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April 17, 2008

Spring practice hits the halfway mark

Better weather means the opportunity to step out of the comfy confines of the Merrit Traux Indoor Center and onto the outdoor practice fields. The weather wasn't perfect, and neither were Wednesday's workouts, which were filled with coaches getting upset with players and sloppy performances by numerous groups.

Thankfully, it wasn't taking a step backwards, but more continuing to get the chinks out of the chain and preparing for down the road. From the really hard metal bleachers on the sidelines, here is what I witnessed on Wednesday:

**It was a little tougher to assess the quarterback's performance since they didn't exactly throw the ball very much downfield. When they did, however, they managed to find guys at times wide open, making the defense look out of place. Lyle Moevao had a pretty solid day, making some very stunning throws.

He made one of his best passes today to wideout Darrell Catchings coming across the middle in the end zone for the ultimate strike. Backups Ryan Katz and Brennan Sim didn't get as many reps against the defense, but when they went downfield did a commendable job controlling the offense.

**The running backs still couldn't be touched today, but their blocking stood out the most on Wednesday. With numerous blitz packages coming from every angle, I was very impressed with the blocking skills of Jeremy Francis and Ryan McCants, who both made some noise with protecting the quarterbacks.

McCants has shown he can hold his own while carrying the ball, but he proved to fans in attendance that he can be that extra blocker in the backfield. Coaches were praising Francis after picking up the blitz as well.

Patrick Fuller sat out of practice for an undisclosed reason, giving freshman running back Jeff Sampson some reps.

**The wide receivers didn't travel very far to make the majority of their catches today, but when they went long they burned their coverage guys. Sophomore Aaron Nichols made a nice grab over safety Austin Hall, and Catchings was found open a few times in the open field.

Catchings and Damola Adeniji both had good days catching the football, and Gabe Miller and Howard Croom had the best days from the tight end group. Croom made one of the best catches of the day in the end zone in traffic.

**The offensive line group had a rough day protecting the quarterback, which meant extra words from coach Mike Cavanaugh. The defense seemed to get to the signal caller way too fast today.

The o-line got better as practice went on, and one of the best hits of the day came from the group, as senior Tavita Thompson took out another defensive player, receiving 'oohs and aahs' from the crowd.

**Like the offensive line, the linebacking core seemed to be having trouble picking up receivers. Numerous times coach Greg Newhouse got on players cases for not doing their jobs.

The highlights of the day from the group were their ability to get to the quarterback fast on their blitz packages. Keaton Kristick came up and popped a receiver after a catch, and Keith Pankey had another strong day, getting in on a lot of plays and picking off a pass.

With Newhouse yelling at players to communicate with each other, I was impressed with Casey Noack taking charge and directing guys.

**The secondary was out of sync at times, leaving guys open and getting words from coaches Keith Heyward and Mark Banker. There were some positives during the course of the afternoon, with starter Brandon Hughes perpetually making plays while guarding wideout Sammie Stroughter, and safety Bryan Payton played center field by picking off passes on consecutive plays.

The play that opened my eyes wider was when safety Al Afalava came up and slightly popped wide receiver Taylor Kavanaugh, almost knocking him over. While that was only a semi-hit, I couldn't have imagined how bad it would have been for Kavanaugh if he hit him at game speed.

**From the Beaver alumni, I noticed ex-Beaver quarterback Ryan Gunderson helping out, cornerback Gerard Lawson working out, and tailback Yvenson Bernard watching from the sidelines, talking to teammates.

Almost halfway done, see you on Friday…


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