The coaching staff showed a few lone tastes of what they're developing on Saturday. That is, everything that wasn't a scheme staple - because it's practice after all - had a loud cameo appearance in front of lobo fan's first 2014 practice. The offense ran a few red herrings and it was nice to see them sprung. Naturally I'm going to be a bit vague about these plays themselves, but lobo fans should expect to see Cosgrove's indention without incredible wholesale changes first off. Not shocking? It doesn't need to be. It's the difference between your favorite dish at two different restaurants...you know the flavor of your favorite but Cosgrove's way is a bit more bold and cathartic. A stronger cup of coffee. A higher octane gasoline, an animal with a new set of horns...pick your own metaphor because they're all true.
Biggest differences in the Cosgrove led squad:
- Increased aggression but in incremental steps (from recent defensive years).
- Blitz variety is increased from direction and position
- Some sell out attack compared to minimal.
- Improved tackling; less turnover farming
The prime conflict of today's scrimmage was a battle between the defense penetrating incredibly early, shutting down before a play before it began, or watching the offense move the ball in steady chunks when breaking the line. If the play got through, the offense was able to chip away at the backers one-on-one. The offense did perform well and still showed some flexed muscle in break out runs and run blocking. "Losing" the scrimmage came down to a few more opportunities and turnover conversions for the defense.
I noticed an irregular number of penalties at times. Not debilitating by any means but enough to notice in a traditionally low penalty team. I didn't think much of it, just enough to stick out I suppose.
This was a rep fest naturally, and many players were held out on defense and offense. The usual suspects were being protected: Bowers, Cox, Pressley (minor inj.) Gautsche went down on what looked like a pulled hamstring and was cut short. Gongbay did thump some plays out there and was physical. Some first teamers were active but yielded to others for reps.
I tried to keep a look out for the JUCO's in for spring. I didn't notice Eden Mahina at first, but handling the ball at center usually means no news is good news. No snap problems. Good show. Lehman (TE: #88) looks ahead of schedule for a JUCO soph's development. Big, quick and can catch the ball. A solid addition to a thirsty area. With respect to Langford and Henry, I kept an eye out for them but didn't immediate see them working the field. I may be mistaken.
"Former" Lobos all over the place: Ben Skaer, Darrell Johnson, Jacori Greer in an active coaching role. Lots of familiar faces that are always great to see.
Position group awards in no particular order.
D-line: Twitty, D'Avanzo, Hughes (for a true freshman performance)
This group had more penetration than I've seen in past seasons and running to the outside showed improved coverage from the front seven. Everything really does start at the line of scrimmage...there's no way around it. Hightower got reps and tackles, Mabany was active in the scrum as well. Udeh shook off some stingers and was fighting constantly inside for position. Udeh has proved to be a building block in the D-line's success and his presence has been valuable to the line's backbone. It might have been the side of the field I was on, but it was fun watching Reno Henderson and Hughes try to contain each other on the edge. Watching wrapped lineman steps away from a rushed ball release was a pleasant surprise. This pressure resonates from several successful lobo defenses of the past and the memory rang true immediately. Things are looking great at times. At times.
RB: Romell Jordan, Crusoe Gongbay, Wendell Carter
Coach Davie's similarity comparison between Jordan and Gipson is very founded and now I know why. Jordan will do good by DeMarcus Rogers' old number and makes a good break out, well-rounded runner. Gongbay thumps and punishes down the field with great speed. I hope his style keeps him upright and healthy this season...because the odds of defense's coming out unscathed doesn't look likely. Wendell Carter (a walk-on from an Arizona community college) is healthy for the first time in a lobo uniform and celebrated by piercing the middle with a break out run to pay dirt. A special nod to him, although he was limping at the end of practice. I hope there aren't any complications there.
WR: Marcus Lopez, Dameon Gamblin, Michael Walsh
Lopez, the converted practice squad RB, was solid in the short pass game and popped with his time on the field. Lopez has a slot back build and proved to have consistent hands when fed in the scrimmage. Gamblin had a great play off a hard defensive shift, which saw him grab a deep ball (from Mitchem) on an out route. Whether from play call or improvisation on his individual, he got in position and the situation busted him wide open. There's always more refinement to build in QB/WR chemistry but he produces well and creates when the ball gets to his area. A smart player with good hands. Michael Walsh showed some flashes with his time on the field and cleaned up some throws with diving catches. A walk-on from Albuquerque, this local product's build is promising with lots of time to grow in the saddle; improving his stock in the team and conference. Walsh has a good ceiling to reach towards. Time to buy low.
QB: Lamar Jordan
When Lamar got a chance to break into the open field he really became dangerous. Shaking a guy to get an angle was a real threat and made me take notice immediately. The size argument conversation has little effect when you watch him with the ball. I want to see him in more live action throwing scenarios to dissect his athlete throwing motion/accuracy. Athlete QB's are notoriously 50/50 on accuracy (generally) and I want to see him put things together with bodies flying at him behind the line. Throwing was in the intermediate range at scrimmage and his touch was in the neighborhood. His pitch looked OK.
