This morning we posted a scrimmage article about the offensive side of the ball, so let’s take a look at what when on with the defensive side. My first impression is this, we may not have a lot of experienced depth in the defensive 11 but our starters are going to be very talented.
I’ve had some real doubts about the staff moving Tyrone Ezell’s from DT to DE given his big size. He’s 6’4” and 300 lbs and I wondered if he’d have the quicks and speed rush a good DE needs to have to get to the passer and set up containment. Our two star DEs in the past years were much leaner with Greg Romeus being 6’6” and 270 lbs and Jabaal Sheard coming in at 6’4” and 260 lbs. Those guys could get up and get out very quickly.
Forget about any problems you may think we have with Ezell on this score, he’s as quick as Aaron Donald out there and gets right into the QB’s face very fast. He knocked down three passes today, two in the first series of the scrimmage and he came around off the backside to tackle RBs like a flash. He’s not a fat 300 pounds by any means and with his motor’s governor on overspeed he’s going to be very effective out there.
Our front four did well with Ezell, Donald, Bryan Murphy, who was splitting 1st team reps with T. J. Clemmings at the other DE spot, and with Jack Lippert, who played well at the second DT spot. Lippert is battling K. K. Mosley-Smith for that position so Smith has to get healthy (thinner) and get right with the staff ASAP. (I have to chuckle as I write this because of the strong opinions I expressed in the ‘Scrimmage 1-Offense’ post earlier today. Hey, I predicted Jack Lippert was going to be our starting Center two years ago).
LaQuentin Smith went out early with an injury so I didn’t get a chance to see how he’d do at one of the DT spots after moving from LB to DE to DT in one year. He gained 55 pounds since being recruited in 2011 so I supposed the least you could say is that he’s dedicated enough to drastically morph his body in a short time.
The line was getting good penetration and both Sunseri and Anderson had to be able to move and throw the ball. This aggressive defense is going to be hell on the immobile QBs we faced. Against the run they weren’t as impressive but I think that is due to the fact that our running game is going to be very good this season.
I think the same yardstick can be said about the linebackers. Our RBs ripped off some big runs but that was due to the fact that they are pretty damn good RBs. Yesterday the LB substitutions were pretty numerous and Todd Thomas didn’t practice at all. Nick Grigsby, Eric Williams, Shane Gordon, Joe Trebitz and especially Manny Williams all rotated in and played pretty well. Honestly they were kind of hard to tell apart at field level. Ejuan Price seems to have floated down the depth chart.
Shane Gordon is a tough kid. He got flat knocked out, laying face down like Wiley E. Coyote after falling off a cliff. Stone cold out. I was standing behind Ray Graham and he said “Shane’s a beast, he’ll jump up” and about five seconds later that happened. Like he all of a sudden woke up and there was string on his back pulling him to his feet. Gordon had absolutely no idea where he was or what he was doing of course but it was obvious as soon as he could put two thoughts together he wanted back into the lineup.
Let’s get this issue out of the way also. Dan Mason is not going to be in the two deep this season and maybe not even on the 3rd string. He just physically can’t do it. However, if he plays at all I think it will be on goal line stands because he can shoot straight ahead and he’s still a beast out there.
His story is a great one, it is inspirational and he needs to be on the team even if only as a role model. On a personal note I dislike the use of the word “miracle” when it’s used in reference to what Dan Mason has been able to accomplish since his terrible injury. To me, that’s an insult to Mason himself after the long hours of hard work and pain he endured to be able to suit up and get back onto the field in the spring. I understand he gives all credit to his God, that is his humility and is refreshing in of itself, but Mason did the hard work himself. All that said, it’s pretty obvious he isn’t in this staff’s plans for the future.
The DB s and Safeties all played pretty well. Some stood out like Layfaette Pitts who seemed to be in on almost every play for a while there. He’s going to be battling Michigan transfer Cullen Christian for one of the starting DB slots. Ray Vinopal has good field awareness, closes quickly and doesn’t hesitate to put the other players into correct field placement for different defensive calls. Bam Bradley leveled some excellent hits on ball carriers also most notably knocking the crap out of Rushel Shell on a sideline run.
On the special teams there were some problems with punts by Matt Yoklic over his first few tries but then he settled in and boomed some. Layfaette Pitts had a very nice punt return. Jones and Saddler were on the kickoff return teams and Kevin Harper hit all his field goal attempts.
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell as far as personal observations of the defense goes. I have to admit as a typical fan I am much more concerned with watching how the offensive players are doing out there and only notice the defense when they make a great play.
Some general notes:
People around the program call DC Dave Huxtable “The Pirate” because of his salty language. He doesn’t hold back out there when he sees something that displeases him. At the same time he was quick with praise when a kid does something well also.
At one point late in the scrimmage, when the players were getting tired, a lineman jumped offside and Paul Chryst yelled “OK, it’s late in the practice, you’re tired and want to give up, is that it?” You could hear a pin drop after that outburst.
It looked to me like the staff got the work in they wanted to. With 183 plays run they have a lot of film to watch and decisions to make before Scrimmage #2 on the 18th. This is how training camp plays out. The first week is getting a feel for what you have, the second week is firming up the two deep and the last two weeks are for using that two deep to get ready for the season opener.
I had a chance to talk with Kevin Harper’s parents for a good bit also. Apparently Kevin has had his outgoing and goofy personality since childhood. This video? It’s the real Kevin Harper.
Breaking news @ 10:02 PM: PITT just had a new recruit commitment from Luke MacLean, a Rivals three star OLB out of Grand Blanc, MI.