Fall football is in its infancy, but one thing is for sure: Mattias Ciabatti is the best punter in the conference. Today he routinely kicked the ball over 55 yards to the goal line, and his best was a 68 yarder to the back of the end zone. He might be the best punter in the country. Returning the kicks were Marlon Mack, Hassan Childs, Rodney Adams and Malik Dixon.
Rodney Adams is definitely still a good receiver, but Chase Whitehead and Stanley Clerveaux also seem like they will be dependable targets this year. Converted quarterback Evan Wilson has been pulling down some long passes, so look for him to get playing time too. Elkanah Dillon just glides right into the catch the way a tight end should; I can see him challenging Sean Price for the starting position as camp continues.
So far it looks like Quinton Flowers is winning the quarterback battle, but not by a huge margin. He threw a little better than Steven Bench in the offensive drills and down the sidelines to single receivers in coverage. However, when they went to scrimmage as a team, neither quarterback threw very well. If the offense won day one, then the defense definitely won day two.
"The defense bounced back," said defensive end Eric Lee. "We had a lot of energy. You know it was a little cooler; that helped a lot." He talked about the change to the 4-2-5 and what it means for the linemen. "Last year we were head-up, and it didn't put us in a great position to rush the passer . . . but this defense puts us on the edge and also, once installs come in, throws offenses off a lot." Blitzing will also help them disrupt opponents. "We might do a three-man blitz all the way to a six-man blitz, and just keeping the offense on their toes will always get them in trouble."
Nate Godwin agreed that the defense improved over their performance yesterday. "Earlier in practice in one-on-ones the offense got us a little bit, but once we got to the team drill we didn't allow the touchdown."
He also talked about the extra work that he and safety Jamie Byrd put in during the offseason. "Me and Byrd, we were roommates over the summer, so we spent a lot of time coming out here, getting extra work, studying the playbook." The foundation seems to be there, but Tom Allen's playbook continues to grow."The main concepts I think we pretty much grasp, it's really the wrinkles we're just trying to iron out, but I think that he's installing a lot more."
Coach Taggart joined in and threw a lot of nice passes in one-on-one drills today, proving that he still has an arm.
On Sunday, the freshmen will join the veteran squad, and on Monday everyone will start practicing in full pads. By next week we may even have a good idea of what the team will look like, but don't hold your breath for the quarterback announcement.