Sorry for the delay but I spent all Sunday trying to figure out what to do with 135 naked Middle Tennessee State tickets.
First things first, I thought the crowd was fantastic. There were somewhere around seven thousand in attendance, and I think that created the type of environment that Steve Kragthorpe was hoping for. Less fantastic was spending half an hour to get out of the parking lot when you have somewhere to be.
I thought that Brian looked sharp, and had it not been for multiple drops his numbers (11 of 22 for 173 yards and two touchdowns) would not have appeared so pedestrian. The deep throw to Urrutia down the right side and the throw to Pat Carter while he was rolling out were especially tremendous. He rushed a few throws when the defense was bearing down on him and still didn't seem 100% comfortable with the new offense, but he doesn't have to be yet.
I was disappointed with who we didn't get to see as Willie A. Williams, Rod Council and Harry Douglas didn't participate. Douglas did hold on kicks but is still nursing a minor hamstring injury, while Council dressed but did not see the field, and Williams stayed home because of the flu.
Douglas has looked fine when he has participated in route-running drills, and everyone already knows what he can do so there was no point in him playing on Saturday. Missing Williams was obviously a disappointment, but linebacker is far from a problem area so if he's not as ready as he would have been come Aug. 30, then it's not that big a deal. Council's absence, though, does concern me.
Kragthorpe said something after the scrimmage to the effect of I know what #85 and #14 can do so I'm not worried about it. I love his confidence, but Harry and Rod's situations are far from comparable. Douglas is the best receiver on arguably the best receiving corps in America, while Council has been plagued by injuries, didn't play particularly well in the only game he was completely healthy for last season (Orange Bowl), and is part of a secondary that desperately needs some guys to step up and have huge seasons.
I loved Rod's enthusiasm from the sidelines, and I think he's said all the right things this offseason, but I'd be much more confident in our corners if I knew he was going full tilt and making some plays in practice right now.
The good news is that even with Council's absence, the corners played very well on Saturday.
Of course you can't talk about the Cardinal secondary without getting the inevitable Woodny Turenne slurping out of the way first. The play he made on the deep ball to Urrutia was as impressive as any play I saw by a U of L defensive back all last season. Mario had at least two steps on him and the ball was perfectly thrown, and Turenne still managed to make up the ground and make a diving deflection in what seemed like a split second. He's just got tremendous instincts and when you pair that with the ability to run sub 4.3 40's, you've got a hell of a cornerback on your hands. After Turenne's senational play there was a lot of talking going on between he and Urrutia for the rest of the night, which was entertaining.
If something does end up holding Council back, and Bobby Buchanan doesn't pan out as a replacement, I'll at least be comforted by the memories of the play of Travis Norton and Chaz Thompson on Saturday. Norton made two sensational plays, including one on a deep ball from Brohm to Spillman, and Thompson (who didn't get yelled at for hitting) made a great break on a slant route and held his own against some pretty stout competition the rest of the evening.
The highlight of the night was easily Trent Guy's 70-yard reverse touchdown run on the first play of the second series. He also scored near the end of the game on a jet sweep, solidifying my belief that he is going to be taking over the JaJuan Spillman role of 2006 in 2007.
With Douglas sitting, it was Spillman who took over as the starting Z receiver, and as a result he had a ton of balls thrown his way. He only ended up making two catches for 40 yards, but I thought he had another good showing with the exception of not making the catch on a perfectly thrown deep ball by Brohm because he started to slow down when he looked up to find the ball.
After surrendering touchdowns on the first two possessions, the defense kept the offense out of the endzone for the next seven or eight trips. The crowd was supportive at first, but after a while you could sort of see people's faces saying "all right, that was cool, now start scoring again."
The O-line performed admirably against a defensive line that's going to have a decisive edge over most of its counterparts, but on more than one occasion blitzers would have been able to absolutely light Brohm up had hits on the QB been allowed.
Peanut Whitehead was a beast among men in the trenches, consistently getting into the backfield and making plays or forcing hurried throws. Number eight is going to be discussed quite a bit this time two months from now.
As impressive as Whitehead and Turenne were, Lamar Myles was the standout on defense. Malik Jackson produced one of the best defensive seasons at U of L in recent memory a year ago but was largely overlooked because of the offense and Amobi Okoye, and I think we're going to see something similar with Myles in '07. He always seemed to be in the right place and delivered some serious blows including a shot to Gary Barnidge after he made a catch coming across the middle.
People, myself included, are constantly raving about the size of guys like Willie Williams and Peanut Whitehead, but you forget that Myles owns just about every major weight lifting record on the team. The guy is an absolute beast and he's going to play like one this season.
I'm getting closer and closer to being convinced that Sergio Spencer should be the starting tailback on this team. Along with great speed, he has a knack for quickly finding holes, and he and Bolen both do a great job of keeping their legs moving after contact.
