Some notes and observations from the practice field after the first fall camp session of the 2015 season.
It’s the first practice and players are just learning their way around the field and there were no pads on, so it’s hard to make too many conclusions based on what we saw today. But here are some initial position-by-position impressions from the practice field, with an emphasis on some of the new guys.
Quarterback: A lot of eyes were on Sheriron Jones, the new freshman quarterback who enrolled over the summer who will be competing with Quinten Dormady for the backup job behind Johsua Dobbs. Jones is listed at 182 pounds, and he looks it – he’s not nearly as well built as somebody like Dormady, but you can tell he’s put on a little weight since high school. Jones made some good throws, no doubt about it. He had more command at the position than what we saw from Jauan Jennings in the the spring. He can really throw the football when he’s on. He clearly had his freshman moments as well, missing some guys from time to time and misunderstanding some routes. It looks like graduate assistant Nick Sheridan, who worked with Jennings a lot in the spring, is working with closely with Jones this fall.
Dobbs and Dormady picked up right where they left off in the spring – looking like the No. 1 and No. 2 QBs right off the bat. In the limited time we saw, I thought Dobbs really came out firing and threw a lot of really good passes. And, as expected, we didn’t see any of Jennings at QB during the open portion as he worked with wide receivers.
Running back: Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara are clearly the two top dogs in this group. They took all the first reps and at one point when the others weren’t doing a drill correctly, those two stepped in and told them to get going and showed them out to do the drill. Ralph David Abernathy IV seemed to be the third back getting most of the reps behind Hurd and Kamara. That makes sense because he knows Jones’ offense from his time at Cincinnati. Hard to say too much about John Kelly and Joseph Young until the pads come on. They both had adequate size and moved well.
Wide receiver: You’ve heard it before, but Josh Malone seemed to have a good day on the practice field. He had one reaching grab in particular that drew the praise of Zach Azzanni. Can he sustain that throughout camp and into the season? That’ll be the lingering question. There will be a lot of questions about how Jennings looked here. Again, it’s too early to tell. He certainly looks the part – he’s big and looks like he’s put on some weight over the offseason. As for his hands? It was a mixed bag. I saw him drop at least two catchable balls, but he made some other nice catches. We’ll keep an eye on that throughout camp.
Pig Howard and Johnathon Johnson were the first guys through most drills. Jason Croom, who has a large brace on his left knee, and Josh Smith were generally near the front of the line as well. Vincent Perry got a welcome-to-college-football moment when he didn’t finish running hard on his route and let a ball sail over him. Let’s just say that Azzanni made sure that it will not happen again.
Offensive linemen: I mostly saw just footwork and one-on-one blocking, so it’s difficult to get much of a feel for who is working where and what the early depth chart might look like. Drew Richmond looks like a freak athlete for his size and weight. He moves well, has a great frame and looks like a guy who could be a really good offensive tackle in this league. How soon? That will be the huge question in practice once the pads go on. Austin Sanders worked with a club on his right hand. Charles Mosley, as expected, was on the field working with the o-line.
Dontavius Blair looks even leaner than he did in the spring, and is now listed in the 290s range. Venzell Boulware is stout at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds. I saw no indications that the pretty standard Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson, Brett Kendrick look will be broken, but we didn’t get a great feel for much depth chart stuff either. I’m sure there will be a lot of experimentation over the course of the next 20 practices or so.
Injuries/absences: As expected, no sign of Preston Williams and Von Pearson. Outside of that, everybody of note on the roster seemed to be present and accounted for on this side of the ball.
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