Sunday, April 29, 2007

Spring Practice: Receivers and Tight Ends

Like the running backs, the receiving corp was plagued with injuries this spring. The practices were usually full of receivers watching from the sidelines. Wideout Brandon Breazell suffered one of the more significant injuries. He came down awkwardly on a catch during the first week of practice and an MRI showed that he had a PCL strain and a possible tear.

Dorrell said, "We anticipate a pretty good recovery and have him be ready to go in the fall. He is not expected to need surgery."

Brandon's injury is very similar to the knee injury that sidelined Joe Cowan for the entire 2006 campaign. Even without surgery, the injury can require months of rehabilitation before the player can see the field again. The good news for Breazell is that he still has four months before the first game against Stanford.

The silver lining with injuries is that it gives an opportunity for new players to step into the spotlight. This fact wasn't lost on some of the less experienced receivers, as they tried to make the most of their newly found playing time.

"We’re missing our top three or four receivers right now", Dorrell said. "We’re trying to hang on and finish this last week. ... It’s good for the young players. It’s good for the guys that are healthy that haven’t had time in terms of these kinds of reps."

With only five healthy receivers, Terrence Austin was the main target for the quarterbacks at a number of practices. "Technically I’m a starter now", Austin said. "Considering that two of the guys above me are down and I’m just going to go from there."

New wide receiver coach Eric Scott announced that he is doing away with the frequent substitutions that were utilized by his predecessor, D.J. McCarthy. Scott is returning to a merit based philosophy with the best players seeing the majority of the minutes. This will help the receivers get into a rhythm and make sure the most experienced players are on the field for critical downs. This should be welcome news to all Bruin fans as the receiver rotation was a frequent complaint last season.

Another thing the offense will be looking to do more of this season is getting the ball downfield and letting the experienced receivers make plays. "(Offensive coordinator Jay Norvell) pretty much wants a certain caliber out of his receivers and he thinks that I can add to it", Austin said. "So I think I’ll get to showcase some of my talent in this new offense.

William Snead is making progress at tight end, still less than a year removed from a position switch from defensive end. He does not always catch the ball cleanly, or catch it at all, but Dorrell said that more time in the offense could cure that.

"His hands are actually pretty good, it's just awareness," Dorrell said. "I don't know that he really anticipates when the ball is coming. A lot of the passes he ends up not having success with are because he gets his head around just at the time the ball gets there, and he's not ready for it.''

Spring Game

Brian Dohn reported the following stats for WR and TE:

Marcus Everett 2 catches, 20 yards, TD
Adam Heater 2 catches, 20 yards
Logan Paulsen 2 catches, 19 yards

(sources: LA Daily News, LA Times, Brian Dohn)