Friday, August 28, 2009

Football practice: parting shots

This post was written by Vanguard writer Allison Whited.

I have enjoyed my time at practice the past three weeks immensely. I watch so much professional football that it's easy to forget how important raw talent is and how some play the game just to play the game. I have been reminded how camaraderie can exist between two people striving for the same thing and how much we can learn from those teaching us if only we listen.

I'm very shy, so it takes a lot for me to get comfortable enough to talk to someone, but I would like to say that every time I have had contact with someone associated with PSU Athletics, it has been a very positive experience. I even met the athletic director one day and he was so genial that I instantly felt comfortable. I just want to say thank you to those few people I worked up the nerve to talk to between the beginning of spring ball and now. I have utmost respect for the coaching and training staff, the players themselves who work so hard and the folks who work in the athletics department.

Now just a few parting thoughts on what I've noticed in practice the past three weeks:

I love the secondary. The starters seem set to be Tracy Ford and DeShawn Shead at cornerback and Cody Worthen and Jordan Brown at safety. They are good, intelligent athletes and they create a stifling backfield for anyone under the gun. Even the players behind them in depth chart, guys like Mshaka Mitchell and Michael Williams and Denzel Davis, have shown plenty of skill, speed and intelligence. I like the way secondary coach Brandon Shelby coaches. He doesn't appear to be anyone's friend, but he's a great mentor. I really think this group will anchor the defense.

I think the quarterback position is solid in Drew Hubel's hands. His height is a great advantage over everyone else on the depth chart at that position. On some plays, and this happens more and more frequently, he has great—which is a word I try not to use frequently—touch on the ball. He puts it where it should be, softly, without letting it float dangerously. He will be called on a lot this year, but he seems confident enough to handle it. I also think Connor Kavanaugh is a good backup. He gives the offense an extra dimension with his scrambling ability and he seems to be settling into his internal game clock.

The freshman fullbacks have been such a pleasant surprise. We will have to wait for the season to begin to get a taste of offensive coordinator Jim Craft's play calling, but with backs like these as well as incumbent backs like Bobby McClintock and Nick Kalpin, it can't hurt to throw some more runs into the mix. Evans Okotcha and Ben Bowen have lit it up at times. The speed on both of them is great and they are good in pass protection. They are going to prove to be good investments in the future.

The linebacker group is solid. With senior linebackers Erik Pedersen and Ryan Pedersen returning as starters, it's a unit that gets things done. They have each spent at last a year under Glanville and know where they are supposed to be and what they need to do. There are rarely mental lapses and they really are too much fun to watch.

I still think the receiving corps needs another leader besides Aaron Woods. Woods is great to watch at practice. He is so aggressive and finds a way to the ball. I have the feeling he's going to get quite a bit of coverage this season and someone will need to show up to draw heat off of him. From all that I've seen at practice, I think Lavonte Kirven is the most likely. He has good hands and good field awareness.

The offensive and defensive lines have improved so much over just the past three weeks. It's difficult to tell what everyone playing those key positions is doing on every play and I know that I did not give those guys as much credit as they deserve. They work together well and the offensive line has gotten stiffer while the defensive line has gotten more punishing.

My final thought is one of thanks. I'm thankful I got to spend time watching such a talented group of athletes. I'm thankful no one trashed me for any negative comment I may have made. And I'm most thankful that anyone even read my drivel. I have to admit that I thought I was only writing for myself, but as time has worn on I have realized that more people read it than just me. Someone actually warned me that other teams could read this junk to scout out the team (do people really do that?). All I wanted to do was show my commitment to covering the team and give people an idea of what the team was doing. I hope that at the lowest level I have achieved that.



Jon said...

You may think you're an average hack, but the writing says otherwise. Something like a Canzano without the bite? You haven't found your voice yet, but you will. Hope to see you in the Van guard this year. And many thanks for the coverage.

Jeremy said...

great work this pre-season. you've done a fantastic job in treating your posts with the professionalism the job requires and the insight of good candid reporting.

the vanguard really stepped-up their sports reporting last year --i hope your posts are signs of a continuation of this welcome tradition.