The second-to-last week of spring practice wrapped up yesterday with many of the same themes that have carried through the first three weeks: The defense looks great, the redshirt freshman are solid, Joe Southwick and Michael Coughlin are the same person, and oh my goodness when will the Virginia Tech game get here.
After the jump, find out what went down at Boise State's Friday practice and get the skinny on ESPN's new rankings, Byron Hout's new equipment, and my new favorite player.
Story of the day
Aaron Burks and Geraldo Hiwat go deep
Much has been written about the progression of redshirt freshmen receivers Burks and Hiwat this spring, but of particular interest on Friday was that these two may be just what the Broncos were looking for in the deep passing game.
From Dave Southorn, my new favorite beat reporter:
Hiwat had a great leaping catch on a high pass from Joe Southwick that covered about 30 yards. The impressive part was the fact it was a jump ball between him and Ebo Makinde ...
Burks made a play similar to the one Hiwat had on Makinde, but did so over Josh Borgman on a pass from Mike Coughlin. Borgman hit the turf, while Burks kept his balance and bolted up the sideline for a 75-yard TD.
Not that I would ever doubt the indomitable Southorn, but I did have the privilege of taking in practice on Friday so I could judge for myself. Conclusion: Dave Southorn is exactly right.
The Burks play happened right in front of me and was as smooth a deep catch as I have seen. Burks had Borgman completely turned around when the ball was in the air, and the freshman wideout went up and got it, leaving Borgman in the dust. Hiwat caught a second deep ball with an over-the-shoulder catch on a pass from Kellen Moore (who looked much improved on deep balls).
What Burks and Hiwat bring to the roster that wasn't necessarily there before is size. Burks is 6'2" and Hiwat is 6'4", and they know how to use their size to their advantage. If you are looking for replacements for Austin Pettis and Titus Young next season, you can feel pretty good with these two. If you are looking for deep threats in 2010, don't be surprised if Burks and Hiwat get a shot.
Preseason ranking of the day
ESPN puts Boise State at No. 3
ESPN's College Football Live program has returned, much to the delight of Rece Davis and preseason pollsters. In CFL's first poll, Boise State comes in at No. 3, behind Alabama and Ohio State. The Broncos' Labor Day opponent, Virginia Tech, is at No. 5.
Here is the Top Ten, courtesy of Chadd Cripe:
- Ohio State
- Boise State
- Virginia Tech
My new favorite player of the day
DE Kharyee Marshall
New D-coordinator and current D-line coach Pete Kwiatkowski has found himself quite the pet project with Marshall. The redshirt defensive end gets a lot of attention in D-line drills, partly because he is doing them wrong but also - I would like to think - because coaches see something special in Marshall.
He has the potential to be a different type of defensive end than the Broncos have maybe ever had. And I sense coaches can see that.
He comes off the ball like a rocket, much like the way Dwight Freeney did when he first entered the NFL. Offensive linemen simply cannot account for his speed and quickness. During scrimmages, he was in the backfield so quickly on passing plays that the opposing offensive tackle barely had time to react. You cannot teach speed like that, and you so rarely see speed like that at the college level that it could pose bigtime problems for opposing teams.
Marshall could stand to gain a few pounds, but I hope that he does not bulk up so much that he loses that pure speed. The Broncos could have a new dimension to their pass rush with the quickness of Marshall combined with the power, technique, and moves of the other D-linemen. It would be Nathan Enderle's perfect storm.
- The Broncos closed scrimmage with a competition between offense and defense and pitting offensive linemen against defensive linemen in goalline pass routes/coverage. After a couple of entertaining attempts, Coach Pete stepped in at QB and threw a couple of beautiful balls - the first one incomplete in the end zone (prompting Coach Pete to throw a flag for pass interference) and the second a rainbow into the outstretched arms of Justin Jungblutt who tapped his toes at the end line to give the defense the win.
The offense would have had to run for losing, but Jake Broyles was given a chance at redeeming them if he could field a punt. He got under it, let it hit pretty much all of his upper body, saw it squirt loose, and ultimately recovered to save it and keep his teammates from running.
