It was a beautiful day out at Spaulding Field, but then again, when isn't it? The skies were blue and we heard a new sound for the fall. We heard pads and helmets clashing as the Bruins put on pads for the first time this year and want to know what came with the pads? Energy. There was a lot of energy and excitement at Spaulding Field today and whether it was just a good day or the pads got the guys ready to go, they put in a really good two hours today.
How do you tell the guys it's time to put on the pads and really get to work? How about a good ol' fashioned Oklahoma drill? As soon as the guys were done with stretching and getting loose, they got to a little hitting with an Oklahoma that really set the tone for the whole practice.
Strangely, the more players on the field and the more guys looking to hit, the better the offense looked. That was especially true for Richard Brehaut, who looked very sharp, while Kevin Prince was a little shaky. Both guys looked good whenever they threw the ball to Devin Lucien though, who is making a strong statement to get some snaps this year as a true freshman.
* Devin Lucien had a fantastic practice, as did Shaquelle Evans, both with several catches. Lucien had a beautiful long touchdown catch from Kevin Prince, adjusting to an underthrown ball to make the grab between Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price. Lucien's grab was all the more impressive coming directly after a dropped long bomb from Richard Brehaut to Nelson Rosario. Evans was consistently working the outside of the field, and their performance certainly stood out.
He may be a freshman, but Lucien looked like the best receiver out there. Whether coming across the middle, going to the corner or running quick hitch routes, Lucien looked fantastic. He has a definite swagger to him, running his routes and going after balls with the confidence of an upperclassman and daring defenders to take the ball away from him. Lucien works like he's trying to win a job and consistently get better. Even on little drills that were more for warm ups than anything else he was paying particular attention to his footwork and doing everything the best he could. That attitude is paying off on the field.
Add in Evans, who spent most of the time outside and working deeper up field and there are two newcomers who are making a strong case to bump the returnees down on the depth chart. We can only hope that we don't see the more effective and harder working young guys sat down while the experience guys get some run just for having done it before. So far in camp that doesn't appear to be the case as Mike Johnson demands performance and let's hope it stays that way.
When the quarterbacks aren't working to Lucien, Evans and Ricky Marvray, who looked good again, they spend a lot of time looking underneath. That's especially true when they're picking up their running backs, something that is a priority this season. After completing just 15 passes to running backs last season, the Bruins are looking to get the running backs more involved in the passing game.
"We were asking them to be in protection more often than not and sealing up some of our deficiencies there," Neuheisel said. "Sometimes the easier way to do it is to get them in a place where you’re getting it out of your hands. Certainly the backs will be used in protection and we’re working on that on a daily basis, but we need also to use them as receivers because they take a four-yard checkdown and they can make a big play out of it."
Looking underneath isn't really the sexy play. We want to see the Bruins stretch the field and there's no doubt that they're going to have to do it, but it is also imperative that they don't take negative plays. That means eliminating the sacks and getting the running backs available is a way to do that.
With the way the running backs are playing it only makes sense to get the ball in their hands more often. We already know that Jonathan Franklin can make things happens when he's holding onto the ball and the same is true of Derrick Coleman. They've proven it. We're also seeing Malcolm Jones play really well. Add in Jordon James, who whether from the running back spot, F back or on kick returns, looked very lively on Friday. He has quick feet, good vision and with with running backs all playing well it can't be a bad thing to find more ways to get the ball in their hands.
Just because the offense started to come along doesn't mean the defense was overwhelmed. They played well too and they are definitely playing very different than a year ago. We saw man coverage and a couple different zone coverages in practice (!) and they were really looking to get upfield and be aggressive. That is all Joe Tresey, according to Tony Dye who had a money quote about what it's like playing under Tresey that doesn't mean a ton, but can't help but put a smile on your face.
"It's great," free safety Tony Dye said. "I'm not thinking anymore, I'm just going. It's a lot more fun. Where else can you be mean to other people and get away with it?"
Amen, Tony. On the bad side of practice, Rosario turned his motor off at times and dropped balls, not that it's much a surprise. Anthony Barr, Taylor Embree and Tony Dye were held out of practice with small strains, Jordan Zumwalt missed with a concussion and Aaron Wallace was out with concussion symptoms.