Although the Northeast cold still remains, along with majestic backdrop of the fallen snow that has been the constant theme in the New York area this month; The Black Knights took in today's practice and first scrimmage inside the warmth of the Foley Athletic Center.
Today's practice saw the team adorn full pads in preparation of some live action, where for the first time this spring, Coach Ellerson will see his team in "turn it loose mode."
For an early Saturday morning practice, both players and coaches were lively. During the early session (combative) of practice, a few players made solid plays.
Antuan Aaron is a lock at one corner, where returnee Richard King, who is currently starting opposite Aaron, continues to look both quick and fast, as demonstrated during the early portion of today's practice.
Two cornerbacks who will be fighting for playing time are sophomore [db]Josh Jackson and newcomer, Marquis Morris. Both players showed that are up to the task, as they made solid hits during the combative drills.
However, later during the 11 on 11 scrimmage, Jackson was caught out of place as reserve quarterback Jimmy Reitter hit speedy Brian Austin on a 40 yard touchdown play.
During the combative session, you could hear Cornerback Coach, Tony Coaxum's voice resonates through, as he was constantly instructing and correcting his guys.
When the linebackers and defensive linemen went head to head in their combative drills, there were some solid matchups.
Andrew Rodriguez utilized his quickness to get to the quarterback (Victor Ugenyi) when going head to head with offensive tackle, Brad Kelly. Also showing a little swagger was defensive tackle, who bull rushed through starting center Zach Peterson. Throughout the session, starting defensive tackle Mike Gann was active and productive, as he got to the quarterback on a couple of times.
Up and coming sophomore guard Frank Allen looked very impressive as he manhandled defensive end Marcus Hilton during their contest. With Allen's continued development and maturity, it will be hard not seeing as one of the starting guards going into summer practice.
Defensively, Aaron was very active at cornerback, where he came away with a pass breakup, along with blanketing wide receiver Davyd Brooks on one play. For Aaron and all the other corners, that is a change of fortune, because the 6-foot-3, 200 pound Brooks has owned the corners this spring. However today, the edge went to Aaron.
Speaking of receivers; Austin Barr, who at 6-foot-4, 203 pounds, showed quality routes, but also very soft hands. If the season started today, it would be Brooks and Barr at the starting receivers. Looking down the roster and based on spring results, it would hard to pencil anyone in ahead of these two.
Although neither possesses blazing speed (Brooks' speed can be deceptive), there is upside with both. Brooks is a legitimate thread and can stretch a defense. Barr on the other hand is more of your classical possession receiver.
11 on 11
(1st team offense vs. 2nd team defense)
Starting from midfield and on the first play of the first series, fullback Jared Hassin showed why coaches and teammates alike are excited to have the 6-foot-3, 230 pounder wearing the Black & Gold. He burst through the hole and through defenders for a substantial gain.
A quick pass to the flat from Trent Steelman to Barr result is 10 yard gain, but is followed by linebacker Chad Littlejohn making one of the better hits of the day, as he lays out slotback Patrick Mealy.
However on the next play, Mealy hit paydirt thanks to a great block downfield by fellow slotback Jamison Carter on cornerback James Whittington.
(1st team defense vs. 2nd team offense)
Although the first unit was minus middle linebacker Stephen Anderson and defensive Josh McNary, the swagger was on display from the very first play.
Linebacker Steve Erzinger was in season form as he leveled the running back off tackle on the first play from scrimmage.
McNary's absence has allowed for Jarrett Mackey to receive significant reps and the sophomore took advantage of the opportunity during today's practice. The 6-foot-2, 225 product out of Snellville (Ga.) looked extremely quick and on two occasions provided pressure on the quarterback. Mackey's development is just another sign of type of quality depth that Ellerson and his staff are building.
Although Donovan Travis and Donnie Dixon started at the free and strong safety position respectively, Jordon Trimble rotated with the two as each played both spots throughout today's practice. It will not be unusual to see this same rotation take place during the upcoming season.
A new look to the defense was Nate Combs in the middle in what could be described as second bandit position, where he is playing off the line, but yet rushing and causing havoc up the middle.
During the course of the scrimmage, you could hear Co-Defensive Coordinator Payam Saadat yell at the defense to "Get to the ball faster
swarm - swarm."
(1st team offense vs. 1ST team defense)
This was a quick three play series, because it is clear that Ellerson wants to minimize any potential injuries.
On the first play, Steelman effectively pulled off a play action and roll to his right, where he hit Hassin in the flat for 15 yards.
Next play saw linebacker Bill Prosko stop Hassin in his tracks right at the line of scrimmage, which was followed by a two yard gain by Mealy.
If anyone was keeping score of this abbreviated version of a series, the win would go to the defense.
Overall, it was a crisp and solid practice, but as any of the coaches will tell
there is plenty of room to improve on.
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