A handful of oblivious onlookers, namely the staff member charged with writing this report, failed to identify any irregularities until a pair of conscientious observers, namely Rivals staff members past or present, dropped hints like bunker busting bombs, eventually penetrating the thick skull of the aforementioned dolt.
Ah, they switched jerseys. It's a ruse!
Whether individuals conspired to confound the crowd of observers for kicks, or simply did it for the pleasure of wearing another man's sweat, determining the many players involved in this insidious game of dress-up proved to be a bane for all the beat guys and guy noires, particularly the one coming off the bench for ASUDevils.
Here are observations, notes and quotes from the morning and afternoon practices.
8:00: A military helicopter flies above the practice field. Below it, route combination drills are run in the red-zone out of multiple three and four wide receiver sets. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and coach Dennis Erickson were particularly distressed with the lack of depth the outside receivers were getting on their routes, making them easily defensible and not giving enough underneath space to corresponding route runners.
Senior receiver George Bell was lauded for his route running technique however, disguising his chair route as a fade, prompting Mazzone to use him as an example on the next play.
"It has to all look the same," Mazzone told Bell's teammates. Bell is nothing like the player that suffered from drops, injuries and a deformed route tree last year.
On the first five plays between the first team defense and offense, defensive tackles, senior Bo Moos and sophomore William Sutton blew up two consecutive inside running plays. Later in team drills Sutton badly beats senior guard Dan Knapp leading to a 3 yard loss. Sutton was vociferous, energetic and dominant throughout the morning session.
Sophomore linebacker Kipeli Koniseti bulldozes sophomore guard Kody Koebensky on a blitz. While the play went to the opposite side of the field, it was the most impressive display of force on the day.
Sophomore running back Middlebrooks breaks a 7-yard touchdown run. With junior Cameron Marshall still out of action, Middlebrooks was given the lionshare of first team repetitions. As a smaller back, Middlebrooks is able to hide behind his blockers and accelerate through the hole before defenders can hone in. Middlebrooks had multiple runs of 5 yards or longer (many in the 7-15 yard range) on the zone stretch play, running between the "stretching" guard and tackle on both sides.
Quarterback performance in morning team drills
Junior Brock Osweiler was sharp on most of his throws, completing the vast majority of them either in stride to the moving target or in the proper place to a standing target (as well as a few back-shoulder completions downfield), but his mistakes were atypically egregious. First, a forced interception that was also thrown behind the intended receiver and into the hands of sophomore cornerback Osahon Irabor, the first of two for the starting defensive back. (Irabor's second pick occurred in 7-on-7 drill in the evening and was even more impressive, as he anticipated the route and showed a top-end burst to get in front of the receiver.) Osweiler threw a second interception in team drills in the morning, this time forcing the ball into the back of the endzone where three defenders had suffocating coverage. Sophomore Alden Darby came up with the pick.
Freshman quarterback Mike Bercovici struggled in the morning with perhaps the worst practice witnessed from him so far this fall. Plenty of forced throws, some simply errant, with a few resulting in interceptions and others in deflection; his worst came in the endzone and elicited a terse response from Mazzone. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly, while perhaps not as impressive from a mechanical or physical standpoint, definitely outplayed Bercovici on this day, combining a feathery downfield touch with an opportunistic running approach, his clear area of strength when compared with his quarterback colleagues.