Pleasantries now dispensed with, nothing could have been more boring than the unit drills (that I could see, defense practices a the end of the big field farthest from the crowd). I got a good look at the some of the offensive linemen drilling early on, from which I could only glean the fact that the young guys are just big ol' teddy bears that want to be loved, while the older guys appear to be capable of tearing their dinner from the thigh of a live water buffalo. That was the boring part.
The exciting part happened when the full teams got together. Instantly I mentally jotted down the starting D and the skill player from the offense. The left side of the O-line was obscured by the massiveness that is our DL, but I managed to get most of them. I'll list the roster by position, starters first, followed by notable backups.
Offense today was: Linemen: RT: Kyle Hix RG: Cedric Dockery C: Chris Hall LG: Big Dude LT: Other Big Dude
The line looked pretty good today. Pass protection for Colt was satisfactory, considering the freaks that were lining up at DE. More on them later. Run blocking looked good, and we opened up some nice holes for both Vondrell and Fozzy.
Receivers: TE: Blaine Irby, Josh Marshall and/or Ian Harris SE: James Kirkendoll, MALCOLM WILLIAMS, I guess Buckner and Webber, but meh. F: Shipley, Phillip Payne, John Chiles Slot: Cosby, Collins, Two really skinny dudes
The receiving corps is not the big disastrous conglomerate of hopeless nobodies you might expect from what you've heard. Cosby and Shipley will continue to give us solid contributions (though I still don't know what everyone's talking about with this "Jordan Shipley is The Truth" crap. He's good. He is not the Great White Hope. He's just good.) Shipley makes great quick cuts after the catch and Cosby has hopefully added the deep ball to his resume. Quan laid out for a perfectly-placed lob from Colt to grab the best catch award and possibly the loudest cheer of the night from the crowd. He had his man (unknown, sorry, it was exciting) beat by about a step.
Apart from the knowns, you've got several candidates for split end, with Montre Webber and Dan Buckner not looking quite as ready as today's starter James Kirkendoll and my projected starting SE, Malcolm Williams. I guess Malcolm just had that extra bit of readiness about him that I picked up on. He had a nice catch and run down the sideline that he ran a great route to receive in the first place. To me, this sounds better than Cap'n Kirk's TD from yesterday, but I'll have to defer to those present. Brandon Collins doesn't look far from filling in for Quan competently, and Phillip Payne looked like a speedy TE out there.
Speaking of TEs, we're going to be just fine there after this year, if my thoughts after tonight are correct. Irby still needs some work before he enters the realm of being compared to Dave Thomas, but Josh Marshall and Ian Harris are well within the realm of being compared to Jermichael Finley. Both had some good catches and runs thereafter, with Josh showing off a little more simply because he had more snaps on second team. The guys are big and they look good, surely one of them will step up.
Backfield: QB: Colt, Chiles RB: Vondrell, Fozzy, Chris O, Cody Johnson (FB)
Don't worry about the QB controversy. Colt is the best QB by a mile. His decisions are quick and usually smart, his arm didn't show a lack of strength (I didn't notice any receivers waiting on balls, and he had the aforementioned beautiful deep toss to Quan for a "TD"), and he showed mobility in the backfield at the appropriate time, less happy feet and more evading real pressure. Chiles is not going to solve your problems in the passing game. Though he may have strung together a few nice comps, he also consistently underthrows anything more than 20 yards or so out. The first pick he threw (to Earl Thomas, madman) would have landed about 6-10 feet in front of his intended receiver, and just looked bad from the beginning. The second pick was just a jump ball he lobbed up to Montre Webber who got manhandled by Curtis Brown and never had a chance at it. He won't be passing us out of any holes any time soon. Chiles also took quite a long time making decisions, as noted by others. Overall, I think he's on track to become a competent passer (all we'll need with those legs) by the time he'll be needed significantly, but don't wait for him this year.
