In the shadow of Syracuse basketball's upset loss to No. 5 seed Butler last night, another Orange team ran out to the practice fields in frigid 25° weather.
The whipping winds slowed the offense a bit this afternoon, allowing the defense to shine.
Here are my notes from this afternoon's session:
•Neither of the two scholarship quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore Ryan Nassib and redshirt freshman Charley Loeb, has gained much ground on the other after three practices. Loeb seems to be throwing the ball better, but Nassib's game experience becomes obvious in full-squad drills.
•The bright spot on offense today was at the running back position. Redshirt senior Delone Carter, junior Antwan Bailey, and redshirt sophomore Averin Collier appear a step faster, and all should be major contributors this season.
One nice package I noticed had Carter lined up in front of Bailey as a fullback, where either back could get the ball. On one play, Nassib faked a hand-off to Carter, and pitched it out to the shifty Bailey, allowing him to get into the second level with ease.
A number of drills focused on passing to the backs as well; it is obvious that these playmakers are going to get the ball in a number of ways. The backs also looked good in pass protection drills.
•The wide receiver corps had a tough time in the windy, cold weather this afternoon. Coming off a very good practice on Wednesday, today was a bit of a step back for the receivers.
Junior Van Chew, who was excellent on Wednesday, had a harder time today, as the corners focused on jamming him at the line of scrimmage. Chew, weighing in at a mere 161 lbs., has a very difficult time getting free from more physical corners at the line.
Sophomore Alec Lemon was not his normal sure-handed self, but did have the offensive play of the day. Late in practice, he ran a streak route and was picked up by senior safety Mike Holmes. Loeb threw him a deep pass, maybe 40 yards down the field, which hung up in the wind. Lemon and Holmes both went up, and Lemon took the ball away from the senior in mid air to come down with the reception.
•The tight ends looked good today. Redshirt junior Nick Provo looks to be healthy after his season-ending injury last year, as he made some nice receptions throughout the afternoon. Redshirt sophomore David Stevens, a converted linebacker, looked excellent and could prove to be a matchup problem down the field for linebackers.
On a few plays, the two receiving tight ends, Provo and Stevens, spread out wide as receivers as well, possibly to help curtail the team's depth issues at receiver.
•The linebackers shined at practice today. Redshirt senior Derrell Smith was all over the field, capping off the day with a big interception for a touchdown that sent the entire defense into a frenzy.
Sophomore E.J. Carter, who had reportedly left the team in the offseason, has since rejoined the Orange and is back in full force. Carter was a major contributor at linebacker last season, and looked good today. He shined on one play in particular when junior Marcus Sales made a catch in the flat and Carter closed on him and stripped the ball, causing a fumble.
•The defensive backs all played very physically today. Sophomore Rishard Anderson attacked receivers at the line, not allowing them to get a free release, while sophomore Shamarko Thomas took full advantage of this full-pad practice. On one play, Chew ran across the middle and made a short reception, where Thomas met him and unleashed a monster hit. Thomas made a name for himself with his big hitting last season as a true freshman, and looks to continue down the same path this season.
•Today's practice MVP was linebacker Derrell Smith, who flew all over the field, and established the tone for the defense all day at practice with his play.