-Bumped. BN Eds.
What a beautiful day to be watching football! My best friend and I headed up to watch the scrimmage today and we had a great time. The crowd was fun, and the atmosphere was festive.
I actually pretty happy with the turnout. I don't know what they were expecting, but the stands looked fairly packed from bottom to top on the east side of the stadium. They had cheerleaders, a band, and even a half time kicking contest where one fan named Jorge won tickets to the UCLA v Nebraska home opener but missed out on the opportunity to win season tickets with a longer field goal.
My overall impression of the scrimmage itself was pretty was positive as well. For the most part, both sides of the ball seemed fairly sharp, at least on the first teams. There were some penalty problems and a missed substitution or two, but nothing too major, and not many repeat mistakes, with some exceptions. I'll get in to more depth with the position reviews below. I tried to take stats initially, but I was losing track of the plays because of fast pace, so I gave up.
My impression of the QB performance today was overall pretty positive. I think I'll reinforce the narrative throughout spring. The top 4 QBs are very close and it seems to me that any of them could do a journeyman job at QB next season, but that's also a problem. We don't have an Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or even Brock Osweiler or Nick Foles. Every QB threw at least one pic.
Any of the four, Brehaut, Hundley, Prince, and Neuheisel, can and will do the job and we'll likely be able to swap QBs without significant drop off. From a consistency standpoint that's great. On the other hand, I don't see us getting 10 wins with any of the current guys either, at least not this year.
Hundley started off his first drive pretty hit or miss. Two of his first throws were to Shaq Evans and were catchable, but they weren't the best throws in the world and Shaq wasn't able to hang on. He did finish the drive though with a nice TD to walk-on (I think) Tyler Scott, who had a HUGE day, but I'll get to that later.
He got several more drives throughout the day and looked generally solid, though he did throw one pic. Speed wise, he looks as fast as Prince with considerably better balance and agility.
Brehaut was up next and led the offense to a TD in his first possession as well, though he didn't look as crisp as I expected. Despite that, I'd say he does look like his overall throwing capabilities are marginally better than the other QBs. He had to scramble a bit at times and looks ok in the pocket, but slow when he has to turn on the jets. He still takes too long to get rid of the ball. Just a personal opinion - he didn't seem to handle the offense with quite the pizazz that Hundley and Neuheisel did. He did a throw a pic or two... though my brain is failing me in trying to remember how he got them.
Prince was Prince. He looked adequate for the most part and largely got the job done. He did have some wild throws here and there though.
Neuheisel was very fun to watch for the first time. I hadn't seen him in practices this season and there has been some mild buzz about his performance from the various beat writers and those covering UCLA practices. While he made some dumb throws in his time running the squad, the offense was extremely crisp under his direction and Neuheisel started off with something like 5 straight completions. I also didn't see any of the arm strength problems people were talking about. He also probably had the throw of the day. He was under pressure, throwing off his back foot and just let the ball go about 20 yards down the far sideline towards a deep out route. The receiver hadn't even made his break yet, but right when he turned, the ball hit him in the hands perfectly. It was really impressive. The timing was perfect. He has this decisiveness about the way he plays that is very heartening and decidedly unfreshman like. I'll feel very comfortable with him backing up Hundley the next few years, and if Hundley goes pro early ( I hope we have that problem), I wouldn't mind seeing him start as a senior or junior.
There was a definite separation between the first 4 and the next couple QBs. Milweard and Fafaul are both talented, but they didn't look ready to play quite yet. Milweard looks like he'll be a load to bring down when runs around and has some good mobility. Fafaul has a cannon for an arm.
We are going to be fine at running back this year. Overall it was a pretty good day for the backs. It was fun to see them getting used in the passing game. We used the fullbacks frequently too in short yardage and goal line situations, and even some regular packages. I'd like to Malcom Jones learn that position as well, so we get another weapon on the field.
Franklin still looks like his fast, serviceable self - if you've seen him in the past he looked pretty similar today. Fast, shifty, and somehow barely missing those big plays by a shoestring or less. I like him as a person and a player, but the wayward, unfaithful fan in me wants something more...
Manfro might be it. He was the star of the day and it should suffice to say he completely shocked me with his play. I've been reading that he's had a solid off season, but honestly, I had no idea. See, I read the same thing last year and Manfro was utterly disappointing at the Fall scrimmage. Last year he looked somewhat quick and easy to tackle.
