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August 16, 2009

Beavers earn day off after first daily double of year

Let's play two! To steal a saying from Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, Coach Mike Riley led his Beavers out for a nightcap practice, their second session today. Tonight's practice was held down in Reser Stadium and had the players just wearing their shells, not in full pads.

There was definitely an emphasis on special teams, as they spent the first 45 minutes working on all things special teams from kickoff coverage, returns, field goals and punt coverage. Returning kicks today were Jacquizz Rodgers, James Dockery, Patrick Henderson, Rashaad Reynolds, Jordan Bishop and Jordan Poyer. As Coach Riley said after the end of the first practice, James Rodgers sat out this evening.

After watching a couple of live kickoffs, I think it's safe to say that if 'Quizz does stay back returning kicks, he will take at least one kick to the house. It wasn't just his natural ability however; his return team was opening up some huge running lanes. On one play in particular play he went untouched for about 50 yards when they blew the play dead. Despite not wearing full gear, there were still some big time collisions. Reynolds is also one to keep an eye on as he is pretty amazing with the ball in his hands, displaying great vision and very quick feet.

Those on hand did get their first look at our 'hands unit' and it was a bit interesting as the personnel out there were not who one would think would be on a hands unit. Nevertheless, I don't think we'll see many onside kicks as neither kicker came really close to getting a good kick down.

Besides all the emphasis on special teams, there was a lot of time spent with the full squads going at each other. The first teams on both sides looked a little different tonight as there were a number of players not participating for one reason or another. Those not participating tonight were David Pa'aluhi, Casey Kjos, Lance Mitchell, Cameron Collins, Tim Clark, Anthony Watkins, and Tonu Tuimalealiifano, in addition to 'Quon.

With half of the starting secondary out tonight, a couple of things were noticeable. Josh LaGrone filled in for Mitchell/Collins, Patrick Henderson filled in for Clark. Also, Dax Dilbeck already is onto a new position as he was lined up at safety. Despite having to plug and fill a bit in the secondary, they played rather well tonight as a unit. James Dockery and Brandon Hardin both had pretty good nights. Dockery got beat earlier on in practice on a beautiful deep pass from Sean Canfield to Markus Wheaton, but after that he was a shutdown corner. Henderson picked off an errant Peter Lalich pass towards the end of practice and danced his way back up field for a solid return.

With Kjos and 'Quon both sitting out tonight, the offense saw a few young guys running with the 1st team as well. Markus Wheaton spent a majority of the night working at the flanker position, with Aaron Nichols and Bishop in the slot. Also, along the line Grant Johnson spent all night running at LT with the 1's, pushing Michael Philipp to the 2nd team. I was a bit surprised by this as Philipp has been playing in about half the snaps with the first team.

Wheaton had another solid day, and can do a pretty good job of imitating James on the field as he did a little bit of everything today. He moved the chains as a possession receiver, was a home run threat over the top, and with his blazing speed was deadly with the ball in his hands. He gets to the corner and then up field almost as fast as James does.

Bishop had another great day working out of the slot and appears to be establishing quite the rapport with fellow redshirt freshman, quarterback Ryan Katz. On one drive in particular, Katz threw 5 balls in Bishop's direction, with Bishop hauling in three, including a touchdown. Again, Bishop probably made the highlight of the day as he made a great catch on a stop route where the ball was early and a bit behind him. He had to go parallel again later in practice, as he laid out for a ball along the sidelines.

As Eric observed earlier today, Canfield continued to throw beautiful ball after beautiful ball. He connected with Darrell Catchings on several timing routes that were picture perfect.

Also worth noting, Sean is considerably more agile and has really worked on his mobility as he made a lot of plays rolling out and throwing on the run. I watched him run probably 10 40-yard dashes after practice tonight and actually showed pretty good speed. While I didn't have a clock on him, he did go up against Lyle a couple times and beat him by 3 or 4 yards.

Lastly, as the team was breaking, everyone wished Walker Vave a happy birthday. So on behalf of the entire BeaverBlitz staff, we would also like to wish Vave a very happy birthday.

Look for the daily doubles to continue Monday morning with practice starting at 8:30 am on the Protho practice fields and the afternoon session starting at 6:30 pm.

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