Tuesday's practice was in the Carrier Dome for the first time this spring, and the offense seemed thankful for the controlled conditions. This weekend's Rochester trip was quite cold and windy, and the offense struggled mightily. While the defense is definitely still ahead at this point in the spring, yesterday's practice offered up a bit of a return to form for the offense.
Multiple players who have missed some time also returned to the field during yesterday's practice. Brice Hawkes was back after serving his suspension, Jonny Miller after his bout with the flu, Prince-Tyson Gulley saw some non-contact drills for the first time since Thursday, and Van Chew got in during some light contact drills for the first time this spring.
The offense also came out with a few new wrinkles that hadn't been unveiled to this point, including the option which could be a nice weapon with a running back like Antwon Bailey.
Practice also had a few guests attending, including Rob Long, who was booming punts before hand, and former SU offensive lineman Adam Terry.
More after the jump...
Quarterbacks - All of the quarterbacks definitely took a step forward after struggling in Rochester. Ryan Nassib continues to be the far and away leader here. He plays with a lot of poise, especially when facing a tough pass rush. Last year Nassib was a bit prone to trying to scramble away from a rush, but this spring he's been stepping up into the pocket and finding the open receivers. Charley Loeb had a much better practice as well. John Kinder continues to struggle a bit after opening the spring very strong. The battle for the backup quarterback spot should be pretty interesting from here on out.
Running backs - The speed backs fared pretty well today. Bailey continues to run incredibly hard, and seems noticeably faster than he's been in past years. On one play, which is reminiscent of one of my personal favorites from Madden, Nassib faked the dive to Adam Harris up the middle and pitched it out to Bailey for a big gain. Steve Rene also looked very solid off the edge, and he is probably our fastest back in terms of pure speed.
Wide Receivers - The receiving corps had a bit of an interesting day. Normally sure handed Marcus Sales struggled with drops early on, but came on strong later in practice. Jarrod West dropped a few passes but looked better than he has for most of the spring. He has a big frame, and looks like he may be a candidate to bulk up and become a tight end in the future. Alec Lemon was very impressive and had his best practice of the spring by far, catching just about everything.
Jeremiah Kobena also stayed true to form. I definitely expect to see him get on the field this year, as his elite speed and surprisingly sure hands make him a great deep threat. He had one very impressive catch down the sideline on a Loeb pass with Jaston George in coverage.
Tight End - David Stevens is going to need to contribute with the lack of depth we have at tight end, and quelled some concerns yesterday. He continues to improve catching the ball, and could be a decent compliment to Nick Provo. Walk-on Thomas Trendowski also looks decent out there and could fill in if the time comes.
Offensive Line - This is the unit I'm most concerned about at the moment. They are really far behind our defensive line, and struggle with Coach Shafer's blitzing schemes. One upside is that Macky MacPherson's snaps have been very good. Back-up center Nick Lepak struggled a bit in that regard yesterday. Austin Lane and Sean Hickey suffered injuries during yesterday's practice but neither seemed to be too serious.
Defensive Line - Our defensive ends might be among the best in the entire big east conference, and that might help cover up some deficiencies at defensive tackle. Max Beaulieu is now playing primarily on the inside. He and Deon Goggins were two of our most highly touted recruits last year. Hopefully one of them can emerge and give us a real presence on the defensive interior.
Linebackers - The WILL linebacker spot seems to be Dyshawn Davis' to lose at this point, but in his return to the field, Brice Hawkes seems to be gunning for it. Hawkes was very impressive during drills, including one which was supposed to be a one-on-one coverage drill where he demolished fullback Tombe Kose while going to jam him at the line of scrimmage. He did not get any time on first team, and was behind Mario Tull on the second team to begin his spring.
Defensive Backs - No one can question this unit's fight. In a return to form, Ri'Shard Anderson and Dorian Graham went at it early in 11-on-11s. Phillip Thomas was right in the middle of the altercation, although it looks as if he may have been trying to break it up.
This is a long week for SU practice, with practices tomorrow, Friday and a scrimmage on Saturday.