Something has happened that changed Manfro into a pass catching, run between the tackles, kick returning, back flipping, TD scoring scrimmage maniac of doom. Perhaps all the projections of Chuck Norris were understating his skills. He was juking veteran players, pushing piles and just generally making plays. People have been calling him white Mamba, which is silly, until you realize that Mazzone is using him in all the same ways that Oregon was using De'Anthony Thomas last year. I don't think he quite has Thomas's top gear, but he looks to have everything else, with a bit of power thrown in.
Jordon James looked pretty good and could be our man next year if Manfro continues in the White Mamba role. He has good hands for a back and will fit will with Mazzone's system.
Malcom Jones looked very, very powerful, and had one Jerome Bettis style break-50-tackles-while-rumbling-down the-sideline run, but I can't recall if he was breaking tackles more against the depth players or the starters.
We had a walk -on, Melvin Emesibe get quite a good number of carries, but I really don't think he's ever going to get significant time based on what I saw today. Of course, what do I know? I thought the same thing about Manfro last year.
The group as a whole looked fairly solid and reliable. For the most part, they were making plays. After the first drive, I don't recall seeing many, if any dropped passes that should have been caught. On the other hand, there were a number of very solid catches, including the catch of the day- a one handed catch from Hundley to Lucien on streak down the far sideline. Our recievers did get the benefit of playing against our very depleted corner back group, with several big plays coming at the expense of Jordan Zumwalt's brother, Eric, who is a freshman walk-on and some of the other young corners like Rios.
Lucien was probably the best receiver on the day. He was getting open and making plays left and right. He started off the day a bit slow but was picking up as the day went on. He was clearly a favorite by the end.
I have to mention Tyler Scott next. He is a walk on receiver and he was doing really well. He he had three TDs on the day and a couple other just great catches. He seems to use his body well to get position and reliably brings the ball in. I'm excited to see what he'll bring to our receiving group as time goes on.
Our other starters, Johnson and Evans looked nice too. They looked like starters. Johnson reminds me Rosario quite a bit and should give us similar upside this season hopefully without the moments of lost focus. It didn't look like there were any of those moments today.
Evans was going up and making some good grabs in traffic all day. He looks solid and perhaps a little more physical and aggressive than what we saw last season.
Bell made several catches, but nothing that really stood out to me. Not sure what others saw there. I know I missed a catch or two of his.
Another fun player to watch was Roosevelt Davis. He played slot quite a bit today and was very quick when he got the ball in his hands.
Here's the deal... the O-line wasn't getting tested a whole lot today. On the few times when Spanos did bring the heat, the line just collapsed. It wasn't pretty. When they were only blocking 3-4 rushers, they looked ok. Run blocking was pretty good, but our LBs are depleted in the middle, so I'm not making too much of it. At one point Mora put the offense on the 1 yard line with their backs to the end zone. The defense burried the offensive line and forced a safety. I'd hate to see that happen during the season.
While our QBs were able to get most throws off, the nature of Mazzone's offense is to make those plays happen very quickly. When plays took a bit longer to develop pressure looked fairly decent. The nose tackles, a position I was worried about, seemed to a decent job holding the point.
I wasn't watching this group too closely, and a rarely had time to check the subs, etc, but they overall I'd say they did ok... especially as the scrimmage wore on. I saw too many missed tackles, but pass defense was fair, and there were some passes broken up across the middle and even a pic or two.
The starters look passable. Price was solid. Hester is still a PI machine though and I was seeing a number of times where we might have been called on it that didn't get called during the scrimmage. Our depth in the secondary is horrible at the moment. We are probably going to have to make use of some of the multitude of DBs we got in the last recruiting class. I hate using freshmen and wasting redshirt opportunities, but we just might have to do it. Rios looks likes he needs another year to mature before he gets significant time.
We had one substitution problem, a number or fair catches on punt returns and one great return by Manfro, that would have been probably a 40 yardish return during a game, but not a TD, like they credited him for.
That concludes my scrimmage notes. If you have any questions for me, I'll do my best to answer. Hopefully I'll be able to do it again the fall! I'll see you guys at the Nebraska game!