I'm not down on Anthony Allen, I'm just not completely sold on him being the guy who deserves the majority of the carries this season. I haven't seen him fumble once this summer, which is good, but I also haven't noticed a great deal of improvement in his lateral movement. He can get away with running over people and hitting wide holes for much of the season, but against the likes of Rutgers and South Florida, it's not going to work.
Spencer did drop a screen pass, which is a definite a no-no in Steve Kragthorpe's world, and Allen made a nice catch on a 10-yard rocket thrown by Brohm, which was good to see considering he only made three receptions in '06.
The funk that has plagued George Stripling for about 10 months was in full-effect again. I don't know what caused him to lose his confidence, whether it was a big hit, the fumbles, or being held out of the WVU game, but this isn't the same guy we saw in 2005 or in the UK and Miami games. This team needs George Stripling to have the same epiphany that Kolby Smith had before the Syracuse game a year ago.
I'm sure whether he's injured or just in the dog house, but not only did Dale Martin not see the field on Saturday, he didn't have a helmet. He also spent all but about ten minutes of the night sitting by himself on the bench. He might be upset about not playing right away, but behaving like this and not running out your only carry on the second day of practice is not the right way to impress your coaches and make up ground on the upperclassmen.
Doug Beaumont saw the field a decent amount and got a touch on a jet sweep near the middle of the night. The bad news is that he got popped pretty well by about three guys as he was trying to get to the outside, to his credit though, he never went down. Vic Anderson also saw some time and some touches, although his impact was limited.
I don't want to go overboard because of what I saw on one night during a scrimmage, but Bilal Powell has me excited. He made a TREMENDOUS cut on a five or six yard run inside the ten, and just seems to have that look. I know he's got a lot to learn as far as being a collegiate running back, and that he'll likely redshirt this season, but I would not be surprised if Powell ends up being the best back out of the seven on the roster once all is said and done.
Matt Simms and Tyler Wolfe each got to run the show for a series, and I thought it was the freshman who actually appeared more composed. He did bobble his first snap, but he showed great touch on a pair of throws, one of which was a 30-yard completion to the freakishly tall Josh Chichester. Wolfe was obviously trying hard to impress in the limited time he had on the field, but he badly overthrew a receiver on his only attempt and the offense went three-and-out.
You know that Steve Kragthorpe was holding some stuff back, but it did seem like he wanted to show off for the crowd a little bit with the mis-direction plays and the neat little screen pass that Mario took to the house when the team moved to the inside 20 drills. It was sort of like he was saying "I can't show you just yet, but don't worry, I got this."
Not a huge day for Scott Long, but he did make a nice catch for about 25-yards at one point. I think this is what we're going to see from Scott this season, nothing bottom-line worthy because of the guys in front of him, but some solid catches each game and maybe a big play here or there. But in 2008...
Scott Long is also the worst throwing wide receiver I've ever seen. Usually I'm in awe of how well the receivers can throw the ball when they show off their arms in warm-ups, but Long was tossing a little bit with Cantwell on the sidelines and I've never seen more consecutive ducks in my life. Pat Carter he is not.
Chris Vaughn and Corey Thompson did not see the field, the latter having what appeared to be some sort of cast on his left foot. Vaughn has sat out the contact drills all summer so his absence was no surprise, but I'm not sure what the deal is with Thompson, although it could be the same injury that forced him to miss some time this spring.
As expected we saw a lot of motion from the tight ends and the fullbacks who, for the most part, handled their blocking assignments quite well. I was especially impressed with St. X grad Joe Tronzo who could see some solid time when Brock Bolen is used as the deep back.
Gary Barnidge was his solid self, making an exceptional touchdown catch on a bullet thrown between two defenders by Brohm.
Though he has to be at least a little upset with all the attention his name-twin is getting, I'm still extremely high on the play of Willie E. Williams. He made what I still contend was the best defensive play of last season when he dove and caught Pat White from behind on a draw inside the ten, and made another huge play on the goalline when the offense was trying to punch the ball in on Saturday. Injuries have plagued the D-line in recent years, and if that trend continues look for Williams to be the guy who steps up.
The Carmody jersey did in fact make its debut, and was able to see its hero drill field goals from 31 and 46-yards out. It did, however, shed a few tears when Art's third attempt was blocked by a leaping Bobby Buchanan. The right side of that field goal unit needs to straighten out some issues because Buchanan almost got to another kick, and then Todd Flannery had a short field goal blocked later in the game.
I was satisfied with the jersey's inaugural performance, but not enough to guarantee it opening day starter status just yet.
Overall, I was pleased with what I saw on the field, but even more pleased simply that I was able to see the team one more time before Aug. 30. I think this was a fantastic idea by Steve Kragthorpe, and hopefully one that some of the younger guys will benefit greatly from.
Again for you visual learners, here are a pair of highlight clips put together by the breathtakingly beautiful jbocardfan.