Bumped. Great notes. - BN Eds.
Just got back to Fontana after taking in the scrimmage with my dad. Great day overall, but traffic was awful as it always is, so we got down there after warmups were done at about 1:20 pm or so. Watched from the roof of the parking structure across the sidelines for the first half with about 30 other fans. The seats in the endzone were filled to the brim, there was a great energy going around and an absolutely beautiful day in Westwood.
Anyway, this is the football part of this recap, just giving what I saw, thought and took away from the scrimmage.
I started out watching the defense working walkthroughs to get ready for the scrimmage.They had a scout team working through Mazzone's offense with reads and basic plays and formation.
Larimore and Kendricks were the 1's at ILB. Graham was one of the OLB, not sure who was on the other side either Wallace, Holmes or Barr. 1st DBs were Price, McCay, McDonald and Hester with Marcus Rios playing Nickel almost exclusively. They showed a lot of pressure from the safeties and the nickel, which were a nonfactor in the old regime's pressure packages.
Zumalt wasn't dressed out; but not working with the injured crew, so I wasn't sure what was going on with that. Alosi and the training staff had a intense workout going with the Walking Wounded. Lots of core work and exercise bikes with some stretching and running going off to the side of the football work.
After 10 minutes or so, the coaches had the crowd noise turned on and that was the indicator that the scrimmage was finally starting up.
He did a QB draw-type of play for a first down, actually got tackled which really marked the start of a live scrimmage situation. That play was followed by the a very nice stop-and-go route to Manfro for a TD. Well thrown ball and a nice pump fake by KP, Manfro ran it in from about 20 yards out.
Less than 20 seconds after that pass, Brehaut was out for his drive.The tempo will come up throughout this post, so I apologize.
RB's first series was a much more methodical drive, he looked really in control of the offense and poised. Went 4-4 or 5-5 and finished with another TD to Manfro on a swing pass from about 5 yards out. We were watching from the opposite field, so I didn't see who caught all of the other passes, James caught at least one for a first down and looked really active throughout the scrimmage. I want to say that #29 caught one as well, taller white guy who I wasn't familiar with. Malcolm Jones had a powerful 6-7 yard gain off of a zone read run play. Looks like a bull compared to the other running backs.
Hundley got the next reps and looked a little shaky. Took a sack and I thought should have got stopped for another sack; but you have to let the offense run through and I am a defensive guy, as you all know. He ended up throwing an interception to Larimore. Really nice pass drop by Larimore; but a bad pass. General rule to never go late over the middle.
Then they cycled through to Prince again. For all of the positives and insane confidence the offense had after the first two drives by KP and RB, the next two were very bleh. The defense was gassed as hell on the sideline during BH's drive; but after the interception the energy changed. Defense looked really good for the next couple of series.
KP threw the first pass of the scrimmage that wasn't caught by anyone on a quick out to the far sideline, looked like it was to Lucien but I'm not 100% sure. Tried to throw another deeper pass to, I think, Jerry Johnson and had no zip on it all. My dad said it looked like a high school QB throw and that was an accurate enough description to me.
Brehaut's drive was similar, got a couple first downs; but no points. He gave the ball to the running backs and James had a nice run for a first down. RB had a deep ball down the middle to either James or Hilliard that was well thrown but broken up on one hell of a play by Aramide Olaniyan. (I'm assuming it was James or Hilliard because AO was covering and it would have had to be someone out of the backfield)
After that drive, they went to punt coverage. Locke looked great as always, the arc and spin he puts on the ball is insane. He has to end up punting in the NFL. Just has to. Manfro and whoever else (Lucien, I think) was back there looked solid fielding the punts. Just the effort of actually attempting to return these punts is enough to make me smile.
My dad wanted to wander around campus a little bit and use the restroom, so I missed the next part of the practice/scrimmage. I'm assuming that they were the drives that Jerry Neuheisel and TJ Millweard got at QB. If anything happened in those worth noting, I'd love to hear it or add it in here.
We made our way back to the field and were at the top of the parking structure behind the endzone. Better view of the offense and of the defense.
Caught the end of Neuheisel working a two minute drill. Can't remember how it ended exactly but he looked alright. Ball doesn't have the same look as the other 3 QBs I saw, but you can tell that kid is working his tail off to be as good he can. Tough to not root for him to do well.
