Spring Practice #9: Offense Comes Alive

Ebahn Feathers

The defense continues to look impressive this spring. The team speed is improved, as is the depth. Moreover, they look like they're playing with a swagger. While the offense has struggled, it got the upper hand on Wednesday with a little help of Ebahn Feathers' feet. "We're learning the zone read and option game with our players," said Coach Pat Hill. "These kids have never done that here."

"We got a lot of players doing it for the first time," said head coach Pat Hill. "Unlike a lot of other teams in the spring, we're blitzing, we're moving, we're empty.

"We are trying a whole lot of different things; actually, the execution wasn't bad today. [But] there's a lot of things we have to tighten up. We teach a little different. We try to put as much as we can in, to see what we can look at."

During 11-on-11 action, the defense owned the offense. Seyi Ajirotutu dropped a bullet from Derek Carr, but he redeemed himself catching another pass from Carr giving the offense it's only first down with Carr and Colburn at the helm.

It was a rough start for the offense as the defense continually got into the backfield, wrecking havoc on the running and passing game. Logan Harrell, Kyle Knox, Chris Carter, Ken Borg, and Matt Akers made tackles for loss limiting the offense until Ebahn Feathers got some reps.

With Matt Faulkner not taking any reps, Feathers ran certain packages during Carr and Colburn's series. As well, Feathers ran the offense during his own series. This is when the offense had its most success.

He led the offense to its only touchdown – a 15-yard run by Ryan Mathews. Feathers started the drive by using his speed to beat defensive Chris Carter to the near corner. However, Isaiah Green provided great outside contain forcing Feathers to cut back inside where Carter was waiting to limit him to just a two-yard gain. But the precedent was set, the defense couldn't contain Feathers with just one defender providing outside containment.

Anthony Harding got the drive's initial first down with a big run on the next play off a Feathers delayed handoff. The fear Feathers could keep the ball and run, froze the defense enough for Harding to find his hole up the middle and rush for a big gain.

Mathews caught a Feathers pass along the far sideline for the second first down of the drive. And Mathews would finish the drive with a power run to pick up another first setting up his touchdown, where he bulled over safety Phillip Thomas inside the five before crossing the goal line.

The biggest play of 11-on-11 action just might have been Chris Lewis's ill-advised sack/hit on Carr.

Carr stepped back to pass, and Lewis beat the tackle with a quick burst and his momentum took him right to Carr where his shoulder pads hit Carr's right shoulder knocking him off his feet. The hit immediately got both sidelines yelling with cheers and jeers with some defensive players yelling, "Don't hit the quarterback."

Practice shifted to 7-on-7 passing after Mathews' touchdown. The defense quickly regained the upper hand with solid pass defense. However, Chastin West displayed some solid pass catching, and Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson had some circus catches as well.

Marvin Haynes was in great position to lay a hit on Evans on an out, but he slowed as Evans bobbled the ball. Not only did Evans maintain focus and catch the ball off the bobble, he was able to turn the corner and pick up a few yards. If Haynes goes full speed, Evans doesn't make the catch and Haynes or another defender has a chance at an interception via the "tip drill."

Evans was also involved in Johnson's great catch. Colburn overthrew Evans, but Johnson was able to catch the bad pass and pick up some yards while the defenders watched. After the play, Coach Hill went up to Johnson to congratulate him for making a play.

The practice ended with a scrimmage portion, which didn't start so well for the offense.

Already reeling after a fumble during 11-on-11 action, Lonyae Miller fumbles on the first play of the scrimmage after a solid six-yard gain. It looked like maybe his knee might have been down before the ball was jarred loose but there is no replay in practice. Phillip Thomas recovered the ball giving the defense an early lead – scrimmage losers have to run extra gassers after practice.

Miller would redeem himself, rushing untouched for touchdown inside the 10. But the Feathers would be the backbreaker for the defense.

With the defense holding the upper hand, Feathers would run a zone read quarterback keeper leaving the defensive end dead in his tracks. He would scamper untouched for 12 yards down to the two. A touchdown saving tackle by a speedy Terrance Dennis only saved the defense shortly, as A.J. Ellis would take a handoff from Feathers for the touchdown on the next play.

"We knew Ebahn Feathers was going to be a talented guy," said Hill. "We found out zone read [is effective] and we're going to put in speed option and some other option stuff with him in. It's going to be a big difference, if [the] defense is going to play as much man-to-man – man-to-man against us is tough to run the ball and throw it. So, you change it up with a quarterback like [Feathers] and all of sudden things open up.

"It's nice to see that people are going to have to defend him and we're going to have some extra weapons. We're learning the zone read and option game with our players. These kids have never done that here."

Practice Notes

  • Anthony Williams was running gassers with the rest of the defense after practice. He is no longer wearing the knee brace that he sported the last week and a half.
  • Matt Hunt was wearing No. 51. He wore No. 66 for the first half of spring.
  • Marlon Moore was back at practice after missing Monday because of a family emergency.
  • Lorne Bell was dressed in full pads for the first time this spring.
  • Zak Hill took some reps at free safety with Terrance Dennis at strong.
  • Frank Manquero has moved to linebacker this spring after playing free safety mostly last year.
  • Devon Wylie did not dress on Wednesday after injuring his hamstring on Monday.
  • Devan Cunningham continued to start at right guard in place of Andrew Jackson.

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