- In other competitions Friday, the team went through a cone-drill hybrid that put a premium on quickness and agility and change of direction. Titus Young put Brandyn Thompson to shame. The biggest surprise: Hunter White. He was as smooth as anyone.
Raphiel Lambert won the first challenge for the offense when he scored in a three-on-three drill. He later fumbled during scrimmages (as did Carlo Audagnotti), so I guess that's a push.
- Byron Hout has been sporting a menacing new cowboy collar, similar to the one that Tim Brady used to wear for the Broncos. Toward the latter half of practice, a teammate pulled Hout's jersey over the collar so Hout looked like a menacing hunchback of Notre Dame chasing the ball sideline-to-sideline.
- Hout scored the biggest turnover of the day when he stepped in front of a pass in 7-on-7 drills. Dustin Lapray gave the pick to Joe Southwick. I could have sworn Mike Coughlin threw it. We'll compromise and blame it on Mike Tamburo.
- Joe Kellogg would make a fine center if the Broncos choose to keep him there.
- Malcolm Johnson, who did not participate in the first spring scrimmage, was very much on the field today. His most impressive move came in a tackling/blocking drill when he threw a defender aside with one arm. I thought only LaDanian Tomlinson could do that to me on Gamecube Madden 08.
- Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha is fun to watch. I caught a ball security drill where a gauntlet of players lined up to try to pop the ball loose from a series of runners who not only had to hold on but also had to navigate through a series of blocking dummies on the ground. Titus Young was the only one to fumble, much to the delight of Bhonapha.
- My favorite practice gadget used to be the football-on-a-stick - a green, foam ball used to simulate the snap. My new favorite practice gadget is a cylindrical, yellow, padded sleeve that coaches use to swat at the football or teach line moves. The thing looks like the Cone of Silence strapped to an arm. It is awesome. Looking for a darkhorse practice gadget? How about the mobile, hydraulic watering station?
- One thing you cannot help but notice is the camaraderie among the offense and defense. They each have their own chants and their own trash talk. I spent a good portion of the practice on the defensive sideline, so I would be lying if I didn't end up siding with the defense before all was said and done.
- Jerrell Gavins, like many players, has one of those back protectors that hangs down from his shoulder pads. The difference with Gavins? His is wrapped in white athletic tape and has a sharpie picture of a car dashboard with a speedometer. I want one. Get on that, Bronco Shop.
- Walk-on DT David Cushing made the play of the day by chasing down a running play from from hasmark to sideline, moving laterally down the line of scrimmage like a portly locomotive. The play drew hollers and cheers from a downright giddy defense.
- Many thanks to those who allowed me to watch practice yesterday.
Something to chew on
A football philosophy that is new to me is that of 40-40-20. It goes like this:
- 40 percent organization
- 40 percent chemistry
- 20 percent football
20 percent football? Pat Hill would love that.
Seriously though, this formula makes a lot of sense for college ball because there is so much that goes into a good team that is beyond what happens on the field. Organization is huge, especially for college kids who thrive with structure. Chemistry is just as big a deal as you can tell from the past decade of Bronco success. And the football part? Yeah, that's important, too.
Boise State is absolutely killing this formula.
Organization? Check. The Broncos print out their practice schedules, which took me by surprise because a) practice schedules whaaa? and b) it takes a professional man's man to schedule practice down to every five-minute interval. As you may have noticed if you have attended spring and fall scrimmages in the past, the Broncos keep track of their drills and sessions with a scoreboard clock (this one in particular was hung on the lower stanchion of the East bleachers).
Chemistry? Check. Each side of the ball shows an incredible amount of support and encouragement for one another. The defense has its own chants and cheers. The offense is coming along with some of their own. And every time someone makes a big play, there is whooping and hollering from the winners and cries of "penalty" from the losers.
Football? Check. Did you see the Fiesta Bowl?
Dustin Lapray quote of the day
In these competitions, be they one-on-one or inside line versus defense, tailbacks versus linebackers, sprints or cuts around cones, serve as ladders to be climbed rung by rung, moments for individuals or groups to raise their standing in the ranks.
Excited about the deep passing threats of Burks and Hiwat? Think Kharyee Marshall could be special? A fan of Byron Hout's new get-up? Share your thoughts in the comments.