Your running backs will be fine. With Vondrell McGee bowling over Earl Thomas after an 8 yard chunk (Thomas hung on, so yay! Everyone wins! But seriously, flat on his back) between finding nice big lanes to speed through and Fozzy outrunning Aaron Williams all the way to the endzone, I think we'll find someone to cover for Jamaal. Cody Johnson looked really good catch passes, especially when he got a head of steam. The big ol' kid really likes to hit defensive backs, I say let him, it looks fun.
Starting Defense today (and I would venture, your starting 4-3 version of the D) was: Line (From the defense's POV): LE: Henry Melton, EDDIE JONES, SAM ACHO LT: Miller, Ben Alexander RT: Houston (wearing #33, hmmm), Aaron Lewis (an all DE tackle spot... hmmm again) RE: Brian "In your kitchen, making a sandwich" Orakpo
Eddie Jones was constantly threatening our depth at QB, but luckily he paid attention to the black jerseys and saved the University some hospital bills for Mr. Chiles. Sam Acho was all over the field, even following Chiles 15 yards after a scramble to strip the ball for the defense, which promptly congratulated him with a stream of profanities not even suitable for Oscar-winning actors. It really is a lot of fun watching these guys get excited about everything. The offense would cheer the big plays and the defense was happy to rub their faces in each turnover with lots of noise. This DL, if it stays healthy, should bring down lots of noise from DKR this year.
Linebackers: OLB: Muckelroy MLB: Bobino, Norton OLB: Kindle, Keenan Robinson
Standard operating procedure applies here. Bobino beats out Norton, which actually would make sense if you saw Norton try to cover a receiver in a zone. Keenan Robinson has the frame, but needs to add some pounds to contribute effectively from his looks. Kindle is The Truth.
DBs: CB: Deon Beasley (From Freaksville, TX), Curtis Brown LS: Ben Wells, Blake Gideon RS: Earl Thomas, Christian "Stop yelling at me" Scott, Ishie Oduegwu CB: Palmer, Aaron Williams (not in a good way)
The starting four looked solid, with maybe a Gideon/Wells switch to come, judging from the amount of PT Gideon got here. Oduegwu can be a good backup, he likes to hit. Christian Scott got yelled at quite a bit, as did Aaron Williams, who got burned by Quan slipping a tackle as he caught a low pass and generally showed unimpressive stuff. Curtis Brown absolutely manhandled Montre Webber down the sidelines to snag an easy John Chiles prayer for an INT. I'm excited about this group for next year.
So, what do we know now? Well, not much. But I would bet you that the final starting D isn't much different from the one listed above, and the same goes for the starting offense. Switch Williams for Cap'n Kirk and that's my starting offense. I think the offense looks good enough to support the defense and give them some rest this year, and the running game could come in handy at times if GD remembers it. The defense looks to have a threatening pass rush and linebackers that could patrol the nightmares of the likes of Graham Harrell and Chase Daniel, hell, maybe even Sam Bradford. The secondary will be young, but the talent is definitely there for them to erase their mistakes with a few big plays and timely turnovers. Basically, I just saw my first hour or so of live football in about 6 months, and I guarantee you I'm more "JACKED" than any of our players looked to you other practice reporters about this season getting under way. I'm also very sleepy. Goodnight. Maybe I'll talk a little about the triple option from the two-back shotgun formation tomorrow. If I like you.[Note by Horn Brain, 08/08/08 11:04 PM CDT ] I guess I don't like you guys as much as I thought. Kidding, I just have to move into my new place this weekend, and we haven't dealt with the cable people yet. I should also mention that I have completely failed at estimating how much time I'd have this summer. Sorry to all of you who expected me to go stat-crazy, but my job ended up taking much more out of my day than I expected, and I never really got settled in anywhere moving place to place to avoid having to find an apartment for 2.5 months. Wah, I know, but them's your breakfast. Hopefully I can crank out something more on what I saw at practice tomorrow.