[Disclaimer] I must start by saying that you should take this analysis with a grain of salt. It was the second day of practice and they only wore helmets. I hate it but, “Nobody hates it more than the offensive and defensive line,” Shannon Dawson said after practice. But don’t you worry too much, there was still plenty of awesome to share.
1. The New Guys are as Large as Advertised
It’s easy to take paper measurements for granted, but it’s impossible to ignore the size of the freshman class in person. Chris Westry has the size and speed to make Blake Bone earn an opening, even though Westry still needs to work on his fundamentals. 6’2″ cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Will Jackson made a couple of good plays while working in time with the first team. Safety Marcus Walker looks like an SEC player as a true freshman and I can’t wait to see his physicality once they add the shoulder pads. WR Jabari Greenwood might have become the biggest wide receiver the day he stepped on campus. He’s not just tall, he’s wide. Speaking of wide, Big George stepped in the starting spot on the offensive line after a migraine kept Kyle Meadows up all night. A lot of the young guys Stoops has brought in needed a redshirt year to gain the size needed to play in the SEC, but that will not be a problem with this group.
2. Drew Barker is Keeping the QB Competition Alive
Patrick Towles shows the composure of a starting QB, handling the offense well and failing to make many poor throws. But Drew Barker is still pretty damn good. He has a very compact throwing motion, firing lasers in the mid-range routes. His timing was great, especially on the tight out-routes near the sideline. Practice finished with 11-on-11 work, and Drew drove his team down the field efficiently. He may not win the battle, but it’s reassuring to know there won’t be a gigantic drop off,
when if his number is called.
3. Tommy Mainord has a Good Problem at Wide Receiver
Stoops was upset there were more balls on the ground today than previously, but I’m going to ignore that statement because I was too busy figuring out which receivers are going to get the most clock. I’ll go spot-by-spot and tell you what I saw.
X – Blake Bone is tall and skinny, but he’s added weight that makes him look more formidable. He catches all the high balls and it’ll surprise you to see him get low in traffic. Thaddeus Snodgrass used his redshirt year exceptionally well, making a couple of tough catches on the sideline that could have easily been acceptable incompletions.
Z– Dorian Baker is a beast. He looks great after offseason knee surgery, and has swagger reminiscent of “Prime Time,” rocking one loop earring. I already spoke on Jabari Greenwood’s size, but I still couldn’t believe that he was bigger than Dorian. Additional reps should work out all of the kinks that come with the transition.
Slot– The Juice was loose as usual, but Ryan Timmons isn’t going to give up his spot easily. Timmons looked like the playmaker that carried the receiving corps the past two years. If there are any residuals from his injury, he didn’t show it, and he wasn’t shy to cross the middle of the field. The little guy, T.V. Williams, often gets forgot about, but he uses his body well and makes the routine plays. He deserves a shot at clock, but I don’t know where they’ll fit him in.
Y– C.J. Conrad is the true tight end of the team, able to block and catch exceptionally well (he had a hell of a catch on the sideline, jumping high to bring down a ball that appeared to be soaring out of bounds). Darryl Long appears to be the bigger, more blokcing oriented tight end, but he held his own in 7-on-7. Tavin Richardson is deceptive. He looks slower because his running form appears to require a lot of energy, yet he did very well flexed out in the slot, catching a couple of balls crossing the field. Don’t forget about Alex Montgomery on the inside. Shannon Dawson said it will still take him some time to mentally get over his injury, but reps will help him trust his leg. Anybody with hands like Montgomery deserves opportunities on the field.
4. This Team has a Ton of Support
I have never seen so many people surrounding the sidelines during an open practice. Fans were anywhere from three to five people deep around two football fields. Former players were at every turn. Kevin Mitchell drove all the way from Atlanta to watch the Cats do work. It wasn’t limited to those who have been directly involved with the program. Joe B. Hall was there to show his support. If you don’t think it makes a difference, the players and coaches can feel the BBN’s enthusiasm.
5. Who’s the Fastest on the Team?
I always believed it to be Jeff Badet. Stoops didn’t want to start any controversy, but he believed Boom is right up there with Badet, along with freshman cornerback Chris Westry. Boom said after practice, “I think I can take him [Badet].” T.V. Williams is also pretty fast, but he knows exactly who’s the fastest on the team, “Stoops – It’s a no-brainer.”
6. Who wears short shorts?
Josh Forrest wears short shorts. I would not advise you to ridicule him to his face about it. He’s going to be a bad man this Fall.
7. These Guys Plan on Having Plenty of Fun
The team gets plenty of serious work done, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun in the process. While waiting their turn in drills, don’t be surprised to see Dorian Baker dancing to the music over the intercom. Moments of trash talking between the offense and defense are never hard to find. Watching Shannon Dawson work with the QBs is a joy. He stood in front of them and instructed them to hit their target with his arms raised, “I’m only 5’10”, this is easy compared to the guys you’ll be throwing over.”
If they continue to improve they won’t just be having fun in practice, they’ll be having plenty of fun on Saturdays.