August 18, 2008

Final scrimmage features running game

The third and final Boston College scrimmage is in the books and the most important thing is that the BC football team escaped without major injury. Plenty of the top players, especially on defense, sat out the last scrimmage due to injury but there were still plenty of standouts led by running back Josh Haden, who finally got some breathing room in the running game.

Among the notables who sat out the scrimmage included linebacker Brian Toal, linebacker Mike McLaughlin and defensive tackle Ron Brace on defense and wide receiver Rich Gunnell on offense. Others out included running back Dan Mulrooney, linebacker Dan Williams, linebacker Alexander DiSanzo, defensive tackle Damik Scafe, defensive end Brendan Deska, defensive end Allan Smith and offensive lineman Nathan Richman, offensive lineman Pat Sheil and offensive lineman John Elliott.

Quarterbacks - Chris Crane looked pretty good as he seems to be getting used to hanging in the pocket despite a serious pass rush. His long ball tends to float a bit and he makes at least one horrible decision per scrimmage (this one was an interception with no receiver in sight), but he also gets the ball out quick and is learning to check down and use his tight ends and fullbacks a bit quicker when things break down. He is also getting better at reading the blitz. Dominique Davis does different things than Crane and the offense seems to change a bit with him in there. While he's still in the pocket most of the time, there are also planned sprint outs which allow him more time against the rush. He is clearly very athletic, is learning to throw the ball away when needed and make better decisions. Chris Johnson was the biggest surprise of the day as he looked very smooth in action later in the scrimmage. He led a touchdown drive from mid field with a long completion down the middle and a nice touchdown pass showing good field vision.

Running Backs - Josh Haden finally got some running room. The freshman back rushed for 52 yards on eight carries and showed good vision and cutting ability as well as his speed to the outside. It certainly helped that Brace, Toal and McLaughlin were out, but it was still a nice confidence booster. Jeff Smith and Razzie Smith also showed good vision and made nice cuts to gain a little yardage, but it took everything they had to get forward progress. Freshman Montel Harris didn't get much action but in drills earlier he showed how smooth he was and how good his hands are in the passing game. Fullbacks James McCluskey and Codi Boek both made nice catches as check-down options and Boek showed toughness.

Receivers - With Gunnell out, Brandon Robinson, Ryan Lindsey and freshmen Clyde Lee stepped up. Robinson made a couple of nice catches in traffic, Lindsey showed excellent hands and was hard to stop on slant patterns and Lee caught a touchdown pass in traffic in the middle of the end zone. The BC offense seemed to try to run the ball more often in this scrimmage so the wideouts weren't as utilized.

Ryan Purvis had a couple of catches as a check-down option but beyond that the tight ends didn't factor much into the scrimmage.

Offensive Line - The first team offensive line looked good, especially on the opening drive of the scrimmage where they earned three first days with a good mix of pass and run. It helps that Brace was out and that Toal and McLaughlin were not chasing down the run, but give the offensive line credit. They have been frustrated all during fall practice because the defensive line and front seven have dominated, but the first group was excited and pumped up on the day. Thomas Claiborne, Matt Tennant and Clif Ramsey were especially impressive. The second unit was led by offensive tackle Emmett Cleary who has added at least 20 pounds since the end of his senior football season and will be huge on his 6-foot-7 frame before long.

Defensive Line- For the first time, defensive tackle B.J. Raji was contained and it could have to do with the absence of Brace. Alex Albright made some very nice plays from his defensive end position, scraping off blocks to chase down the run to the outside. Freshman Kaleb Ramsey is an impressive looking kid and was playing defensive end while Bryan Murray also impressed on the inside. The pass rush mainly came from the blitz on the day however as the ends were being handled by the tackles for the most part.

Linebackers - Mark Herzlich had a very good scrimmage in limited action as did Robert Francois. Herzlich had a couple of big hits and fought off blocks and showed his quickness to the outside while Francois made a few guys pay for catching short passes across the middle. Will Thompson also looked good on the second unit and freshman Nick Clancy is clearly going to be a good one with his long arms and instincts. Garrett Seeger filled in nicely for Toal and McLaughlin on the day.

Defensive Backs- Kevin Akins is just an impressive football player. He is all over the field and needs to be accounted for on each play. Akins is still a terror on the blitz on passing downs and his size and athletic ability make him tough to deal with as a cornerback. DeLeon Gause showed good ability in man coverage, especially on a long pass attempt to Robinson. Freshman Isaac Johnson is a good-looking prospect with excellent size at cornerback and Donnie Fletcher is simply smooth. At safety, Wes Davis had a great day. He made a tremendous open field tackle on a sweep play for a loss, had the only interception of the scrimmage and laid out wideout Clarence Megwa down the sideline after a catch. Marty Bowman showed good speed by running down Haden to save a touchdown on the running back's longest run of the day. Freshman Dominick LeGrande is 210 pounds already and will clearly be a linebacker soon enough.

Special Teams- It wasn't pretty overall. Lee fumbled a kickoff, an extra point and a makeable field goal were both missed and the punting was erratic. It's still not clear who will be the kicker between Steve Aponavicius and Billy Bennett as both looked inconsistent and Ryan Quigley and Billy Flutie are inexperienced punters. The return game should be fine because BC has more speed, especially amongst the younger players, than they've ever had.

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