The first day in full pads painted a better picture of what this team will look like in the coming weeks.
Even casual observers who chatted me up mentioned there being a notable difference in appearance – meaning size and speed. It is an accurate observation. There was plenty to like in the first session with full pads:
Standing out on offense:
Offensive line: In the spring looking at the offensive line anyone objective would have had to say that their play was erratic. In camp, thus far, including today they were consistent and played especially well in their bread-and-butter situation – the passing game, especially the first team line as they gave quarterback Kyle Pohl the necessary time to complete passes.
Quarterbacks: It’s only a week into this thing and there are still three more to go, but right now Pohl looks every bit the part of confident starter. Pohl completed a couple of deep balls, including a nice pitch-and-catch to sophomore running back Hakeem Lawrence that would have had TD possibilities in a game situation. Pohl and transfer QB Nick Hirschman found freshman Mykel Traylor-Bennett of better than 30 yards. Traylor-Bennett continued to look like the real deal on the field as he got time with the ones and twos, but he had the ball stripped away from him on one play that would have resulted in a turnover. The coaching staff really wants to get a good look at him to see if he figures in the wide receiver rotation. He’s looked good overall, whether he can continue that as the team acclimates to playing in pads and practice intensity picks up remains to be seen. Sophomore wide receiver Tyrell Goodman made his presence felt with a few catches, including one for more than 30 yards.
Running back: Freshman running back D.J. Jones got off a couple of nice runs with the second team offense and Jawon Chisholm continued to run strong and showed his ability to catch the ball, grabbing several receptions.
Standing out on defense:
Defensive line: Defensive end Albert Presley looks as if he’s starting to come on, getting pressure on the quarterback on several occasions. Again, Jatavis Brown gives the coaches reasons to believe that he’s going to be a standout linebacker.
But for the second consecutive day, Emmanuel Lartey stood out with a couple of passes defensed and a pick on Pohl during 11-on-11 drills.
Of note: Drew Phillips, a running back from Boaz, Ala. who will be converted to a slot receiver for Bowden’s spread is with the team now. He’s still waiting for an admissions issue to be cleared up then will begin his acclimation period. Phillips had his scholarship pulled from Brigham Young University in 2011.
“I'm anxious to see Drew Phillips because he is a very fast receiver,” coach Bowden said. “We're going to look at him in the slot and he brings great speed credentials in and we need to see that. He'll be behind; we have to see him quickly and early.”
Pads on: With the team dressed in full, Bowden said he was impressed their eagerness to play “real football,”
“What we have to start doing tomorrow is learn how to practice like the pros,” he said. “We have to learn to play fast, but protect ourselves and teach tackling more in one-on-one drills.”
He’s obviously aware of the risks, so he was thankful for a safe practice.
“The older I get, the thing that makes me the most happy is when no one gets taken off injured,” he said.