This was the last practice that separated the Red Squad (rooks) and Black Squad (vets). While they did practice together, newcomers faced newcomers, and veterans faced veterans. It was the last time the newcomers had a chance to shine in front of their peers before Saturday’s scrimmage at 7:45 p.m. inside Bulldog Stadium.
The hitting picked up Friday morning. The veterans looked good and the rookies were getting used to hitting at the college level.
#21 Fr. RB Ryan Mathews (5-11.5, 205) said it best after experiencing hitting in full pads for the first time at the collegiate level.
“I got blasted,” Mathews said referring to #99 Fr. DT Mark Roberts (6-2, 290) knocking him five yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“But I’m going to take mine and I’m also going get mine. It is just breaking me into the college level, the speed, and everything. I just need to get my awareness down.”
The cage is a literally a metal cage roughly 10 feet wide, four feet long, five feet high. However, it is open on both ends to allow an offensive lineman and defensive lineman to hit each other in one-on-one drills.
The coaches did their best to keep the vets separate from the rooks. It was a tough task with defensive tackles #94 Jr. DT Jon Monga (6-2, 280), #96 So. DT Wilson Ramos, #50 Fr. DT Cornell Banks (6-3, 290), and #98 Fr. DT Porter Hill (6-4, 280) sitting out Friday. On one particular occasion, the mismatch was too noticeable.
#60 Fr. RT Kenny Wiggins (6-8, 310) has added about 50lbs since his first year as a Bulldog. It is hard to consider him a veteran because he is just a redshirt freshman. But his size, footwork, and strength make him one of the better linemen on the team.
#53 Fr. DE Kyle Knox (6-2, 220) is a speedster. He makes his plays with his quickness to get around an offensive tackle. He is too small to overpower most tackles. Therefore, it was unimaginable to see the coaches line him up against Wiggins, not once but twice, in the cage.
The results were what you would expect from a player 100lbs heavier. Wiggins put Knox down on his ass both times. Knox had no chance. Despite his shear size and strength advantage, Wiggins was able to get lower and use his quick feet to beat Knox in the cage.
On the other hand, #91 Fr. DE Chris Carter (6-2, 226) held his own against #61 Fr. LG Charley Robbins (6-2, 290). Robbins was declared “King of the Cage” when he was a rising senior in high school at the Fresno State Football Camp. Nonetheless, he had his trouble with the quick and surprisingly powerful Carter.
#41 Jr. DE Ikenna Ike (6-1, 255) looks healthy after sitting out spring. He went against #65 Jr. RG Pierce Masse (6-4, 300). Ike was very impressive. He is arguably the best pure pass rusher on the team, but showed he has enough power to play inside against 300lb offensive guards.
#79 Fr. LT Devan Cunningham (6-5, 342) received praise from Coach Pat Hill during Wednesday’s Media Day press conference. Coach Hill called his feet, “magical.” In spite of his “magical” feet, he got all he could handle from #93 walk-on Fr. DT Alex Probasco (6-4, 245). Probasco sat out the last two days of practice, but he has demonstrated his potential the days he has practiced, including Friday. It is looking like the Bulldogs got a steal.
#77 Sr. C Ryan Wendell (6-2, 290) looks closer to 6-0, but it did not keep him from pushing around #97 Sr. DT Jason Shirley (6-5, 330). Wendell was able to drive Shirley back at least five yards.
#55 Fr. C Leslie Cooper (6-3, 280) has the tools to be one of the Bulldogs top lineman in the future. He is quick, athletic, and has good great size for a collegiate center. He did well in the cage against #70 Fr. DT Bryce Harris (6-6, 261). Cooper had little trouble driving back Harris.
#7 Jr. DE Jason Roberts (6-5, 241) started the festivities in the cage with his lackluster effort against #76 Jr. RG Adam McDowell (6-5, 285). Roberts unable to get the best of McDowell, out of frustration, declined McDowell’s hand to help him up to his feet. DL Coach Kerry Locklin quickly squashed any sort of scuffle that was about to unfold.
Roberts lined up against #72 Jr. LT Bobby Lepori in his next rep. Lepori got the best of Roberts but after the whistle blew, and Lepori stopped, Roberts continued to press Lepori’s back against the metal cage. This ignited Lepori. Both lined up for another rep and Roberts did it again, this Lepori went after Roberts and the two threw punches. Half the defensive and offensive linemen started to scuffle as well until the coaches got the fight under control.
After the dust settled, the coaches put Lepori and Roberts back in the cage to settle it the scuffle. Roberts had a much better effort this time around, finally showing the skills that could make him one of the better ends in the WAC.
Speaking of great WAC defensive ends, #11 Sr. DE Tyler Clutts (6-2, 245) is extremely quick out of his stance. He faced #73 Jr. RT Kenny Avon (6-3, 285) among others in the cage. Each time, the offensive linemen could not get underneath Clutts.
#7 Jr. QB Tom Brandstater (6-2, 220) was on target during his first series of 7-on-7 drills. Each quarterback threw three passes then rotated. Brandstater completed all three of his passes during his first series, the first for five yards and the last was perfectly thrown quick screen to #6 So. WR Chastin West, who took it for a long gain.
#15 Fr. QB Ryan Colburn (6-3, 230) threw a beautiful deep pass caught by #25 Sr. WR Shannon Dorsey (6-0, 205). But the rest of his throws in his first series were not as crisp.
#16 Fr. QB Matt Faulkner (6-3, 190) has made some major strides this week. The pressure to step up as the team’s third quarterback has not hampered his progress. He has adjusted to the college ball and his throws were accurate in his first series, completing two of three.
#10 Fr. QB Tim Lang (6-0, 190) is a special athlete. He is not on par throwing wise as the other three, but he brings an added dimension to the position. Few linebackers in America will be able to catch him scrambling out of the pocket.
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