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August 18, 2012

Day 12 Rewind

Head coach Mike Riley was attending his father's memorial service Saturday, so it was defensive coordinator Mark Banker filling in for the head coaching duties.

There was no news on wide receiver Malik Gilmore today - who came to practice last night with a walking boot on his right foot and using a crutch. Expect a definite status for Gilmore on Monday.

Jordan Poyer was out today, but it was mostly just a day off for the cornerback.

"He's running 40-yard sprints on every play," Banker said. "He plays hard, he's such a big part of our special teams as well. It was just time. He had a little bit of tightness in the hamstring and we didn't want it to go any farther than that."

Poyer was still an integral part of practice though. He was on the sideline with the secondary during every play of team drills, offering support and helping the young guys out, like Micah Audiss and Cyril Noland-Lewis. Poyer seems to really be relishing his role as a team leader and captain.

Speaking of captains, Sean Mannion continues to look comfortable in a role as just a sophomore.

"As far as approach goes, I'd say the game definitely slowed down. I really noticed that," Mannion said. "I feel extremely comfortable with the offense now and that'll continue to improve."

Mannion targeted Markus Wheaton and Kevin Cummings a lot. The battle for the slot continues to be an interesting one. Cummings did seem to get an extra amount of looks today, coupled with Obum Gwacham dropping a lot of balls. They'll both get playing time, but who is named the starter in the slot probably will not be decided until the end of fall camp. Micah Hatfield was also out today.

As far as offensive line, Mannion likes the group he has. With Michael Philipp and Isaac Seumalo stepping into the starting lineup, the talent level should be raised compared to 2011. However, depth is still a concern.

"I feel great about our offensive line," Mannion said. "They worked extremely hard over summer on technique, in the weight room, just obviously getting in shape for camp. I think it showed. They've all looked very physical."

Banker offered his thoughts on how the defense has looked in the first two weeks of fall camp.

"It's a little bit more than a work in progress," Banker said. "I think the parts are starting to come together. We've grown so much over the course of the offseason and the spring. … I think we're beyond some of the real fundamental issues."

Positional Focus: Linebackers

The linebackers got an immediate improvement from a coaching standpoint by adding Trent Bray to the fold as linebackers coach. Bray made sure he knew what he had with the group of linebackers from day one.

"When I first got here, the first thing I did was watch every game from last year and every practice to get a better understanding of who they are," Bray said.

"There's been a great improvement with our eyes, fitting where we needed to fit."

Improving the run prevention is the biggest goal for the unit this year, and Bray has brought his experience as a player to the group to help improve on that front.

He addressed what was most important to be better on run defense, "Understanding blocking schemes. Certain blocking schemes tell us what they play us, formations tell us what we can anticipate, so just a better understanding of what's coming so when we see it we can react fast."

Two starters from last year - Feti Unga and Michael Doctor - are returning, but sophomore D.J. Welch is a new face to the group. Welch got some time last year at linebacker but was mostly used as a special teams guy.

"I think it just matured me," Welch said about being on special teams as a freshman. "To be used to the game, the speed of the game … because that jump from high school to college was a big jump and going into special teams really got me ready for my starting year."

News/notes/highlights

- After doing some sprinting, Terron Ward got the pads back on for some limited action Saturday.
- Micah Hatfield and Derek Nielsen were also out today, no news on what it was, but it does not appear to be serious.
- Brian Watkins got some time with the first team in Poyer's stead opposite Rashaad Reynolds.




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