Mitchem ran the offense efficiently and ran the plays presented pretty well. The missing ingredient to really break out his game lies in his ball hand off read. He's doing the motion cleanly but needs to concentrate on reading and pulling to really gouge the defense. The margin for error is quite thin here admittedly, but these little things will really set his game on fire when that control is there. His arm is still apparent and he still scrambles well when things break down. His legs are a marvelous threat.
Kimbro got in the game and is picking up the nuts and bolts of this offense well. The details of repetition are really what will benefit Kimbro as he's functional behind center but doesn't wield the play call fully just yet. He'll truly start to make gains and pass people when the little things (hand offs and timing) make the edges less green and doubly valuable. In Kimbro's case his intangibles point towards a significant jump once the "machine" is put together and lined up square. He's an option in a few different positive directions right now and possibly explosive down the line. Solid thrower. I need to see his pitch.
Gautsche (in warm ups and offensive drills today) has cleaned his throwing motion as much as I've seen so far. The part separating him from the other prolific throwers on the roster is pure zip on the ball down field. He's doing things right and accurately, he just needs to advance in the mechanics built and add to the pile at it's foundation. In a word, time. In a second word, repetition. Ball velocity/timing is his last hurdle to cure in a slew of positives that drive this offense from his starting position. The arm strength is there.
McCown has bulked up substantially...to the point where he's a pocket presence that's will be hard to bring down clean. Quinton's role in this offense is a bit of an enigma given this new size, though operating the offense has options to keep him in the pocket if need be. Changes to his speed aren't game tested and everything else (like running today's punishment laps for example) are guesses at best. Possible experimenting with play call flow could be useful here. What has this done to his arm/touch; good or bad? The unanswered questions are pending now and probably into the fall.
The only roster QB not present was David Vega.
-Line: with an emphasis on Mahina in his limited time as a lobo.
They still have their run blocking down pat. So much so that it's hard to single out individuals in a practice where the offense could have won. Mahina snapped just fine and the running backs only suffered occasionally from a DE on the edge. In a scrimmage of two hand touch sacks, they allowed one. Pass protection could be called hit and miss but many times it bent without breaking. Not bad, just an area of improvement.
TE: Lehman, Edling
This is a little by default, but Lehman looks to get into the mix fairly quickly I think. This addition looks like it may pan out nicely. Chris Edling showed improvement in some of last years areas to grow, mainly his receiving consistency on a finite sample size. His blocking role was solid and other areas of development look to make the plays count. His route running and hands look to be improved. Georges, a walk-on from Albuquerque, got involved in the receptions as well. I'm more confident with this group all the damn time! I didn't see Reece White working, I'm not sure why. Possibly held out.
DB/S: Ricky Bennett, Markel Byrd, Donnie Duncan, Jadon Boatright
The list above are individuals that had good consistent reps, some near-miss big plays, some actual turnover conversion. and all of them kept the offense from advancing with yards after catch; a theme from the squad overall today. Bennett put on his hard hat stopping plays, Byrd had a dropped pick-six on a smart route jump, Duncan had one, singular missed assignment (which I'm convinced came from a risky play call coverage that he played correctly)...and was generally dependable. Boatright made his presence known in his reps. This area is getting cleaned up...it's not ready to dictate it's role in the game as of yet, but it's getting sharper. The ball didn't always go at Edwards but I think he did a good job. Guthrie was limited and Isaiah Brown is still held out with injury.
LB: Donnie White
This rep fest had a lot of test linebackers and the RUSH OLB were the ones that took a lot of limelight. Many starters were limited in this group's reps. The backers that got in there fought and managed to take a few victories, though they had a rough time laterally. This group did converge well on the edges at times and plug a hole off and on. It was hit and miss; one break through the middle (TD) was all they gave up. Coming off of run blocks is still an area of concern, but I recognize that many of these backers were developmental. The second level had it's moments but was fighting a slowly receding field position battle when the line couldn't break up the play.
It could be a concern but I can't say that the picture is complete. It's a rep fest. The picture is far from complete without other JUCO's arriving or starters with experience peeling off blocks.
Special Teams: David Guthrie
I watched Guthrie warming up from the end zone during punt practice. At his peak he bounced one on the opponent 35 yard line! Minimal wind! 65 yards! If he works at it this summer I think he'll have a fighters chance at the punting job. The non-scholarship kickers, Zack Rogers and Rafael Vigil, missed one field goal between them. Not bad to start off. One of them actually got a kick partially blocked but the velocity carried the ball @ 35-40yds. I saw a singular muffed punt return all practice long. Special teams could be considered a pass today.