I was able to attend the start of practice Thursday. I have talked to several folks who have seen them all. And, some who have seen the scrimmages. What is noticable is that this team is faster and more physical. It’s clearly better at quarterback.
One veteran observer thinks KJ Jefferson is going to be a really good player in time and imagines a package that will include some QB runs. He’s a tailback playing QB. He’s not as accurate as the other three on a consistent basis, but has a gun.
Nick Starkel is clearly bigger and stronger than the rest of the QBs. Just looks like a big athlete, although his speed is not anything special. The ball does come out of his hand really well.
It’s not like Ryan Mallett, Joe Ferguson or Tavaris Jackson, but it’s strong.
Speaking of Mallett, I talked with him at practice today. He’s slim and trim. Looks like he did in college. He’s dropped about 40 pounds since the end of football season last year.
“My lady friend (and I took that as his girl friend) cooks great and it’s all healthy,” he said. “I didn’t know eating healthy could taste so good. I was at 270 and I’ve dropped all of that extra weight and feel wonderful. I had a wonderful turkey burger last night. I’m moving and feeling better. I’m working out every day and hoping for a call to play some place.”
Mallett told me his lady friend is from Lead Hill. I know that area and it’s great if you like outdoors and fishing. Ryan grew up more of a city boy, but he’s gravitating more to the outdoors and loves to duck hunt. He’s fishing more. He looked and sounded great to me.
Back to the Hogs, this looks more like an SEC team than the last couple of seasons. The offensive line has a solid look to it. I really like Myron Cunningham. He was running with the ones at left tackle today with Colton Jackson nursing a foot injury that required a couple of days off. Colton has had a good fall, according to everyone. But he better get back out there soon because Cunningham could take that spot and never look back.
I like the way Dalton Wagner moves at right tackle. Kirby Adcock and Shane Clenin are no slouches at guard, either. There is little doubt that Ty Clary is much improved.
Depth everywhere is much improved. That’s the big difference between last year this time. It just looks like more guys could be ready to play in an SEC game.
Of course, I tend to look at offensive linemen the most and that’s what I did today. But I did get good looks at some of the QB drills. They all throw it more accurate than what the QBs did last year. This team catches it better, too.
If you don’t like Treylon Burks and Trey Knox, then you don’t know football. They jump out at you just the way they warm up and act. And, they are the real deal from everyone who sees practice daily. One day maybe Burks looks the best. Then, the next day it’s Knox. But they rarely have a bad day.
If Jalen Catalon is not a player, I’ll be stunned. And, the one who jumps off the page when you watch him move and explode to the ball is Joe Foucha. He’s got a captivating personality, too. So does Catalon.
I tend to hang out with oldtimers and former coaches and there are several who see practice on most days. They like this team.
No, I’m not ready to make any predictions, but this team is headed in the right direction in year two under Chad Morris.
FYI, I got to visit with Grant Morgan’s dad before practice. Grant did graduate in pre-med (with almost a 4.0) and is now in grad school. He’s the kind of player who is going to do everything right and help the team in many ways. He’s learned both linebacker spots, although Hayden Henry has now done that, too. I like the depth at this position and believe John Chavis has improved this unit in many ways. You’d expect that from a great linebacker coach and The Chief is that.