This was actually my first Jerry Kill practice. I was never able to make a spring practice but I left work early today to catch most of today's. As you have probably read in a number of different places, there is a lot of action at practice. Here were my thoughts...
This was obviously one practice session. It is entirely conceivable that one guy may have been working with the first team today and someone else will get that opportunity tomorrow. But with that said here is what I gleaned as interesting personnel tid bits or observations.
QB - Gray is obviously the #1. He looked very good at times and threw some ugly ones at others. I felt like he looked better throwing the ball on the run than he did in the pocket. Gary Tinsly made an outstanding interception on Gray late in practice and it wasn't the only pick thrown by MarQueise. Max Shortell looked pretty good and he ran the 2s late in practice in the 2-minute drill. I don't think this means anything about Shortell over Parish other than he got an opportunity today. Moses Alipate ran the scout team against the defense, if he is playing under center for the Gophers there will have to be several injuries.
RB - Nothing really stood out with this group. LaMonte Edwards had a couple of nice runs including a 10 yard run against the #1 defense to start the 2-minute drill at the end of practice.
TE - Again, nothing stood out to me. Eric Lair is very good and made a nice catch in an 11-on-11 drill, but we expect nice things out of Lair.
WR - Da'Jon McKnight practiced fully, but he didn't look like he was going 100%, he didn't look hurt but also didn't look quite like himself yet. Ge'Shun Harris and Malcom Moulton both look the part and both made a couple nice plays. Brandon Green was there but rarely seen. I'm not sure if he just did a few drills but not all of them or if he just is that un-noticable. One receiver did stand out. Marcus Jones is tiny but he will have an impact this year as our starting slot receiver.
OL - the first unit was as expected (Olson, Bunders, *Wynn* Orton, Gjere), minus Ryan Wynn who is away for a family funeral. The second unit had Josh Campion at LG and his name was called out a few times when a mistakes were made. Mark Lenkiewski ran at LT for the 2s and I didn't catch the rest.
DT - I'm liking this position group more and more. Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs will be two very find starting tackles and I feel good about Ra'Shede Hageman backing them up along with Eric Jacques. Those first three have good size, but as I overheard Glen Mason discussing, behind our starters we are very small.
LB - Gary Tinsley got nearly all of the reps at MLB with Brendan Beal leading the 2s. Beal looks big, strong and fast but so does Tinsley who had a great interception of Gray. I was actually impressed with Mike Rallis upper body strength. Dewayne Mitchell and Aaron Hill are likely going to be your backup OLBs. Spencer Reeves did not get reps with either the 1st or 2nd teams.
CB - Troy Stoudermire looked very good in one-on-one drills with receivers. He is just smoother than the rest of the defensive backfield and closes quicker on the ball/receiver. Brock Vereen is the opposite starter with Michael Carter and Kyle Henderson backing them up. Vereen looks nice out there and the more I see him the more comfortable I am with him as the starter. Carter has the tools and I think his head is in a better place now than it was last year but he hasn't earned a spot with the 1s yet.
S - There are two groups of starting safeties and it still isn't clear which one will start. The Minnesota combo of Shady Salamon and Kim Royston seem to have a slight edge over James Manuel and Christyn Lewis. Royston made some nice plays and Salamon was filling rushing lanes nicely during some 9-on-9 running drills.
Overall the defense dominated the offense. During 11-on-11 drills the defensive line forced QB runs on what seemed like 5 of the first 7 plays. They were consistently in the backfield and throws were hard to get off. I fear it was more of an indictment on the offensive line than it was the defensive pass rush. In the 2-minuted drill the #1 offense was able to get from their own 35 to the #2 defense's 44 where Chris Hawthorn nailed a 54-yard FG with 3 seconds on the clock. It was slightly wind aided but it easily cleared and would have been good from a few yards back.
It was a beautiful day and like you've read everywhere else practice was always moving. If you haven't taken advantage of the open practices to the public, you absolutely need to get down there.