POSITION OPINION #1: The coaching staff made the right call in naming Steven Sheffield the number two quarterback. Seth Doege put forth a valiant effort, and actually outplayed Sheffield for a stretch in the middle of fall drills, but could not sustain that high level of play. Doege's play deteriorated over the last few practices and Sheffield simultaneously elevated his level of play. Sheffield looked confident in the pocket, delivered accurate passes, and unlimbered a surprisingly strong arm. He earned the spot.
POSITION OPINION #2: Austin Zouzalik will start sooner rather than later. He is clearly one of Tech's top two inside receivers along with Detron Lewis. Tramain Swindall, currently listed as a starter, has had his moments but they have been scarce in comparison to Zouzalik's overall body of work. Zouzalik has been borderline spectacular, not merely competent. The only receiver on the roster who has clearly superior hands to Zouzalik is Alexander Torres. Zouzalik, Lewis and Lyle Leong are in a virtual dead heat for runner up status in that category. Zouzalik also shows a toughness and fearlessness that are unrivaled. That's key for an inside receiver. And finally, Zouzalik brings an explosiveness to the position that will frighten defenses. He's a big play waiting to happen. He's also a starter waiting to happen.
DEFENSE IMPRESSIVE AGAIN: For the second time in three workouts, the defense clearly got the upper hand against the offense. The first time was attributable to higher intensity and greater emotion on the part of the defense. But today's dominance was due to execution and awareness. The defense simply seemed to know what the offense was going to do before the offense did. Screen plays were sussed out and stifled before they could get underway. Defenders shed blocks and blasted running plays right at the line of scrimmage. And even when the offense picked up blitzes -- which they did a great deal -- the defense managed to blanket the hot receiver. It was another thoroughly impressive performance by Ruffin McNeill's unit.
BARON BACK: Amazingly, only a week or so after suffering a frightening injury, Baron Batch was back in action, sporting full pads and a padded sleeve on his left arm. Batch's first touch came in skeleton drills on a short pass over the middle which he took about 30 yards to the house. The next step for Batch will be full contact in middle and team drills.
RARE ERROR BY TORO: Franklin Mitchem forced Torres to fumble during skeleton drills. That is the first instance of ball insecurity I've seen from Torres. Mitchem, meanwhile, continues to improve dramatically.
COME TO JESUS MEETING: After a series of lethargic plays by the defense in skeleton drills, linebacker Brian Duncan called a meeting of the defense in the middle of the field. The next two plays were a pass breakup by Brent Nickerson, and LaRon Moore enveloping Rashad Hawk the moment he caught a short pass. The rejuvenation also carried over into team drills, which the defense owned.
QUOTE O' THE DAY: After Ryan Hale neatly fielded a squib kick and returned it for good yardage in kickoff drills, special teams coach Eric Russell had this to say: "One of those little things that happens in a game at the end of the game, end of the half -- we're gonna cram it right back at 'em."
You tell 'em, Coach Russell.
CORNER BLITZ: Ruffin McNeill busted out the cornerback blitz today. Taylor Charbonnet blitzed at least twice in team drills. He got to the quarterback neither time. Detron Lewis burned the first blitz and Taylor Potts could not find Harrison Jeffers on the second; the ball fell incomplete.