A week ago, the Huskies took the field for the second week of the spring and the first since returning from Spring Break. After a busy week, with Pro Day mixed in, head coach Randy Edsall summarized what he thought of the performance.
“I thought it was a little bit better today than it was on Tuesday,” he said following practice on Thursday. “We still need to do more. We need to go hard all the time and make the guy across from us better each and every time. They are starting to get it and we are starting to see some guys step up and willing to be leaders. It was better today, but not exactly where we need it to be.”
One area that has seen drastic improvement over the last several years has been across the offensive line. Spurred on by a shifting of positions over the offseason, the Huskies staff recognized how to constuct the group in order to accentuate the skills of each player. Ryan Van Demark has made the highly publicized shift from right tackle to left tackle, swapping spots with Matt Peart. Cam DeGeorge, who was plugged in at right guard, has moved to the left side to keep his familiarity with Van Demark. There has, however, been a surprise during the spring.
“Bryan Cespedes is getting in there at right guard and I see a lot more out of him this year than I did last year,” Edsall said. “I’ll say this. He was very disappointing last year. I don’t know if the light switch went on or he finally said alright ‘I’m just going to do it,’ but I see a different guy. I’d say this to Bryan. I think one of the things is he let other people influence him and maybe now those influences aren’t around and he said ‘maybe the coaches know what their talking about. If I listen to them, maybe I’ll be better off.’ That’s really what I think it is more than anything.”
Cespedes unseated a redshirt freshman with the move, Robert Holmes of West Palm Beach, FL
“We moved him down,” Edsall said. “You could see it affected him, but he’s working hard and trying to get better. James Tunstall is a lot better than what he was a year ago, but he just needs reps. Some of those other guys just need strength, but all-in-all they are doing a good job and that’s why we’re out here practicing, so they can get better at it.”
Also seeing time this spring for the injured Ryan Crozier at center is Stanley Hubbard, another redshirt freshman.
“Stanley is learning a new position,” Edsall said. “He’s never snapped before, it’s hard. You need to sit there and remember that you have Ryan Crozier, but we need to find the guy who can at least be the backup. That’s easier said than done, plus all the calls with the center because he needs to make a lot more calls with what we’re doing with [new OC] John [Dunn] too, which is good. But you have to make the calls, you have to snap the ball. He’s done a very good job of communicating, of understanding and now it’s just he has to relax and let it all happen. I think sometimes Stanley puts some undo pressure on himself and that’s one of the things that we’ve talked to him about. ”
EDSALL ON OMAR FORTT
“You can tell just having a year in the program because he came in mid-year, that last year he was kind of lost in the sauce,” Edsall said. “It took him a little bit to pick things up, but now, it’s night and day from when he first got here in terms of his accountability, being responsible, communicating, understanding everything and the thing that’s been impressive is we moved him to the Husky position. As we evaluated things between him and Ian [Swenson], we thought it was better to put him back at safety. The first day we put him back there, I told the coaches that was the right move. You could just see him being more comfortable. He’s not afraid to talk to you now, whereas before he was a little more reserved. He’s more comfortable in his surroundings and he understands the program and the expectations that we have here. He’s picked it up really well and I’m really happy for him because he’s a great kid that works extremely hard.”
You’ll hear more from Fortt as the week goes on.
Last week, you heard about the top of the depth chart at linebacker with Ryan Gilmartin, Santana Sterling and Darrian Beavers all looking solidified. But what’s going on with the group behind that trio?
“That’s probably one of the positions where we don’t have a lot of depth right now,” Edsall said. “TJ [Gardner] has been a little bit of an enigma from the standpoint that he has ability, but sometimes you wonder how important is it to him? We sat down and talked to him, trying to do some things because his fundamentals and technique, he has ability, but he’s very lackadaisical at times and that’s what we need to get him out of. He has an opportunity to play, but if he doesn’t do the things he’s supposed to do, he’ll have a tough time doing that.”
Following week one of practice, I mentioned Rhakim Williams had been standing out at linebacker. He brings an emotion to the field that can’t be missed and Edsall has recognized him as well.
“Rocky is one of those guys that you can’t keep away from here,” he verified. “You talk about a guy who’s really putting time and effort in to be good. I’m sitting in my office and I see him banging the sled and doing things on his own. It’s important to him and he really takes it serious. Some of these guys, the light switch goes on faster than others. That’s the one thing at some of these positions, these guys are getting a lot of reps. Like [Thursday], our one’s had forty-eight reps and the two’s had forty-four. So those guys where there are only two-deep, they’re getting a lot of opportunities and they need to take advantage of it and use it to their advantage.”
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