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August 22, 2009

Defense ready to hit as week two draws to close

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It was the saying throughout the night as the defense stood out and is eager to actually start finishing plays, meaning they really want to hit someone. After a couple of practices where the team seemed to be tired of the demanding schedule that they have had to maintain throughout fall camp, both sides of the ball were jacked up at different times tonight.

The offense started off the night red hot during the 2 minute drills as Sean Canfield led them straight down the field going 7 for 7, while completing passes to Jordan Bishop and Casey Kjos for touchdowns. Damola Adeniji also had several catches on the drive making up for the couple of drops that he had this morning. Canfield continues to look better than ever, making good reads and delivering the ball in a timely manner.

Ryan Katz followed Canfield's performance by going 7 for 8 working with the 2nd team. His favorite targets were John Reese and Aaron Nichols, connecting on touchdowns with both players on his drive. Peter Lalich then led the 3rd team down the field. He also looked very sharp but since he was working with mostly the 3rd team, a couple of his would be completions were dropped. He showed great touch on TD passes to freshmen Micah Hatfield and Mitch Singler.

Throughout practice several things caught my eye. Nichols continues to be, in my eyes the best all around receiver on the team. Granted James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings weren't on the field, but time and time again, Nichols has shown that not only can he be a possession receiver that moves that chains but he also is capable of stretching the field by going vertical. I really hope that he is rewarded for his great camp thus far by getting some playing time in the upcoming season.

Another part of practice that caught my eye was the fact that freshman Jordan Poyer might have jumped redshirt freshman Anthony Watkins on the depth chart. Watkins finally was back on the field this evening, returning from his hamstring issues, but saw a majority of his time with the 3rd team defense while Poyer was mostly with the 2nd team. Poyer has been an incredible story considering the fact that many believed he was a strong greyshirt candidate when he was first recruited and now might see playing time as a true freshman. His play reminds me a lot of former Beaver ball hawking safety, Jake Cookus.

While the offense controlled the beginning of practice, the rest of practice belonged to the players on other side of the ball. I think there was a bit of frustration from many players on the defensive side of the ball because for almost 2 weeks now, they haven't been able to actually tackle. The turn of the tide took place during full team, 3rd down drills. The defense said enough is enough and despite the team only wearing shells, took the physicality of practice to another level. On one play, Will Darkins got hit so hard his helmet came off; on the next play Stephen Paea blew through the line knocking an offensive lineman on his backside to sack Canfield. That was when the defense got amped up and started to get a bit rowdy.

The next series of plays saw the defense make play after play after play. It started with a Suaesi Tuimaunei pick six that made the entire defense get loud. From there on out the defense had a new bounce in their step and for the first time all camp, there was a swagger on the field and the players started to get loud. The following pass play was a failure as Tim Clark read it from the moment it left Canfield's hand and broke it up with ease. The next couple of plays resulted in another batted ball and several sacks from edge rushers Dwight Roberson, Matt LaGrone and Gabe Miller.

Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf had seen enough of the first team and decided that the second team offense should try their luck. They didn't fare much better, giving up 3 sacks. James Dockery also made a great play in coverage, knocking the ball out of Geno Munoz's hands on what would have been a for sure 1st down conversion.

With the offense unable to pick up a 1st down during full team drills, the coaching staff decided to go back to skeleton drills so that the offense could find some sense of rhythm and try to build their confidence back up. On the 2nd pass, Patrick Henderson literally took the ball out of Adeniji's hands for an interception and what would have been a touchdown return.

After that play, Canfield finally said that that was enough and it was once again the offense's turn to take control of practice. He again got red hot throwing the ball. After completing a slant pass to Kjos that went for a long gain, Canfield was jumping around trying to pump some life into the offense. It worked as the offense's next 3 plays resulted in large gains. One was a screen pass to Jovan Stevenson; the other was a slant from Lalich to Munoz that left cornerback James Dockery standing still as Munoz broke Dockery's ankles coming off the line.

As practice came to a close, the team moved to redzone drills. The series that followed was how it should be, extremely balanced, with the defense making a play only to have the offense come right back and convert on the next. Key players during this series included Lance Mitchell, Anthony Watkins, Brady Camp, Ryan Katz and Kevan Walker.

All in all, tonight's practice left me incredibly excited for tomorrow's scrimmage. Even though a lot of the veterans won't see a lot of the field tomorrow, the young guys will get to go and you can count on both sides of the ball letting out some frustration as it will be the first day of actual tackling. It should be exciting and it might also be last chance some of the freshmen get to prove that they have the ability to play this year and forego their redshirt year.

If you're in the Corvallis area tomorrow, stop by Reser and check out the scrimmage. Start time is slated for 2:00 pm.

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