I dropped by practice today for a half hour. Here are some notes...
J.D. Brookhart is using the spring to move players around in hopes to find another
Jabari Arthur. Some notable "experiments" include:
Bryan Williams (RB) playing strong safety,
Andre Jones (S) at receiver,
Gary Pride (WR) at running back and
Jalil Carter (CB) at safety.
The experiment most likely to succeed, in my opinion, is Williams at safety. The team lacks depth in the secondary. When Williams was coming out of high school in 2004, he
signed with Pitt as a cornerback. Then you also have to consider the gobs of depth the Zips have at running back.
As far as the other running backs go, they looked fantastic today.
Dennis Kennedy broke two touchdown runs.
Alex Allen had one of his own. Those two lead the pack so far, Brookhart said. He mentioned that he is looking for "a complete back." That tells me that
Andrew Johnson, while an outstanding runner, is not blocking like the coach would like.
The real inquiry is at quarterback, where
Chris Jacquemain and
Matt Rodgers will duel for the next six months. Jacquemain played a little today, then got sick with the flu. Rodgers took most of the snaps while I was there. He looked terrific. The balls rifled from his hand in tight spirals. He showed strong pocket presence, even with the offensive line blocking like a turnstile. With his field vision, arm strength and accuracy, I don't see a scenario where a healthy Matt Rodgers does not start at Camp Randall Stadium on Aug. 30.
Despite my bold prediction, Brookhart said Jacquemain leads the race and suggested it's not super close. The coaches have been impressed with both signal callers during the eight practices so far this spring. The problem has been providing time to throw. Injuries have kept linemen
Zack Anderson (surgery),
Mike Ward (pinched nerve) and
Corey Woods (knee) off the field.
Sean Fobbs and
Da'Von Moore had surgery before the spring. Starting in the fall, the team will implement a new policy for injuries. Like in the NFL, the Zips will provide an injury report on Thursday. Brookhart will not comment on injuries unless they are season-ending. This comes as many college coaches are beginning to fear lawsuits from athletes whose pro prospects might be diminished by revealing injury details.
Defensively, the strength appears to be up front. The line is getting great pressure and
Ryan Bain is the reason. He "is a huge improvement for us," Brookhart said. Another newcomer,
Aaron Williams, has impressed the coaches at linebacker.
Still, there is a need for playmakers, particularly at wide receiver.
Deryn Bowser is on the way from junior college, but he won't practice until fall.
Jeremy Bruce, the transfer from West Virginia, is playing, but he has a ways to go. What about
David Harvey? "I know nothing about it," Brookhart said.