Practice Analysis: Defense Gaining on Offense

The offense has been falling behind as the defensive backs are catching up and making life miserable for the receivers and quarterbacks. The quarterbacks aren’t helping with errant throws into traffic in the middle of the field. The offense lost for the third say out of four and had to run extra after practice on Wednesday. Here are some notables.

Quarterbacks had a rough day…

Chris Leak has had two days in a row now where he has thrown two interceptions. Three of the four were thrown in the mid range middle of the field and into coverage. They were tipped into the hands of another defender. The fourth was a nice read by Dorian Munroe and Munroe brought the ball back about 15 yards after making the pick.

Still running back by committee…

Brandon James is a jitterbug that hangs on the hips of his linemen and then bolts for open space depending on the path of the defense. He really uses his lack of size to his advantage. There are a couple of clips in last night’s video of Mr. James.

Kestahn Moore continues to move piles with his strong legs. I really don’t know how he does it, but he gets more yards after a pile up than anyone else.

Receivers are forming three groups…

Dallas Baker, Bubba Caldwell, Kenneth Tookes, and Jemalle Cornelius (yes I know I wanted him at corner yesterday) is the top group and look to see extensive playing time this season. David Nelson, Percy Harvin, and Jarred Fayson (also at quarterback) are in group two which are the guys I see backing up the first group once the season gets going. The third group consists of Louis Murphy, Nyan Boateng, Justin Williams, Riley Cooper, and Jamar Hornsby and they will be in a war to make the second group. One or more could switch positions.

Every day Baker is out there he does something new this fall. He has really improved his one on one moves.

Percy got punked by Ryan Smith inside five yards on one particular play in the 3rd down series.

Offensive Line rounding out a solid group…

There should be a really good starting five on the offensive line this year. Developing three backups for spot duty will be key. I can really see that happening. These guys are going against the best defensive line in the country in my opinion. That can only make them better. After two days of really watching the offensive line play, I rank the top seven (Tartt doesn’t count) guys as:

1. Drew Miller

2. Ronnie Wilson

3. Steve Rissler

4. Phil Trautwein

5. Carlton Medder

6. Simon Codrington

7. Jason Watkins

Once Tartt is healthy I like that eight to be able to play at a high enough and consistent level to be good up front on offense.

Defensive line has some real stars…

On the defensive line it is more or less the usual suspects that are standing out. Most times Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas dominate and did again on Wednesday. It is really apparent that Joe Cohen has gotten quicker up front. He is really looking good. Steven Harris looks good when he wasn’t injured and was performing. I think Brandon Antwine is really starting to get in better shape and has made some serious moves out there for playing time considerations.

Underachievers in my book so far this fall include Derrick Harvey. It isn’t that he hasn’t done anything, but Ray McDonald will need someone to spell him and Harvey should be winning a lot of the battles up front this fall that he isn’t. Clint McMillan was looking good until he got hurt (hamstring). I haven’t seen a lot from Darryl Gresham yet, but he is still a red-shirt freshman. He needs more time. Javier Estopinan isn’t setting the world on fire.

Linebackers trying to get solid depth…

We will see more form the linebackers when full pads come on, but they have been very active in pass coverage. Everyone knows that Brandon Siler and Earl Everett play well and they do it day in and day out.

After those two, it still remains a shuffle to find the right fit at the other spot and at the backup linebacker positions.

Brian Crum and Jon Demps remain in a dogfight for the Sam Linebacker spot and I think Demps inches closer every day. Ryan Stamper seems to be focusing more. He is one to definitely watch when the full pads come on. Stamper and Dustin Doe may be in a fight for the backup to Earl Everett. Brandon Spikes seems to really have the attention of the coaching staff and is called on to lead the defensive unit when he is in the game. We still see a great deal of Darryon Robinson in the mix as well. A.J. Jones was back at linebacker and seemed to really be flying to the ball in the defensive drills.

Secondary backups stepping it up…

One of the highest risers this fall has been red-shirt freshman Dorian Munroe. The Miami safety continues to play well and had an interception Wednesday that he returned some 15 yards or so on the video we provided. An improving Munroe certainly gives them more options in the secondary and actually allows someone like Joiner to help at linebacker if need be. Depth is a good thing for coaches.

Nothing spectacular yet from Tony Joiner or Kyle Jackson, but Nick Brooks has made a couple of plays himself.

Reggie Nelson missed almost all of the drills with back issue. Tremaine McCollum was thrown out there in his place and he and Reggie Lewis played well as the starters on Wednesday. New comer Ryan Smith from Utah was inserted at the first-team nickel and played very well. There are a number of clips of him breaking up the ball on the video we provided. I still think Jacques Rickerson and Ryan Smith are going to allow Nelson to move back to his more natural safety position where he can really be disruptive and not just take one guy out of the game. I think Nelson is the best corner right now, but just think he would be more valuable as a free safety and a defensive eraser.

Five Players Moving Up

* Dorian Munroe (S) – May be a weapon in the secondary before it is all over.

* Ryan Smith (CB) – Really impressed me with his speed and his awareness of his man and the ball.

* Ronnie Wilson (OG) – He may not even win as many as he loses against Cohen, Thomas, and Harris, but he fights them like no other.

* Percy Harvin (WR) – Just impressive from day one and had his black stripe moved from his helmet.

* Brandon James (RB) – Impressive and fun to watch run the ball.

Injuries and did not participate or left early:

DeShawn Wynn (fever), Tate Casey (leg), Jim Tartt (shoulder), Steven Harris (finger), Terron Sanders (knee), Corey Hobbs (foot), Clint McMillan (hamstring), Reggie nelson (back), Wondy Pierre-Louis (back), Bryan Thomas (knee)