Hundley had the next one and looked lightyears better than his first drive that I saw. Moved the ball down the field easy, defense was looking worn out. He completed a short ball to either James or Lucien or Franklin, but the runner made a hell of a spin move that led to Larimore and another defender lighting each other up. Always hate seeing friendly fire. Larimore got up, which I didn't think would happen and wandered back towards the play but was obviously a little dazed. It was like a scene in a football comedy where a guy is in the wrong huddle, had to stop the play and get him off the field and Olaniyan in at ILB. BH's only below average throw of that drive was to #81 on a curl that went too high, but #81 (Tyler Scott) made a nice grab to get a first down. Hundley followed that up with a fade to the endzone for Scott that went just long, but was thrown well where only Scott had a chance to catch it. Ended up throwing a TD to Shaq Evans on a post in the middle of the endzone. Well thrown ball. Got everyone really excited.
Prince got the next drive and didn't look great. Ended up throwing a pick to (I believe) Kendricks over the middle. Actually completed a pass to Franklin, which was the first time I had noticed him all scrimmage in a positive or negative way. I'm not worried about that because he's a good player; but it was worth noting how little I saw him. Keenan Graham and Owa had really nice pressure on the INT. Both came from the right side.
Brehaut had the final drive of the scrimmage, had some good moments and some bad moments. Moved down to the 15 or so and had a route mix-up with #81, and threw an interception on fourth down on the same play that Hundley had scored on. I think AO got that one; but am not sure. He came underneath the post and RB didn't see him. Would have been a field goal situation in a normal game. Mora called practice after that and the group huddled around at the ten yard line on the other end of the field, furthest from the stands, so they were right underneath the structure we were watching from.
This is the last thing I'd like to throw up for discussion because it really stood out to me in a positive way about the staff. After the huddle broke, the defense and offense split up to hear from the coordinators briefly, then the different position groups break up and go to their respective coaches. Mora, Martin and Ulbrich all ripped into the LBs and DBs after this. The couple of F-bombs caught some fans attention in a negative way; but the higher standard being placed on the players was really apparent. It made me feel a lot more confident about the direction of the program.
Okay, now some general observations that I took away from the scrimmage.
Nothing really happened to change my opinion of the QB situation. It's pretty close between Hundley and Brehaut. I don't think Prince has the arm strength to make the offense work. I can see the decision being made by the end of spring for either RB or BH. Either would do well if given the chance to run with the job stress-free.
Manfro lives up to the hype in print and on the internet. The kid looks like someone who fell through the recruiting cracks because he doesn't fit the mold of a traditional running-back (I don't want to make it a race thing; but it honestly is. He's a white running back and doesn't look like Toby Gerhart.) The speed is there, the shiftiness is there.
Despite that, I can't see him being an actual tailback. He is going to get lots of touches on swings and sweeps; but I don't know if he can run that zone play inside. Malcolm Jones is starting to look like a Gatorade National Player of the Year. He's a load and doesn't go down at first contact. I didn't notice Hilliard or Franklin.
Really thin here. Kind of scary, even though I know that Fauria and Bell were both out. Jordan James is going to make a big impact. He looked really solid and was the only guy who seemed to have a good rapport with every QB.
I didn't watch a ton of O-line aside from looking at keys to see if they were pass or run blocking. The snaps were solid throughout, so that was a positive. After practice, Coach Klemm was working with XSF and Torian White on technique. Torian looks 15 pounds away from being an All-Conference type guy. Has the ideal OT frame and body. Big kid.
Keenan Graham looked good as a pass rusher at OLB. Very good. He looks the part too, which I didn't think he would. Larimore looks so much more comfortable with his reads than he did in games last season. AO and Kendricks were solid. Aaron Wallace was a little shaky. I didn't notice Anthony Barr in a good or bad way, which was a little disappointing because I see big things for him. The DL was solid. Flushed every QB out of the pocket and there were no gaping holes in run defense.
Not much to note. They had an up and down day. Looked really good and really bad depending on the series. Hester and Price are solid, if unspectacular. Marcus Rios looked good playing Nickel. Had a play where he beat Lucien on a block and upended Jordan James on a swing pass.
Joe Roberts should not end up being the kicker. He's average, but obviously a walk-on. Jeff Locke is outstanding. Malcolm Jones let Sheldon Price get by him way too easy and he ended up blocking a field goal attempt.
Overall a great day, made me even more anxious and excited for when football season really starts up at every level. Sorry for the length and thanks for the thoughts and comments.