Saturday, March 29, 2008

Football - Progress, one pitch at a time

So Friday the team had another practice, and Saturday was a practice / live scrimmage.

Here are some links to various re-caps, along with my summary below:

33Jacket summary
The Hive 1 (Friday)
The Hive 2 (Saturday)
Nesbit review - AJC
Johnson clearly in charge

Saturday - warm-ups, stretching, some coaching by the individual units, then the horn, the officials, and game-on. Special teams work was kept to a minimum other than FG kickers. Team spent a lot of time in scrimmage situations, with various players shifting in and out.

With this coaching staff it's all about the details. Finish drills, run out plays, interesting training drills ......block, block, block...... stop and teach. Tons of coaching going on........... after every single play.

If you want to draw conclusions by who came out first, you can. Not sure it really means much though. On offense you first had Nesbitt, Evans/Jones as A-backs, Quincy @ B-back (yes Dwyer 2nd team), Earls and Bebe @ WR, and Gardner / Hill / Voss / Smith / Brown down the O-Line.

On defense, the 1st team as Johnson / Walker / Richard / Morgan down the D-Line, Barnes / Jefferson / Jackson @ LB's, Butler / Jahi @ Corners and Burnett / Reese at Safeties.

The offense played in 3 different units, but some guys switched between units, including QB's, WR's and A-backs.

Well, here's the general take on O vs D - the O had their way Saturday. Nesbitt took the offense up-and-down the field seemingly most of the time he was in the game. There were stretches where Nesbitt seemed unstoppable, either by land or by air. He had some pretty incredible improvisation plays, breaking tackles and ripping out gains in 10 yard chunks. He also connected with Bebe on a 50-yard bomb, hitting him in perfect stride (whoops Mario Butler). It's clear that Nesbitt has the means to be the guy in this offense. Dwyer also caught a few passes in the B-Back position as well. Greg Smith continues to look like a natural in the A-back spot.

The first team offense pretty much had their way with the 1st team D. It appears that the D-Line and LB's had a rough day of it, while the secondary did some good things. Calvin Booker had some good plays, but generally didn't play as well as Nesbitt. It is interesting to note that the playcalling shifted towards more passing and 3-4 WR sets when Calvin was in there - clearly tailoring the offense to what the QB does well.

Lucas Cox busted a 50-yard jaunt from his B-back position on one play - right up the middle. How about this - Austin Barrick as an A-Back. Yeah, like a 250lb guy competing against Jamaal Evans. Ok. I guess you could say "flexibile".

We can't forget that the defense is learning a completely new system as well - and what is their reward? - to practice it against an option offense. That's rough, although the defense bowed up a bit towards the end of the scrimmage and played better. In addition, the defense did a fairly good job early stringing out the pitch option and preventing big gains. Makes me wonder how they will line up against more conventional offenses, and how they sharpen their skills against those schemes.
Having said all that, the offense isn't anywhere near PJ's expectations. They made many, many mistakes. Fumbles were common, and not relegated to any one guy. All the QB's made miscues. There were many mis-reads on the dive play, where guys should have pulled the ball out and didn't. There were center / QB snap issues. There were some pitch issues. We all know that one fumble can be the difference between winning an losing, so my tendency is not to get too excited about what we're seeing yet offensively. This group has a long way to go before this thing is truly a well-oiled machine, but they are progressing nicely.


Paul Johnson talked to reporters after practice and made the statement "we're trying to find out who wants to compete". He is personally challenging certain guys, particularly if he thinks they have more to give. Jonathan Dwyer is one of those guys - and he started out on 2nd team Saturday. There were plenty of others.

PJ had no play sheet. He called the plays right out of his head.

Quote of the day from Paul Johnson on Josh Nesbitt:
"He doesn't push through very well mentally," Johnson said. "When he gets a little tired, he goes the wrong way and forgets the play. He's got to push through that. He's got ability. Josh has got a ton of ability.

"There's times when he didn't do exactly what he was supposed to, and he missed some reads. Right now he's going to make us big plays. We're just not sure for who."

Desmond Howard of ESPN Gameday crew. Lots of ex-players (Mansfield Wrotto, Joe Hamilton, Matt Rhodes, A.Oliver,). Lots of future recruits including guys coming in the fall (Jaybo Shaw, S.Sylvester). Lots and lots of coaches of high school teams.

Check out super-freak Michael Johnson. Dude is buff. A 6'7" 260lb DE. I do believe he's poised for a monster year. Also note the knee braces all the DL are wearing. See more pics here.