August 26, 1996
The football team held a controlled scrimmage in Lane Stadium that was open to the public last Saturday night, so I went down and checked it out in order to give you, my loyal readers, a first-hand report.
In some ways, it's tough to evaluate the performances in a controlled scrimmage, because they consist mostly of first-team versus second-team situations. For example, how do you assess the performance of a first-team offensive line when it's playing against a second-team defensive line that has little or no game experience? But amidst all that, you do have ample opportunity to observe individual performances, and here are the things I noticed:
The usual cast of characters looked sharp: Druckenmiller, who was 8 of 18 for over 200 yards, and Ken Oxendine, who ran only 4 times but accumulated 72 yards, looked like they're ready to go for the season. Cornelius White had several passes thrown his way, and he caught them all, so hopefully the dropsies are behind him. I figure White is looking forward to the BC game in a BIG way, after dropping that pass on the five yard line last year.
Shawn Scales had a long run after a short pass reception. He put a move on the defender that was reminiscent of Bryan Still's touchdown against BC last year. Scales broke free and was on his way, but he doesn't have Still's speed, and the defense ran him down about 60 yards later. I've been reading that Michael Stuewe has improved his speed, and it's true. On one particular play, Stuewe caught a 10 yard slant, reversed his field, and then demonstrated some new-found acceleration that he didn't have last year, turning the play into a 30-yard gain. Read the first paragraph below about the defense to find out who caught him.
Marcus Gildersleeve, a diminutive receiver who has been drawing raves for his speed, got a good look at the tailback position, primarily (I'm guessing) due to Parker's suspension. Gildersleeve didn't show anything spectacular in the way of moves and breaking tackles, but he did demonstrate an ability to hit the hole quickly and motor downfield.
Bryan Jennings did not get the ball thrown his way, as usual. No comment. You're all well aware of how I feel about Jennings. It's a shame to use such a talented tight end as just a sixth blocker.
The o-line looked strong, but remember, they were playing against guys who backed up the backups last year. I noticed lots of limping coming from Billy Conaty, who still isn't 100% and may never be, as well as a little from Jay Hagood.
If you don't pay attention to Myron Newsome this year, you're going to miss a good show. Barring injury, Myron is going to be AWESOME. In one sequence, Myron ran Stuewe down from behind 30 yards downfield, tackling him on the 1, and on the next play he applied a helmet-jarring tackle in the interior of the goal line defense. You know, one of those tackles that resonates all the way up to the press box in Lane Stadium. There were about 1,000 - 2,000 people there, and they ooohed and aaahed on the play.
I neglected to watch how Tony Morrison did at the middle linebacker slot, so I can't report if he's getting any better at the position. I did notice, however, that I didn't see Brandon Semones all night long. When I took note of the whip linebacker slot, Korey Irby was playing it (he did well, by the way).
As for the defensive line, their play was encouraging. The entire starting four (Cornell, Waverly Jackson, Danny Wheel, and Brad Baylor) all had their moments. Baylor showed some good lateral quickness, and Jackson demonstrated good strength rushing up the middle. The starting four looks really solid, so I've gone from worrying about the line in general to worrying about the depth.
The d-line ran some good stunts. One of my readers, Tom Wilson, theorized that Tech will be more risky with their stunts this year because they know the line is backed up by an excellent crew of linebackers who will cover any mistakes, and that's a good point. Tom also noticed an interesting nickel package that the defense used that is designed to free up Cornell Brown for improved pass rushing. Without giving too much away, let's just say that you'll never know for sure where Cornell's going to line up this year, you know? Opponents beware.
The defensive backs appeared to do well, but to be honest, the second team offense was having difficulty getting the ball away against the first team defense, so Al Clark didn't really have a chance to test the secondary. He was too busy running for his life. The only time I noticed the d-backs occurred when Antonio Banks got juked out of his shoes out in the flat and missed a tackle. The receiver scored on the play. Oh, well, even the best have their off-moments.
Shayne Graham was 3-4 on field goals, including a 49-yarder that he didn't hit very cleanly, but that barely cleared the crossbar anyway. Kibble kicked well the few chances he got, so we're set at kicker. And after a shaky first punt, John Thomas was booming the ball, kicking spirals that showed good hang time and turned out to be 45-55 yard punts.
TOP PERFORMERS: Druck, Oxendine, White, Graham, Scales, Newsome, and the D-line. Honorable mention goes to Cody Whipple, who went in helmet-first on a couple of kickoff and punt-coverage plays. Who would have thought a frustrated QB could turn into such a wild special-teamer?
TOUGH NIGHT: Banks, for getting beat on the short TD I talked about, and backup TE Pedro Edison. Edison put forth what I thought was a lackluster effort on two passes that were thrown poorly to him but were somewhat catchable, and then he out-and-out dropped one that hit him in the hands. Better luck next time out, Pedro.