We'll start off with the first team offense, and the very good news that quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is out of his neck brace and managed to play two series'. It's a good thing to, because with Kaipo-Noa in the game the first team offense is almost unstoppable, as demonstrated by the fact that they took the ball right down the field on the first series for an early touchdown. The offensive line clearly got the best of the defensive line early in the game, and Adam Ballard ran extremely well in a style which could only be described as "gashing." Kaipo-Noa did not throw the ball often, but as was the case last week he looked comfortable in the pocket and put the ball right on the money. He clearly has a hold on the number one job. Most of the option plays were keepers or pitches to Zerbin Singleton, who had a fine game. Reggie did not touch the ball and saw limited action, although he did throw some very nice blocks. Shun White had (I believe) one catch but was otherwise not featured today. Ballard was the star for the first team offense, running 11 times for 80 yards, with 79 of those yards coming on the first series.
As for the number one defense, let's just say things improved once Kaipo was out of the lineup and Ballard was no longer the focal point. I was impressed by the defensive line as the the scrimmage wore on, especially as far as getting penetration into the backfield goes. There are still some issues that need to be resolved as far as the inside running game goes, but both Nate Frazier and Chirs Kahur Pitters were able to get into the backfield and cause some disruption. Nate also really impressed me on a screen in which the 285-lb sophomore ran down Eric Kettani after "feeling" the play develop (albeit ten yards downfield.) Pitch Right's pick for "surprise defensive player of the year" Matt Nechak had another solid outing with eight tackles, including two for a loss and a sack, while former basketball star turned safety Corey Johnson looked good in run support with ten tackles. Watching the defense play out there today got me thinking. I know there are some obvious concerns but I like that a lot of guys are getting reps in practice and I like our chances for the season. There is a good deal of sideline to sideline speed our there and in general the pursuit was outstanding. There was certainly some major hitting going, a point established early by Ketric Buffin, who amazes me with his ability to cut down much larger players in the open field. I'm also getting really excited about the linebacker unit, which I've maintained all offseason is still the strength of the defense. Matt Humiston and Michael Walsh look like they are going to be solid players on the outside this year. And speaking of linebackers, we've got some very talented and aggressive backups waiting in the wings, including guys like Tony Haberer and the aforementioned Matt Nechak.
Plebe Ricky Dobbs continued to impress, as he showed off precision accuracy and great elusiveness within the pocket. He threw a bullet to Mike Schupp who made a nice move to get into the endzone late in the scrimmage. Dobbs has been working with the second and the third teams, but for those of you keeping track of the quarterback competition for 2009, I think we've found our favorite. In fact, he may even move to third string before the end of camp. I hate to say this because I know how hard Troy Goss has worked, but I think his catch-22 continues considering how well Dobbs has been playing. As for Troy, well, he did show some real courage running the option today, and looked more aggressive running the football than I've seen in the past. However he and the other backup quarterbacks (including Dobbs) need to show better care in taking care of the football. I don't know what it was today but we seemed to have a lot of trouble on exchanges from center and to the fullback. These are basic tenants of the offense, and seeing the ball on the ground that many times is not encouraging.
Some more random tidbits: T.J. Thiel has quietly emerged as one of the better reserve receivers on this team, and could be putting himself in line for playing time this season... Speaking of wide receivers, plebe Mike Schupp showed off some good hands and athletic ability, although he did blow a blocking assignment on an early end-around...Plebe Wyatt Middleton is an explosive and aggressive player in the defensive secondary, and has great nose for the football... I thought he did an excellent job in run support today... Bobby Doyle took a real shot on the scrimmage and had to be directed off the field, but I sat at his table during lunch and he seemed to indicate he was o.k...Speaking of banged up slotbacks, I ran into our good friend Greg Shinego who thanked me for all the publicity and said he'd be ready for Temple on the 31st...Last week's star Andre Byrd was not in the lineup today, likely due to a problem with his paperwork going through the NCAA Clearinghouse...A fellow I was chatting with behind me during the play asked me if I had already graduated the Academy, to which I responded that I'm just a local fan who attends a nearby University. I bring this up because it's a far cry from when I met GoMids.com's David Ausiello, who pegged me as a freshmen in high school. Both of course are forgiven, as I know it's sometimes difficult to gauge the age of a, uh, vertically challenged individual.
At the Blue-and-Gold cookout after the scrimmage I was able to talk to some players and hear some interesting tidbits. First off I sat across from Nate Frazier at lunch and man let me tell you that guy enjoys his meals (as can be expected.) I don't think I heard more than a few words out of him the entire time. I sat next to Jordan Reagan, who confirmed that Greg Thrasher would be suspended for the first game because he "broke some team rules." Apparently, he's working with the scout team in the meantime. Eric Kettani was also nearby, and we chatted for awhile about the blog, the new Supe, and the fate of Army week. He said that as far as he knew, all the football players signed their "two-for-sevens."
Overall, most of the players did voice their disappointment that movement orders for Midshipmen have been cancelled for several of the away games. Most of the guys understood the need to improve discipline and were fine with several of the measures taken, but they couldn't get over not having a large contingent of Mids in the stands for Temple and Rutgers. In addition, a lot of the guys were worried about Army week, in particular the rumors that it may not exist anymore. I happen to share some of their concerns, and just hope that the Academy can maintain the outstanding support of the football program without having to sacrifice discipline. I'll have more thoughts on this particular matter early next week.
Well, that's about all to it. This scrimmage was not a whole lot different from the last one in what we can take out of it. The number one offense is going to move the ball, that much is apparent, but I think the defense is coming along. It will be really interesting to see how they do against a non-option offense, especially considering all the athletic ability in the linebacking corps and secondary. All in all, there is progress being made and guys working hard to solidify or push for positions, and the team is finally starting to come together.
I'll do my best to answer questions or give my thoughts if anyone has any comments.