So it was a little different in terms of format. There were lots of one-on-one drills with a winner and a loser. They also brought people out of the stands to compete with the players in some contests. The highlight of that was when a little kid was the only one who successfully fielded a high punt, despite two or three bobbles. It was like a Buster Keaton routine. The players went nuts and put him up on their shoulders.
But if anybody stayed away thinking it would just be drills and no real football...you lose! They actually scrimmaged quite a bit. Here are some highlights. They held Solomon out, but Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate both moved the ball pretty well. Tate's got a big arm (he beat Jerrard Randle in a long-throw contest), but he has the same accuracy problems. He also runs like a stronger version of Randle, and that works for him. Dawkins looked fairly sharp in his decisions, connected on some decent throws, and also had some long runs. He had a red no-contact jersey on, so tacklers pulled up on him, but Tate didn't, and he took a few pops with no problem. Nate Phillips and Shun Brown both had long catch-and-runs for breakaway TDs. Cam Denson looked good to me, so I think he'll be an important contributor after moving to offense. In terms of the linemen, Gerhard de Beer, Zach Hemmila, and Cody Creason are all physically impressive, and I think our line is going to be pretty good. On the kicking front, Josh Pollack did well from various spots and distances and I assume he'll be our kicker. P Jake Glatting was his holder. He only had a couple of punt attempts, and was so-so. Matt Aragon got off a pretty good one, but he takes longer and had one tipped. Probably still a horse race, but I think it'll turn out to be Glatting.
On the personnel front, In terms of transfers, a newcomer who might bear watching is Donovan Walker, a junior WR transfer from UTEP who is originally from LA. Ikaia Nawahine is a safety from the Phoenix area (originally from Hawaii) who transferred from BYU. We'll see if he's got the foot speed. I was a little disappointed that Iowa transfer LB John Kenny didn't play much, so I don't know how much he'll contribute. As far as injuries go, DT Luca Bruno's foot is in a boot, so he obviously didn't play. CB Sammy Morrison is own crutches. Cody Ippolito looks 100%. and DT Anthony Fotu played in the scrimmage, although he's supposed to be suspended in the early part of the season. LB Marquis Ware got dinged up late, but he ran off on his own, and I'm sure he'll be fine.
The rest of this will be about the defense.
They ran whole units in and out of there like mad. They do a "run as one" (my terminology) drill with a coach on the line "snapping" a ball and then waving them in a direction, and then they all run to another coach in the opposite direction. Kind of like a basketball drill, but it looks like the intent is that they really want to swarm to the ball as a unit. So they do that, but as you might expect, while they're in the early days of implementing this defense, they're overrunning some plays, and they're playing against a perfect offense to exploit that. That's part of the reason for the big plays I mentioned earlier, and there were also some pretty big runs from the RBs and QBs. I assume it was just for effect for the crowd, but they had the managers run up to a defensive player who just made a big play and fan him with towels. That was kind of ironic, considering the big plays they were giving up. Schematically, it looks like they stick a linebacker up on the line to join the three down linemen. They did that with Kahi Neves, Ware, and DeAndre Miller. Obviously, a lot of the issues have to do with positioning and getting everybody in sync, which will take time. They also need to build up the size and talent level on that side of the ball. In addition to the players I mentioned earlier, I thought Finton Connolly and Darrell Cloy looked like they'll be able to help us on the D-line. Tre Tyler is undersized at LB, but he's got a motor and got the defense fired up during the one-on-one drills, and with some of his play during the scrimmage. Don't know how or if that'll translate to game minutes, but it's good to have him on the team, regardless. Dane Cruikshank was a JC transfer last year at safety, but I think he'll be a fairly big corner for us this year. I thought DBs DaVonte Neal, Jarvis McCall, and Anthony Mariscal all looked pretty good.
That's all I've got. It was a nice breezy stress-free evening at Arizona Stadium watching football. Hard to beat that.