Major was up first: On the Offensive Line
There are just so many different things to go into the offense. What I see are linemen who are a little bit more comfortable in their combos. They've worked together and become thicker on the line of scrimmage. You see Johnathan, Joe and Malcolm becoming a whole lot more comfortable in the open field as well.
The team is spending at least 15 minutes in individual drill work just throwing passes to the RBs, if that gives you any indication of Major's commitment to getting our best players involved in every facet of the game. As good as Shipley and Mike Davis are, we are very thin at experienced WR depth. Getting RBs involved in the passing game keeps LBs and safeties honest, setting up big play potential from Magic Mike, Kendall Sanders, and Jaxon Shipley when the opportunity arises. Harsin had a great instinct when to go for the big play and Major has picked up on that. Having a functional blocking surface at the TE with MJ McFarland will also help seal the edge long enough for receivers to get open, and Ash has been looking for McFarland quite a bit up the seam and on the boundary by the first down hash. As opposed to three yards before it in the Greg Davis years...Hi Greg!
From watching LHN practices, Ash's deep ball is much more consistent to the point Kaylee Hartung blushes when talking about it. Major wasn't quite as impressed after the first scrimmage:
“(Ash’s) performance was uneventful,” Applewhite said. “He didn’t have any turnovers, but there was nothing big in terms of huge plays made. We’re not allowed to tackle the quarterback, so it was hard to see what he created for himself on a few scrambles. I was pleased to see him run. I was pleased to see him not turn over the ball. At the same time, there were some penalties, some signals not getting in the right way, and some things he could have managed better.”
Of course, Ash could have completed every pass as a TD and Major would say he has work to do. The coaches are faint with praise for a reason, but no turnovers by first or second team is always a good stat. And no, it doesn't mean our defense sucks. Mack said the defense is ahead of the offense (as you'd expect in August) and is still dictating what the offense can do. That balance should ideally shift to where on any play, both the offense and defense score.
With Marcus Johnson sidelined for what will likely be the remainder of August camp with a knee tweak, the biggest benefactor seems to be Daje Johnson, even though they play different positions. Daje was all over the place in the last two practices and is playing at full speed on every down, which isn't something we've seen from him. He and Kendall Sanders just move faster than the other guys and you can expect our YAC numbers to take a nice jump from last year because of these guys. Now if Kendall Sanders just had two more inches and another 20 pounds ... we still don't have that big edge guy. But Arizona does now -- Connor Brewer and Cayleb Jones have been reunited in Tucson. Maybe they can share Dan Buckner's old room.
Guys that stood out in scrimmage:
This meshes with the same names you've been hearing. Mr. Shuttlesworth is quite high on the new and improved Steve Edmond. Might he become the heat-seaking, extra point-kicking, destructo LB we envisioned heading into last season after all?
Personally, I prefer Tevin Jackson over Edmond and Santos. First one off the bus, imo.
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Despite lacking an elite slot enforcer at Safety a la the Machete, being able to crosstraing(!) Byndom at Safety, Phillips at nickel, and have guys like Duke Thomas and Sheroid Evans slide over to corner and play as well as they have has to make Akina smile. Evans and Thomas would start for most D1 teams, if not the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately we can't say the same about our starting safeties, which is why you're seeing a little more shuffling than usual. Akina has enough to depth to make confident gambles in practice.
And Diaz seems to be serious about getting his best guys on the field:
Sheroid Evans has really made a jump in terms of his dedication to football and playing it full-time now. A lot of these guys in recruiting, you have to go from being the best athlete on your high school team and a very gifted athlete, but then you become a good football player. Those two are not always the same thing. Most often they're not the same thing. Sheroid, of course, is very blessed athletically, is now finally dedicating himself to what it takes to become a good defensive back, which you need to do more things than just run fast, otherwise you'd get a four-by-one team to play in your secondary. He's really absorbing the coaching from Coach Akina. You can tell he worked hard in the summer in the 7-on-7s in the player-led practices. He's done a nice job. Bryson Echols has really done some impressive things, showed some toughness at the point of attack, really good feet at the line of scrimmage and he's seems like he's got a knack for getting his hand on the ball and making some plays. Duke Thomas, his improvement has been really phenomenal to watch. His effort, his toughness, right now he's as good as anybody we have. He's playing at a very high level. He's just one of those guys that you have to be careful what you tell him because he's going to do it exactly the way he's coached and do it full speed. He's a pleasure to be around.
Diaz didn't single out true freshman Antuan Davis or sophomore Adrian Colbert, but Mack did after Tuesday's practice, saying both will be in the mix. Colbert and Leroy Scott bring a much need physicality to the safety position that Mykelle Thompson doesn't offer, while Antuan Davis has learned the playbook quickly and has natural speed only Evans can match.
On the defense's overall performance in the scrimmage:
First and foremost, I think just swarm. I think that has been a big rallying point. Team defense is trusting guys and leveraging the football. If I believe that someone is going to set an edge to the football play, then everyone can run and track the inside hip. When you do that, physics says that that's where the more violent tackles happen, creating a lot of knock-back because guys aren't having to stop their feet on contact. You see guys running through contacts. You're starting to see some of those glimpses of guys trusting their teammates. They say, 'Look, I know you're going to be there, so I believe you're going to be there, so I'm going to run to my area as fast as humanly possible.' That's encouraging.
In every Manny Diaz press conference, there is always a question that elicits a response where you have to read the question again to see if he was even listening. Here is last night's version of "What was that question again?"
On what he got out of his trip to Stanford:
The biggest thing is, again, there are all kinds of people and everyone wants to talk about this, that and the other, but there are defenses and then there's defense. First and foremost, we have to play great defense. That matters more than the defenses that you play. That's still what this game's about. No matter how the offense chooses to line up and how quickly they choose to snap it, that's still the bottom line.
Barking Carnival's bold ass prediction for Aug 14: Cedric Reed will have more sacks than Jackson Jeffcoat. He looks awesome. Especially wearing Alex Okafor's Hannibal Lecter facemask. He's rangier, taller, and better in run support. He lacks the pass rushing moves Jeffcoat has been practicing with Dad since he was two, but has an elite first step. Either way, good problems to have off the edge when these two are challenging eachother for double digit sacks.
Do you think the Longhorns will have something special for BYU in week 2 regardless of Desmond Harrison's eligibility?