As we go into day 8 of Fall drills, the Cougars continue to do some shuffling to try and make the team as strong as possible at all positions. So far all the changes have been geared to bulk up the defensive side of the ball. Here’s a look at some of the moves so far.
Connor Johnson moved to receiver from quarterback and Bennett Bontemps moved from receiver to the defensive backfield in the Spring to improve the depth and give them any shot at getting into the team rotation. So far no real huge returns from those moves, though Bontemps took some first team reps the other day on the defensive side. Yesterday however he didn’t take any reps with the 1’s or 2’s.
Charleston White made the move to DB from his recruited position of receiver to upgrade the depth, athleticism and size on the corner. This is more of a “future returns” move for White and the Cougs, as it seems like Damante Horton, Nolan Washington and Daquawn Brown are in a tussle for the starting spots.
You may be wondering where Anthony Carpenter is in that conversation, after starting the final half of the 2012 season on the corner and looking pretty good in stretches. Well Carp has made the transition back to safety, where he began his college career. He says it’s a more natural position for him and he’s taking reps from Casey Locker with the 2’s in camp so far. He’s struggled a little with positioning in the move back, but is a more natural athlete than Casey in my opinion and thanks to his CB cover skills could make the Cougs that much more difficult to attack vertically than Locker does.
Yesterday, we found out that the mutual decision to improve the safety corps even more was made between Isaac Dotson and the coaches. Dotson started by getting a look at his main high school position of quarterback, but we all knew unless Connor Halliday was absolute junk coming into the Fall that Dotson would eventually make a move to the other side. Natural athlete, coaches are raving about his football IQ, this should have major returns in the future. For now, he’ll be stuck behind (and ultimately learning from) a very veteran group.
And then the final move was the decision to put DL Destiny Vaeao at the starting BUCK position. The move hasn’t really seen much return in practice so far because of the passing nature of the Cougar offense, but actually that’s a great thing because the one thing the 290 lbs athlete needs to work on is his pass drop. He must be doing at least decently in that regard, as he’s been the “starter” there for each of the first 7 days of camp. His addition at BUCK gives the Cougs 50 more lbs on the edge and the ability to really go 4-down at any time.
On to practice info from Thursday, the defensive line was very disruptive and active after being jawed at by the offensive line over the past couple days. It’s becoming apparent that neither offense nor defense will back down at any given point when they are challenged. As quickly as the next day, the other side responds to the challenges of the previous day.
Something still missing, however, is the immediate response allowing for both offense and defense to have a great full day together. If you remember anything as a Cougar fan about last season was that the Cougs simply couldn’t get a great offensive and defensive day together. Sometimes it was half to half where one would play really well while the other somehow dropped the ball in the most critical situations. Point being we need to see a more immediate response still from either side of the ball to really get to the next level of competition.
Case and point being demonstrated when Austin Apodaca fumbled the snap on the final play of practice to give the defense the “win” on the day without properly challenging with a play into the endzone. Memories abound from Stanford last season, when the offensive line dropped the ball on the final play of the game and allowed a sack in the redzone. Then there was the Cal game, where the Cougs had several opportunities early in the game inside the 20 but receivers kept dropping the ball in the endzone. Colorado, UNLV and Eastern, where 4th quarter blowouts came down the to last play. The list goes on.
As a final note, Bobby Ratliff and Isaiah Myers have really been turning it up the past couple days with true freshman River Cracraft threatening their spots in the rotation. Each have made some one-handed grabs in traffic and continue to make those difficult plays over the middle of the field to move the chains. Haven’t heard much from Rickey Galvin the past couple days but he’s been pretty solid and it feels like his breakout day is right around the corner somewhere before the team leaves Lewiston in 4 days.