I was able to head up to Mackay for this morning's scrimmage and took lots of notes just for all twelve of you loyal readers!
You'll also notice that I didn't take any pictures. Yes, I probably could've zoomed in and snapped shots of one player at a time to circumvent whatever concerns the coaching staff no doubt has about formations being photographed, but I wasn't in the mood to draw any more attention to myself than my notepad was already drawing. That, and about 85% of my time at the scrimmage was already being spent scribbling notes about what I was seeing between plays. I write about as fast as a pregnant cow can run, and a multi-tasker I am not.
- I arrived at the stadium when the kickers were practicing field goals right before the scrimmage started. Anthony Martinez is still fairly accurate, but I'd feel better if he worked on extending his range and getting a little more lift under his kicks. Two new transfer kickers followed him: redshirt freshman Allen Hardison (UNLV) and junior Spencer Nolen (Chattanooga). Since each kicker only got about three kicks and none of them were longer than about 35 yards, it's hard to assign much meaning to what I saw. But with that said, I did like the lift the two new kickers put under the ball, and it looked like the potential is there to challenge Martinez during this session.
- The tone was set early on when Tyler Lantrip hit Rishard Matthews on a long touchdown over the middle on the first play. The defense had its moments, but today mostly belonged to the offense. I think we'll be hearing a lot of "Lantrip to Matthews" touchdown calls on the radio this year.
- Matthews was far and away the best receiver out there today. Aaron Bradley was what you'd call "solid if unspectacular" and L.J. Washington made some nice plays, but also dropped what would've been an easy touchdown pass. The only TE who caught some passes was Kolby Arendse, and the one pass that Necho Beard hauled in was a sight to behold. Corbin Louks couldn't haul in anything today -- hopefully it won't discourage him going forward. Aside from a great 4th down catch where he kept fighting to reach the corner of the end zone, Brandon Wimberly was fairly quiet.
- The only three running backs who saw action today were Stefphon Jefferson, Nick Hale and Nathan Lytle, and I was pretty impressed with the first two. Jefferson strung together a couple of sideline runs where he showed good cutting and juking skills, but he also took lots of punishment on some decent runs up the middle. Hale showed surprising speed on a 20-ish-yard touchdown run to his right and has some shake-n-bake moves of his own. Hopefully their performances today will put the impetus on Ball and Mark when they recover.
- It was a pretty good day for the Union on the whole. The pass protection was better than average and the run blocking was excellent from what I could discern. But I also admit I didn't pay as close attention as I could've to this facet of the offense.
- This brings me to the quarterbacks. For every great connection to a receiver I saw, there was a pass that would go over their heads or that they were forced to throw away due to defensive pressure. There's already some good chemistry on display between them and the receivers, but I'm also interested in seeing how they progress between now and the spring game. I was genuinely surprised to see that Magleby threw for the most yards in the practice's final stats, because there's still a general feeling that Lantrip is the guy to beat. He and Magleby both showcased some good scrambling skills, be it on a zone read or a broken play like when Magleby ran for his touchdown.
- There was a moment when Fajardo bobbled a snap and lost a few yards as he was forced to fall on it. I suddenly realized then just how much we may have taken Kaep for granted these last few years. The best summary I can offer for today's quarterback play was seeing Magleby drop another snap before recovering, scrambling to his right and hitting a wide open Matthews for another long touchdown. Finding the new starting quarterback will be a long process for these three players, and I think there will be equal parts great plays and growing pains before a starter is officially named.
- On the whole, there wasn't too much that could be easily picked out from the defense's play today. They forced a couple of three-and-outs, and held off a score or two after the offense moved within scoring distance, but there just wasn't much you could quickly point to and say "That was awesome defense!"
- DeAndre Boughton and Dean Faddis were the leading tacklers with 5 apiece. Charles Garrett had the day's only interception, which came on a Fajardo pass that was slightly under-thrown, but Tyler Thompson should've picked off another pass in the end zone from (I think) Magleby. The two sacks both came from linebackers: Jeremiah Green and Brandon Marshall.
- The run defense was solid against runs up the middle, but seemed to have trouble keeping containment when the backs went outside the hash marks. The secondary stayed with their receivers most of the time, but broke down and gave up their share of open catches a few times as well.
- The best hit of the day came from a player I hadn't even heard of before it happened. Wimberly took a hand-off on a fly sweep to the right just before David Jamieson -- a sophomore from Reno High -- snuck past his blocker and absolutely DRILLED him. He got knocked backwards about three or four yards and you could hear everyone in the stadium react to the hit.
- I saw a few intriguing adjustments that were worth mentioning. Sam Foster, for example, was listed on my roster as a DE, but lined up at tackle next to Brett Roy a couple of times. I could've sworn I also saw Brandon Marshall getting some action at DE as well.
That's what I can tell you about today's scrimmage. I'll head up to whatever practices I can and see what I can gather from here on out.