Head Coach Pat Hill talked about building a new ladder during Monday morning’s press conference. Meaning the 2007 team will be the first step in building a new ladder of success.
Last year’s team was sitting atop a ladder the 1999 team built but instead of increasing the size of the ladder, the 2006 Bulldogs fell flat on their face. But this year’s team already has a new motto. “Bulldog Football Play Hard” is etched into the west berm of the practice field and by the looks of the first practice, they are.
QB Tom Brandstater has double per se, DE Jason Roberts has changed numbers from #99 to #7 and it is not as easy to tell who is who from a distance. That’s because Brandstater has added a solid 10-15 more lbs to his 6-5 frame from a year ago.
The junior signal-caller looked sharp in his short to immediate throws, easily outshining freshman Ryan Colburn in the first day of drills. Brandstater showed a nice touch on his long ball but there was no pressure. In 11 on 11 drills Brandstater looked as sharp as ever, rifling quick passes to his backs and receivers.
One major weapon he will have at his disposal is RB Clifton Smith. The senior is still not quite back to his pre-2005 injury. He lacks the extra gear but showed on one particular run, he still is able to cut back against the grain and make an entire group of tacklers look silly. And he showed his pre-2005 playful self in practice, in other words, “Batman” is back!
Running backs Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding have added some extra bulk. Along with Smith and Jamal Rashad, they carried the load at running back. Miller especially looked the part of a feature back. The sophomore looks about 15 lbs heavier and resembled Dwayne Wright in a few runs. Miller has also changed his number to No. 1, which was his spot among the backs during the drills.
The Bulldog receivers looked improved from a year ago. Seyi Ajirotutu, who added about 10-15 lbs to his 6-3 frame, caught everything thrown his way. Jamel Hamler made his debut. The true freshman sat out last fall but stood out Monday. The 6-1 receiver looked liked more like safety instead of a receiver.
Isaac Kinter is sat out Monday’s practice and sophomore Reynard Camp got a lot of reps with the first team. He looks like he lost a bit of his 270 plus lbs. TE Bear Pascoe is a beast going over the middle. I don’t envy any safety that has to tackle him in the open field. And Pascoe caught everything thrown his way.
The offensive line is deep and it looks like Bobby Lepori is not injured after all, he took first team reps at LT. Other players that stood out were RT Kenny Wiggins, C Joe Bernardi and walk on RT Sean Yandall.
Wiggins has added some serious weight to his 6-7 frame. He looks a bit taller than 6-7 and about 280 lbs. In drills his quick feet set him apart from the pack. Bernardi has added about another 10 lbs and will push starting center Ryan Wendell for some time at center.
Yandall is a monster-size tackle. The 6-5 300 lb junior sat out last season after playing at West Hills in 2005, where he was named third team all-state. Yandall currently is taking reps at RT but could be huge surprise this season.
LG Cole Popovich, RG Adam McDowell and RT Kenny Avon rounded out the starting five during drills.
NT Jason Shirley just keeps getting bigger and bigger every spring. But this spring the mammoth 6-5 senior looks in great shape. Charles Tolbert and Jon Monga are also in great shape and took reps with the first team. Freshman Mark Roberts and Cornell Banks are a bit out of shape. Roberts in particular looks closer to 300 lbs than his 275 listed weight.
Jason Roberts got first team reps with senior Tyler Clutts at defensive end.
WLB Marcus Riley showed no signs of injury. The senior started along side MLB Ahijah Lane and SLB Quaadir Brown. Brown looked 100% and Lane looked fine making the move to the inside.
A.J. Jefferson started along side senior Damon Jenkins at cornerback. Moses Harris and Marvin Haynes looked good at strong and free safety, respectively.
Clint Stitser quietly boomed 50+ yard field goals on the northwest field. Kyle Zimmerman had a bit of trouble punting in the windy conditions. Smith and Chastin West shared punt returning duties.
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