, and ran step for step deep down the sideline with Blake Kelley before committing pass interference. Victor Hunter hit Adam James with a devastating shot on a short crossing pass.

Secondary: Taylor Charbonnet is the second best cornerback on the team. There. I came out and said it. He is not physically imposing, but he is athletic, skilled, and is far more physical than his physique would suggest. Charbonnet the Younger is the only cornerback on the team, outside of Jamar Wall, who can hold his own against Michael Crabtree, and he did so on a few occasions Saturday. Particularly impressive was a sterling solo tackle on the Biletnikoff Award-winner in the open field after a short gain. Right now the race seems to be between Charbonnet and Nickerson for the starting position, but whereas Nickerson started the spring strongly and seems to have leveled off, Charbonnet just continues to get better.

In addition to Taylor Charbonnet, the safeties were excellent all the way around. Daniel Charbonnet was constantly around the ball, recovering fumbles and breaking up passes. He's my current choice to start next to Darcel McBath. Very close to Charbonnet, however, is L.A. Reed. He is a mighty hitter who seems to play his best ball in game situations. Reed's pass coverage is also improving, but he still has a ways to go in that area. Franklin Mitchem also had a nice outing. He tattooed Jacoby Franks for a loss on a hitch route, in what may have been the hit of the day.

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