Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Game: Progress?

It was a chilly night out at the Rose Bowl. Not only were the fans a bit cold, but so was the offense; at least when it was running against the first string defense. But as the night progressed, the QBs started heating up, the running game thawed out a bit, and the fans left with some glimmers of hope for the 2009 season.

Let me just say that spring games at the Rose Bowl are awesome. That is one of the many great things that coach Neuheisel has brought to the program since he returned to Westwood. The other thing is getting former players and coaches involved. They were out there last night: Bruce Davis, Terry Donahue, Dick Vermeil, and Jerry Robinson. They were interviewed by Wayne Cook during breaks in the action and even coach Neuheisel was "wired up" and talked to the fans when the players were getting instructions on the next series.

Just like the last scrimmage, the offense came out and immediately got a first down on their first series. Coleman looked solid in those first few plays and the offense was downright nimble. That was the first three plays. After that the offense got pummeled by the defense. Dropped passes, defensive lineman in the backfield, and a running game that was going nowhere. Verner even picked off Prince to end his first drive.

Once the first string defense was on the bench, the tide started to turn. Johnathan Franklin provided one of the first sparks, by getting a nice screen pass from a scrambling Prince. If it were live action and the quarterbacks were allowed to be hit, I'm not sure if Kevin would have got the pass away. But it was still a nice pass and Franklin rambled down the field deep into the red zone. He came back out on another series and put the ball into the end zone for the first score of the evening. Later in the scrimmage he had another big run on a similar screen pass.

Dean and Knox also put together some nice runs. Dean has some power and on one memorable run he ran over a defender at the line of scrimmage; at first I thought it was going to be a short gain, but he managed to stay on his feet and ramble forward for another 10 yards. Knox, again, did his best Mo Drew impression. Bouncing off of guys and exploding through the line.

I'm sorry to say that Raymond Carter was not impressive. I think he only had one or two nice runs. The rest were him scrambling to the outside for a short gain. He had a fumble that was lost and he tends to go down on first contact. I don't think he's ever come back 100% from his knee surgery and I'm pretty sure the freshman backs are going to pass him up on the depth chart.

The quarterbacks got clicking as the night progressed. Prince started completing a number of passes in this spread, multiple receiver set. He had a great pass to Austin on a play where he rolled out to his right. It looked like everyone was covered but he found Austin on a 30 yard pass. Terrance came back to help out his QB and I thought it was a great connection for both players. Brehaut also had some good connections and some quick runs. Like Prince, he really struggled early but he found some success and put together a few good drives.

Kevin Craft just doesn't get it. He comes in for his first play of his first series and makes this ridiculous, ill advised shovel pass toward Presley on a broken play. Instead of just tucking the ball and running for a couple of yards, he makes this pass which had almost no chance of being completed and every chance of being intercepted. He was immediately benched and only came back at the very end of the night.

Besides Austin, the receivers were not very good today. There were a lot of dropped passes. Only at the end, when the 3rd string defense was in there, were guys consistently hanging onto the ball. I don't remember any of the TE making any big plays. Even Presley, who has had a big spring, made some drops and ran some routes wrong. This group, as a whole, really needs to step up. I would say that the best catches of the evening were made by the running backs.

The defense as a whole looked really sharp. Reggie Carter made a huge hit in the middle of the scrimmage that got the crowd oohing and awwing. Brian Price did his usual thing and I think he got two or three sacks. I counted four fumbles that the defense recovered, two of which were forced. The secondary was hawking the ball and absolutely swarming the offense. I'm sure much of that is the familiarity of the defense with the offensive game plan.

There was virtually no special teams play because Frank Gantz Jr. was visiting his ailing father. The only play was a field goal attempt that I believe was partially blocked. The special teams play during scrimmages is always really boring because they don't have live tackling... so I didn't miss it.

It was a fun game and I had a great time. I don't know if I saw anything entirely different from the week prior. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from the offense because so many guys were out with injury. The offensive line will be entirely reformed in the fall with the new guys and Maiva back in the lineup. Prince showed some flashes of being a good QB, but also struggled as a true freshman. A summer to polish up on the play book and work on timing will help these guys and I'm hoping for some big improvements come August.

1 comment:

dawn garcia said...

Always insightful ... when does the season start? I'm gettin antsy already!