I attended this morning's practice and was pleasantly surprised with pleasant, sunny weather. It was a great day to watch football and the Huskies really got after it out there. It's amazing how these guys can be off the field for several months, run through a few practices in shells, then put on the pads and immediately let it all hang out with live blocking and tackling and show the kind of intensity I saw today. There were some great hits out there, especially the one linebacker Zach Larsen laid on one of the running backs. There was a really loud pop and both guys dropped in their tracks. Larsen actually knocked himself woozy and spent some time "praying" at a garbage can before reentering the scrimmage a few plays later. Great stuff.
I had a great chat with safety Jody VanLaanen's parents who are nice, friendly folks. The VanLaanens said Jody loves being a Huskie and they had great things to say about the program. Mr. VanLaanen, AKA Jody Sr., told me he grew up right behind the Green Bay Packers practice field and was there all the time as a kid. This was back in the Lombardi era so there were a lot of future hall of famers running around out there. He got to talk to the players all the time and got to scavenge old pads and keepsakes like that. What an opportunity for a kid! Jody Sr. also keeps busy as the wrestling coach at Ashwaubenon High where Jody Jr. placed 6th, 5th, 1st and 2nd at state in his four years there.
John Sahly's Saturday Practice Report was complimentary of Victor Jacques at linebacker and I second that assessment. Jacques plays with intensity, including the psycho screams and yells we're used to hearing from Adam Coleman. Plus, Jacques really looks the part. He was a bit light for fullback but he has a great build for linebacker and looks like he could easily get bigger. Jacques is an interesting case in that he was an offensive player in high school with little in the way of stats, yet was voted team captain and MVP of a good team. I think he's one of those guys who's just a great football player and maybe the leadership thing comes naturally to him too.
Speaking of linebackers, the first three today were Cory Hanson and Alex Kube with Phil Brown in the middle. I did not notice Pat Schiller out there at all today so maybe he's nicked up. Phil Brown is someone we fans have kicked around as an underachiever but I have to say he looked great today. He'll have a great senior year if he brings that type of intensity every day.
The first four defensive linemen were Brandon Bice and Jake Coffman at end and Mike Krause and DJ Pirkle at tackle. The first four DBs were David Bryant and Mike Sobol at safety and Kiaree Daniels and some unknown person at corner. I think the other corner was Chris Smith. Whoever he was, he was not Patrick George, whom I did not see today. The second group of safeties was Tracy Wilson and Jody VanLaanen. Zach Larsen and Victor Jacques were with the second linebackers. The backups at D-line were a hodgepodge so it was hard to get a read on the depth chart there.
The three healthy running backs, Meco Brown, Chad Spann and Ricky Crider, all looked great running the ball. Per my previous writeup on the running backs, Brown and Spann did a great job of gaining 5 to 15 yards at a pop while Ricky Crider had some longer runs and was close to taking a few to the house. Justin Anderson was on crutches, not sure when he'll be back. The Huskies are thin at running back, especially if someone else goes down. I would love to see them pick up Jacob Arnold of Plainfield North and Scottie Williams of Downers Grove South as walkons this fall. Arnold is a big and fast back in the AJ Harris mold and Williams as a small and shifty back who had a great high school career. I'm surprised his name didn't come up more in the recruiting process. I've written about these guys many times before but hey, my Garrett Barnas heartfest came to fruition so why not these.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish was honest in his self-assessment in the video interview posted by John Sahly, admitting he wasn't great today. He didn't seem to be real accurate out there today, although he was the only one of the three quarterbacks to throw much downfield and he did lay a perfect pass in Nathan Palmer's hands for a long touchdown. That was a sweet throw. Harnish also had good zip on the ball and threw a nice spiral today so I'll give him props for that. Brandon Rogers and DeMarcus Grady threw mostly short stuff today so it was hard to get a read on their progress. Same with the receivers for the same reason, few throws downfield. Ryan Morris didn't get any reps at all so he is clearly the emergency QB at this point. Harnish is still the clear #1 and Rogers and Grady seem to be duking it out for #2. I was really excited to see the recent comments by Grady that he's open to playing wherever. It would be great to work him into a slash role to get him on the field and let him create some offense.
Kevin Skatrud and Panan Tense worked exclusively with the first team O-line today so they are the clear leaders at right tackle and right guard, respectively. Landon Cox, Willie Clark and Nathan Palmer were still the top three receivers with everyone else following. Jason Schepler and Bryan Beckner played a lot at tight end today. I did not notice Reed Cunningham out there today.
As good as Victor Jacques looks in his uniform, punter Josh Wilber not so much. He looks more like one of us in a uniform and that's not a compliment. Hey, who cares if he can kill the ball, right? Josh, I'm just having fun with ya, represent!
Overall it was an intense and spirited scrimmage on a great day. We should be so lucky to have as nice a day for the Spring Game.