January 3, 2007

West offense shows flashes in scrimmage

[rl]SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The West scrimmage on Tuesday morning was much shorter than the East's, so there wasn't as much to see.

However, in the 30+ plays that were run, Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell was able to make some observations.

During the early morning scrimmage, Jimmy Clausen was clearly the best quarterback. Clausen showed his trademark quick release and accuracy. His biggest play was a strike to Gerald Jones just in front of defender Curtis Brown that led to a 30-yard play down to the 2-yard line. Clausen then hit Terrance Toliver on a quick slant, although the pass was nearly jumped by Donovan Warren.

Ryan Mallett struggled with his accuracy in the early scrimmage, overthrowing a receiver that led to a pick by Marshall Jones. His other interception came when he hung the ball too high, creating a jump-ball situation won by Brown. Mallett's arm strength is unquestioned, but his accuracy is inconsistent. Nick Fanuzzi had a few nice completions but also struggled with his accuracy and ball handling. Fanuzzi was solid on timing routes but hurried the ball when he was pressured.

Joe McKnight started off the scrimmage with a long run, showing off his explosive speed and ability to find an opening and hit it fast. John Clay got a few touches and gained yards after contact on most of them.

Toliver showed his quick hands on his touchdown catch, stealing the ball away from Warren to save an interception. They went deep to him once and he drew a questionable interference call on Warren, but beyond that they weren't able to get him the ball. Ahmad Paige was thrown to a couple of times, but he didn't make any catches of note.

Niles Paul had at least three catches, including a bubble screen thrown by Fanuzzi where Paul showed off his ability to gain yards after the catch. Paul gained 20 yards simply on open field moves. Jones had the biggest catch of the day, plucking the ball out of the air and turning upfield before being pushed out at the 2-yard line. John Chiles had one pass thrown at him but it wasn't complete.

Offensive lineman Matt Romine was solid, especially against Everson Griffen[db] in space. Romine showed excellent feet, a good punch and solid balance. [db]Ryan Miller was very good on the day, with the exception of one play where Chris Strong blew past him for an easy sack. The offensive line did provide the quarterbacks time to throw for the most part, and there wasn't a lot of push up the middle.

Strong is super quick off the football and is a natural edge rusher. His closing speed is surprising as well, and he takes smart angles to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Myles Wade is big and can move. He ran down one play from the backside following a fumbled snap by Fanuzzi. Griffen, Wade and Strong were the standouts on the defensive line during the scrimmage.

It's a thin group at linebacker for the West as far as depth, but they weren't tested all that much. Chris Gallippo showed his lateral quickness and Tyler Nielsen hustled down a few plays.

Warren was the best cornerback in the scrimmage. He reads receivers well, doesn't overcommit and closes strong. He blankets receivers from the line of scrimmage down the field and was the only one who could stay with Toliver throughout the first couple of days.

Marshall Jones showed the value of the top drill as he picked off a pass that went off the fingertips of a wide receiver.

Curtis Brown is just an impressive athlete with great closing speed. He tries to make a play on the ball each time it's in the air and is a bit of a gambler, but he can get away with it because of his recovery ability.

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