Day 1 of spring camp is in the books. EVT writers Andre Haghverdain and Paul Garrison were on hand for the opening events. The guys took notes on what they saw and collaborated on sharing what stood out to them on Monday.
Observations during the first day of SDSU spring camp
– The tight end room looks legit. Aaron Greene’s body transformation is complete. He hauled in a deep pass in team drills. Gus McGee changed his number to 87 and looks the part. Cameron Harpole looked fluid. JP Murphy caught a deep pass. Jay Rudolph was adept downfield as a passer, raising up to catch passes in drills. Mark Redman is huge and made 6-3 225 pound Logan Tanner look like a little kid when the true freshman stood next to him.
– Aside from Redman, Cooper McDonald, Tyrell Shavers, Josh Simmons, Joey Wright, and Christian Jones stand out due to their height.- The coaches maximized the reps for the QBs. During handoff drills, the signal-callers would give the ball to the running back, and then QB coach Jeff Hecklinski would toss a ball as they rolled away from the backs. The QBs would catch the ball turn their shoulders to the line before throwing to a stationary target. It was a clever way to practice multiple skills at once.
– SDSU’s newest coach, Justin Ena, was on hand for practice today. His clothes were in the best shape. Clearly, they were brand new.
– Burmeister hit Tyrell Shavers on a go route down the sidelines in one-on-one drills. Shavers rose up to catch a pass over Noah Tumblin. The completion could be looked at two ways. Either Shavers could be adding the jump ball game to his repertoire, or Tumblin still has work to do in that area.
– The first skill position player on the field was Jesse Matthews. He started warming up at the same time the offensive line and special teams units.
– Brady Hoke was one of the first coaches out and about. He was setting up the tackling dummies for the defensive line before any of his players emerged from the locker room. No task is beneath the workmanlike coach, it seems, as he leads his blue-collar program. – Field goal kicker and holder look to be Jack Browning and David Delgado. Each split reps at the positions with Browning holding for Delgado and vice versa.
– The NCAA all-time leader in rushing, Donnel Pumphrey, was on hand for practice. He shadowed the running backs for much of the day. Pumphrey came onto the practice field from the parking structure and not the locker room. “Obviously, the great history that we have here at the running back position is insane,” Chance Bell said post-practice. “Donnel Pumphrey is one of the main reasons, 100%, why I came here. Seeing him out here actually with us and hearing news that people like Marshall Faulk are going to be around more often, that’s just motivation. It makes you want to go harder every day. Obviously, the leading rusher in NCAA history, so when he has his eyes on you and says something to you, you got to listen, take everything he says, and try to improve every day. It gives you a bigger chip on your shoulder at the end of the day.”
– Bell is looking to be a more vocal leader this season because of his elevated place as the number one back on the team. He says he is willing to handle whatever role the coaches give him. He praised the young backs in the room and is excited for their development as well.
– Five players were practicing snapping the ball at the beginning of practice. Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli, Joey Wright, Zavier Leonard, Kyle Trombley and Josh Simmons. Starting center Alama Uluave was at class and will be most Mondays during camp. In his absence, the snaps were not the strength of the team. Perhaps, Uluave’s absence is a blessing because it gives more pressure reps to other players. If he was not going to be on the team, snapping would be a big concern judging from what took place Monday.
– On one bad snap, it messed up the rhythm of the play, and linebacker Vai Kaho hit QB Will Haskell, who was in an awkward position trying to deal with the snap. Kaho’s knocked Haskell to the ground, and the QBs helmet popped off. Kaho did not wrap up, and it did not look like he meant to hit Haskell. Coming to the aid of his QB, Ulugala-Maseuli ran from five yards away to hit Kaho. The two wrestled with each other until they were pulled apart. Fights during spring camp are common. This one happened late in practice, which could be a sign the players are paying attention to Hoke’s emphasis on being a smarter team.
– Caden McDonald spoke postgame about the “blessing” of playing with his brother. It was the first time the brothers and roommates have practiced together. “It’s awesome,” McDonald said. “It was one of the big reasons I came back. Playing with my little brother is so … you can’t compare it to anything. It’s awesome, especially seeing him with the ones already. He’s climbing the depth chart, is moving fast, puts all those hours in the playbook. It’s truly a blessing to be out there, and your little brother is right there getting after it with you as well.”
– Jalen Mayden was working with the backups at safety. During special teams/defense drills, Kurt Mattix yelled at Mayden on two consecutive reps. First rep: “You are thinking too much, stop thinking, this is a non-thinking drill.” Second rep: “Get on your feet quicker.”Switching positions this late in his career means Mayden has less margin for error. The athletic player did a veteran move shadowing the scrum of players on a pass attempt before nimbly picking off a tipped ball. He scooped it just before it hit the turf.
– Offensive line coach Mike Goff was working a drill teaching double team blocking techniques with tackles and tight ends on the edge. With the youth of his line, protecting his tackles with an extra blocker is one way to help their success.- Speaking of Goff, he was mixing it up as the defender with the blocking pad. He allowed his line to push him around. He was very engaged physically.
– The size of the young o-line is impressive. They are tall and powerful. One optical illusion among the unit: Zavier Leonard is listed 15 pounds lighter than Josh Simmons, but because he is a few inches shorter, he looks bulkier.
– At one point in the practice, the QBs split with Haskell and Crum throwing to the tight ends while Burmeister and Aumavae threw to the wideouts. Some general observations from Burmeister and Aumavae. Both were on target, throwing curl routes. Both threw slants well, with Burmeister clearly more crisp. Burmeister initially struggled throwing the first set of post routes but rebounded well to finish the drill. Aumavae struggled with this throw, often overthrowing his intended target, and never fully getting comfortable with it.
– Brady Hoke pretty much worked with the defensive line the whole time alongside Justin Ena. “I always have coached the defensive line…,” Hoke said when asked if his focus on the line could take some getting use to for his new coach. “It doesn’t feel different to me. I don’t walk in his shoes, so I don’t know.”
– The final session of practice was a Tug of War. A thick, gym class-looking rope was placed on the field. The offense wearing black jerseys and the defense wearing white surrounded it. Adam Hall called out particular players who competed. The offense won both attempts and watched with glee as their defensive teammates had to do some up-downs.