The Beavers headed inside the Truax Indoor practice field for their final practice before Saturday's spring event and had possibly their best practice of the spring.
Those not participating included DJ Welch, Josh Williams and Richard Mullaney, who had a brace on his left wrist/thumb. Tyler Perry had shells on but was held out of any contact drills and future tight end Dustin Stanton was in attendance, chatting up Perry most of the day.
What has stood out in the second half of the spring is the physicality with which drills are run. In years past guys would go through the motions and now it seems as if there is a genuine sense to wanting to improve and get better through effort. This has been most noticeable in the defensive backs under the leadership of new secondary coach Rod Perry.
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Following the same theme, it was interesting to see Rashaad Reynolds wait until Markus Wheaton's turn came up in 1-on-1 drills, every time. There is a real sense of competition between guys and Wheaton vs. Reynolds is a perfect example.
Markus made Reynolds look silly on their first two reps, shaking the corner easily and hauling in the score in the back corner of the end zone without Reynolds even getting a hand on him.
Sticking with the corners, Mishawn Cummings looks to be progressing well in his second year, finally showing the physicality that he showed in his highlight film out of Foothill College. Again, the guidance of Coach Perry seems to be paying off for guys like Cummings. Depth is desperately needed at corner and Cummings may be throwing his name in the hat as the spring closes.
Castro Masaniai took team drills off today and in stepped Mana Tuivailala again. It seems as if Mana is the clear #2 option behind Masaniai. He and Andrew Seumalo looked strong inside, but were held off pretty well on any disruptive pass rush by the offensive line.
As the offense came out, the first team skill positions went as such: WR: Markus Wheaton, Kevin Cummings, Brandin Cooks, Colby Prince at tight end and Jordan Jenkins at running back. Don't read too much into Jenkins as all backs rotated regularly.
Jabral Johnson was outside in place of the injured DJ Welch and plays physical, much like his Oklahoma counterpart on the other side of the field, Michael Doctor. Johnson looked lost most of last fall and now seems to be settling in nicely at the #2 sam linebacker spot.
Coach Banker threw a few blitzes at the offense and the overall speed of the defense is evident with the disruption they caused on multiple plays. Feti Unga came clean through the middle on one occasion and had Sean Mannion in his crosshairs. Coach Cav eloquently commented on communication with his o-line, who struggled to pick up the blitzes from the athletic linebackers.
Cody Vaz stepped in and made a beautiful play fake, rolled right and hit Obum Gwacham streaking wide open 40 yards across the field. Gwacham continues to get open and his ceiling continues to rise with each practice.
The next play, Malcolm Agnew took a hand-off left side, made a pretty jump cut and cut back across the formation and was in a foot race with Malcolm Marable to the end zone.
The team went 3rd and long and the defense stepped their game up in a big way. Tyrequek Zimmerman sank nicely into the slot and made a tremendous diving break up. Again his name pops up and the reps this spring are going to be so beneficial for depth in the defensive backfield.
Tight end Caleb Smith crossed over the middle and as the ball arrived, so did the shoulder of Jordan Poyer who nicely welcomed Smith to "big boy football." Both got up no worse for the wear, but a nice pop from Poyer on the big freshman.
Mishawn Cummings showed up again and jumped a quick hitter delivered by Vaz, securing the INT and heading back for what would have been a pick six.
Red Zone Drills:
Offense: 8 - 4 TD
Defense: 4 - PI
The red zone session was much more successful for the offense than on Tuesday. Jordan Poyer got caught arriving too early and spun Brandin Cooks around before the ball got there for what would have been an easy PI call (what isn't an easy call for Pac-12 officiating though?)
Cody Vaz stood strong and surveyed his options, finally finding Micah Hatfield crossing in the back of the end zone for the score. Defenses everywhere struggle to defend the back of the end zone and that seems to be a focal point for the offense and has been very successful.
Feti Unga continued his great day, flowing well down the line in pursuit of Malcolm Agnew. Unga shed a blocker and met Agnew at the line of scrimmage for what would have been a no-gainer. The play looked pretty well blocked until Unga showed up.
With a heavy emphasis on play action today, it was Sean Mannion's turn to run it to perfection. Mannion rolled out after the beautiful back-side play fake and had all day to find Brandin Cooks who made a nice catch going to the turf in the back corner of the end zone. Mannion would find Cooks again for another score later in the session.
After Rashaad Reynolds had difficulty stopping Markus Wheaton earlier in the day, he made a couple nice plays on the goal line. Reynolds got physical and up into Wheaton's chest knocking down two passes for incompletions. Riley would later comment on the tremendous give and take between the offense and defense, this being a prime example.
In the "that's not fair" category, Cody Vaz found Obum Gwacham in the end zone going against Malcolm Marable. Gwacham made a diving catch for the score as Marable tried his best to cover, but a tough task when you're 10 inches shorter and outweighed by 52 pounds. Still Gwacham made a nice catch.