This Thursday marked the final scrimmage of fall camp before the Huskies leave for their August 30th showdown with the Oregon Ducks. While the media was not allowed to view the scrimmage, Udubsports caught up with offensive coordinator Tim Lapanno to get his thoughts on the day and what lies ahead.
WIDE OUTS / TIGHT ENDS
It is no secret that this is one of the youngest teams Tyrone Willingham has ever marched onto a college football field. The wide receiver position is perhaps the youngest of all, as only one player with a college reception returns. Coach Lappano spoke about some of the younger guys that have really stepped up and look poised to help right away.
Tight end Kavario Middleton was one of the highest rated freshman brought in as a part of the heralded 2008 recruiting class. So far he has lived up to the hype and that is a good thing with projected starter Michael Gottlieb out with a hamstring injury.
"Kavario's been real steady and I think he's drawn so much attention in the last week and a half, he's gotten a lot better. He's got the attention of our defense, so he had a little bit of a rougher day, because they were holding him and they were all over him, but he's a big body that can go get the ball if it's anywhere near him. He's got that basketball skill, where he's got soft hands and he's athletic and he can go up and get the ball. He's done that in this whole camp, and yesterday was just a little bit tougher for him, because they were mugging him up pretty good."
is the only returning receiver with a catch on his resume. He has emerged as the leader of this young group and [db]Jake Locker's go to guy.
D'Andre Goodwin has been consistent like he was in spring ball all of the time. He can make some big plays; he's done a good job.
Alvin Logan is one of the most experienced receivers having spent last season redshirting and learning the system. He has spent the majority of fall lining up opposite of Goodwin as the other split receiver and could be a starter for the opening game. He has great size and is the best blocking receiver on the team.
"Alvin's consistent, he knows the system. He should be extremely important to us in our run game on the perimeter. He's a big body that can go in there and dig safeties out when they rock their safeties down toward the line of scrimmage and try to fill that eight man box. He's a guy that should go in there and put his face on you and do some damage. That's kind of a role that we've asked him to do, besides being a route runner and all of that. He's a big body that can be important to us in our run game, because you need to find those safeties in our run game and our option stuff and get a helmet on them or you get outnumbered. And they all have to do that, but he's a big body.
Jermaine Kearse, a local product out of Lakes High School has impressed since he stepped foot onto campus. He put on weight and got noticeably faster since high school and appears to have the makings of a star.
"Jermaine Kearse is very smooth and has had some really strong days," explained Lappano. "I'd say last week he's really emerged and really played well."
Cody Bruns re-wrote the record book before leaving Prosser High School, now he looks to provide a consistent presence with his superb route running and sure hands.
"[db]Cody Bruns is still slowed with his back a little bit, but I think he can do some things and will make some plays for us."
Devin Aguilar was supposed to play last season but didn't get eligible in time. He had an impressive spring but was slowed by injuries early in the fall camp. Now healthy, he's showing why he was one of the top prep wide outs in the country and will see a ton of playing time as a true freshman.
"Devin Aguilar is healthy and he's doing a good job. Devin's really picked it up. I really like some things he did today. I like some things that he did yesterday. He's been more consistent. He's had a few injuries, not anything major, but just some nagging little things that slowed him early in camp and now he's really picked it up."
Charles Hawkins is a walk on that earned a scholarship last season and should again this season. He has always been a standout during practices and the spring games, but has never found his way onto the field for live action. That could all change this season because of his experience and consistency.
"Charles Hawkins makes plays and knows the offense. He has played a lot different places. He can play inside, he can play outside, and he knows the system. He's not as fast as some of those kids, but his route running and his awareness and knowing the system could get him on the field some. He's done a pretty good job."
Jordan Polk is the smallest receiver on the roster, but he is also one of the fastest. His ability to not only run fast, but also make people miss will be utilized early and often. He has a chance to be the starting kick returner, but will also be used in plays designed to get the ball into his hands.
"He's [Polk] is going to have a limited role right now, and we're going to utilize his speed and there are some things that we can do, but we will utilize his speed and his quickness. Some guys are fast and can't make you miss. This guy is fast and he can make you miss. There will be a role for him and he knows that. We all kind of know what that will be. "
True freshman Anthony Boyles has as much talent as anyone on the field and has shown flashes of that early on. However, he's still learning to adjust to the college game and has had some growing pains thus far.
"Boyles has done some things. I was just talking to him about his work ethic and always learning how to practice at this level and going hard all of the time. He has potential. He's made some great plays out there, but we need his practice habits to be more consistent and I think that will help him become a more consistent player for us." Lappano continued about when asked if Boyles lacks concentration more than anything. "Yeah, I think it is. Just fighting his way through this level of football and the pace that Coach Willingham demands, and practices at this level are probably a lot different than his high school. Some guys still have to figure that out. Some guys that have been here a couple of years and still have to figure that out. That's just something that they go through."
As a whole this group is very young, yet very talented. The veteran defensive backs are not shy about stating that this is the most speed the Huskies have had at receiver in many years. Because they are young expect a constant rotation until the coaching staff find the groups they feel comfortable with.
There's probably five or six guys that we've talked about that will play," explained Lappano. "I'm not exactly sure who's going to start other than D'Andre [Goodwin], but we play four sets, there sets, two sets, and we move some guys around. I talked to them after practice, the whole crew. You might not be a starter in base, you could be a starter in four, and you could be a starter in three. The bottom line is we're going to play around six receivers.
Running back is another of the youngest positions on the field that also has only one player returning with college experience. Once again there is plenty of talent, but who will step up. As of right now this is one of the most interesting position battles on the team. Sophomore Brandon Johnson was supposed to be handed the starting job this fall, but the emergence of super freshman Chris Polk combined with Johnson being slowed by injury for most of the fall has created an interesting story line. Throw in redshirt freshman Brandon Yakaboski and [/db]Willie Griffin[/db] and true freshman standouts [/db]Johri Fogerson[/db], David Freeman and Terrance Dailey and you have seven players battling it our for what is now three spots on the depth chart.
"We're going to play probably three running backs, I don't believe in playing more than three," explained Lappano. "I'm not positive who that is yet, I'm not ready to say that. There will be, and we've always said that it'll be a running back by committee. We don't want to wear a couple of them down too much. The nice thing about our backfield right now is that it was probably the biggest question mark for all of us, and I don't think it's a question mark anymore. There's talent there and they've stepped up every time we've been in a live situation, they've stepped up and shown up every time, so it's not a question mark. They're young and I'm not saying they're not going to make a mistake here and there, but they can make some plays and they've made plays in the two scrimmages we've had." He repeated the sentiment, "they've made plays."
Lappano spoke a bit about the running backs and what they bring to the table.
Johri Fogerson ran really well inside the tackle box, he got to the hole with good explosiveness, quickness, and got behind his pads a little better. He's like a Marcus Allen style; he's more of an upright, real smooth, wavy runner that did some nice things yesterday. David Freeman did some good things against our first defense yesterday, made some people miss, broke tackles, and he has some instant acceleration. [Terrance Dailey], we call him turbo. He did some good things with the threes on the threes. He's done that a couple times now. That's his nickname, they call him Turbo. He's got some talent. He's a really good runner. He needs to work on his ball skills a little bit, but he was up over the top and all over the place. I really love all of those backs. I think they've all done a good job. Every time we've put them in live situations, they've shown up, and they all did some good things yesterday, so I really like that.
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