Let’s jump right into content, because I’m leaving in a half hour to watch the Mariners sweep the As. For some reason, my coworker thinks that wearing his Oakland Frank Thomas jersey will bring out the best in hitters like Travis Buck or Ryan Sweeney. Uh, no.
Actually, I stand corrected. My coworker informs me that he is wearing a Charles Thomas jersey. Somehow this seems much more appropriate.
The team spent a lot of time in 11 on 11s, and when you’re rooting for the offense and the defense, highlights are plentiful.
- The DBs were working on zone coverage early, and it was a little rocky. Against broken coverage, Riley hit a wide open Boateng on an underthrown pass and then overthrew Drew Glover, who could not catch up to it. Brock Mansion hit Boateng in stride, who was again wide open as a result of busted coverage. The defense started to tighten up and Riley responded, throwing a beautiful corner to Calvin, who for some reason slowed up and could not bring it in. He did make a spectacular one-handed catch while falling down, but it was out of bounds.
- Vereen returned from his hamstring injury to full contact action but despite a full amount of reps, couldn’t show much. The defense swarmed the running game throughout the enitre practice, consistently bottling up Vereen, Slocum, and DeBoskie for minimal gains.
- The defense also put consistent pressure on the QBs, as they have done throughout the spring. Foes of Gregory take heart; the defense (still running a 3-4) worked on their blitz packages, often rushing at least 5 defenders. It seemed particularly effective in the red zone, where the players in coverage do not have to defend as much of the field. Of course, we have to remember that spring is a time for experimentation (as Tedford has said), and that just because the team is working on their 3-4 or blitz packages does not mean we’ll see a lot of them in the fall. That being said, I am encouraged by the amount of pressure the defense is putting on the quarterbacks this spring, both from blitzes and from down linemen.
- The defensive backs turned it up about halfway through practice and came up with a number of picks. Syd got a pick-six on a Riley pass towards the sideline, Amadi made a diving pick on a comeback route and got another on a tipped ball in the endzone, and Conte did the same, while nearly coming up with a second.
- Nyan had a nice catch on a well timed comeback route, and LaReylle once again caught every thing thrown to him - I’m fairly certain that I’ve still never seen him drop a ball. He also showed a nice burst on a couple of occasions, giving a shoulder fake to gain separation while running up the middle and on a later play, turning a tough corner to get into the endzone. Calvin also showed good speed while being chased by Follett, what surely must be one of the most terrifying situations known to man. If I caught the ball and saw Follett turn to run at me, I too would run very quickly in the other direction.
- In the so easy it’s hard category, Mansion had great protection on a play near mid-field and, after thinking about it for a second and a half, threw right into double coverage over the middle. It was surreal experience in the stands as you saw Mansion stare down the underneath receiver, thought "there’s no way he throws it there", and reacted in agony as the defense nearly picked off a hopeless pass. Later on, with the defense applying its standard heavy pressure (feels REALLY weird to write that about Cal), Mansion escaped the rush, bought time behind the line, directed traffic in the endzone, and threw a perfect strike across his body for a TD.
- It’s getting a little redundant to keep writing this, but Tad Smith made another nice catch in traffic, Cam Jordan destroyed Justin Prueitt off the edge, and Anger let off some towering shots. Anyone who hasn’t seen Anger punt yet, you’re in for a treat.
- Mike Costanzo has been a forgotten man on the D line (if that’s possible for a d-lineman going into his redshirt-sophomore year), but he looked energetic during 1 on 1s.
- As stated earlier, the running backs had a difficult time getting on track with the swarming defense, but Covaughn made a great one- handed jumping catch at the goal line for a TD.
- The team ran sprints at the end of practice, with a twist that the starting gun was either a ball being snapped (despite the cadence), or the second "go" in a hard count. Tedford expressed his displeasure when someone jumped early and reiterated the importance of attention to detail and the mental aspect of the game. Nobody particularly stood out in the sprints except for Cameron Jordan, who destroyed his fellow D-linemen. Yes, I am aware that I am developing a bit of a man crush on him.
Time for a sweep. Go Bears! (and Mariners)