SAN ANTONIO, Texas - On Wednesday, the East team held an intra-squad scrimmage in the morning session after which the team headed over to the Alamodome for Media Day. In the scrimmage, wideouts Percy Harvin and Vidal Hazelton dominated the action, scoring a touchdown each and showing why they're the top two wide receivers in the country. Both East quarterbacks looked solid on the day, some of the walking wounded returned and the biggest matchup on Saturday will clearly be in the trenches. It's all in this edition of the East Notebook.
The combination of Harvin and Hazelton is downright scary and it showed today. Harvin got things going with a great grab over the head of cornerback Raeshon McNeil down the sidelines. McNeil had position on him, but Harvin snatched the ball out of his grasp for a big gain, showing that Harvin is more than just a speedy player. Harvin scored the first touchdown of the scrimmage a bit later when he ran a 15-yard crossing pattern turned it into a 52-yard touchdown. His speed getting around the corner was incredible as Antwine Perez seemed to have a chance at him at first. Perez later said he usually catches players in that situation but Harvin was the fastest he's played against.
Harvin was at it again a few minutes later when he took a wide receiver screen, turned upfield and burst past numerous players for another big gain. He was cleary the most dynamic player on the field. The only player to make an open field tackle on Harvin in the scrimmage was linebacker Akeem Hebron who made a great play on a wideout screen to the speedster. Hebron fills the lane very well and anticipates the play so well his lack of size doesn't hinder him.
Hazelton has less flash, but dominates cornerbacks with his strength and size. He got inside position on McNeil a few times for 10-yard slants and made a fabulous one-handed catch between McNeil and Perez for a score. He also beat a double team earlier by shielding the defenders with his body and using his strong hands to reel it in.
These two in the same offense at the same time is scary.
Tebow continues to look solid but the biggest strides of the day were made by Zach Frazer. Frazer was patient on Harvin's crossing route and hit him in stride for the touchdown and he had nice touch on the TD pass to Hazelton as well. Frazer ran the option a couple of times, clearly not his thing, but for the most part he had a solid day. This was the best he's looked so far and it's clear he's making strides and feeling comfortable.
Back In Action
Two players returned to full action on Wednesday as defensive tackle Jacques McClendon and linebacker Jarrell Miller both played the entire scrimmage. Wide receiver Chris Bell was also back after missing the last portion of Tuesday's afternoon session. Jarred Fayson dressed but didn't participate Wednesday, nursing that left hamstring injury. Steve Brown also played the full scrimmage, although his reps were limited. Ricky Sapp thought he heard something crack on Monday when he hurt his right foot, but x-rays were negative. He is wearing a walking boot and said it's just ligament damage and he will try to practice Thursday. He said he "has to" play in this game.
Don't Forget Us
Linebacker Brandon Spikes didn't dominate the way he did Monday and Tuesday, but he still had a very good day. He blew up a play-action quarterback bootleg in the backfield and could have nailed Tebow but held up. Fellow linebacker Micah Johnson had a couple of great hustle plays including an assist on a tackle on Harvin where he came from twenty yards away.
A.J. Wallace is showing why he's the top cornerback in the country. The East quarterbacks don't throw his way much at all and when they do, he locks down. Of course he hasn't really gone head-to-head with Harvin much, but he did make a nice play on Hazelton on a deep ball.
I got a chance to speak with Greg Toal Sr., who is coaching the defensive line, about his guys. Toal said the best lineman he has is defensive end Robert Rose who has tremendous potential. After Rose, he likes Maurice Evans for his hustle and quickness off the edge and then Jared Odrick for his size and feet. Toal said it's clear that Odrick hasn't been coached much and is very raw, but if he takes direction a little better and is coached up in college, he can be a force. Toal loves Bart Eddins motor as well.
Perez is itching to lay someone out, you can just see it and he could let out his frustration on Saturday. He almost destroyed Dorin Dickerson on an errant pass across the middle but held up afterwards. He is still a bit angry about getting run over by Chris Wells on Monday when there was no contact allowed.
This Year Is Different
So the East has wide receivers dominating in practice and great running backs. The same could be said last year, but it was the offensive line that let them down as well as some suspect quarterback play. So will this year be different? It could be.
The East offensive line last year was made up of five guys used to playing offensive tackle and no one really knew how to block in tight quarters. Going up against Roy Miller, DeMarcus Granger and Jerrell Powe in that siutation is not good and the running backs had zero space to operate and the quarterbacks had less than two seconds to get off most passes.
This year the line is much more balanced. Justin Boren and Daniel Wenger are pure guards and Carl Johnson will be a guard in college and is a road grader. Sam Young and Andre Smith are outstanding tackles and work well in space. It will be fun to watch the dominant West defensive line go against this group. I still give the edge to the West, but if Tebow and Frazer have any time to get the ball off, the East will be tough led by their dynamic duo at wide receiver.
On A Rolle
Myron Rolle could have a future at linebacker as I said earlier this week. He is long, covers well in traffic and is more physical than last year. Rolle runs to the ball very well and is nearly 220 pounds. He could easily add another 10-15 with his frame and be a rangy, quick 'backer for FSU. He's been lining up on slot receivers and tight end Nate Byham all week and always gets a jam off the line. Rolle made a very nice play on a wideout screen, sidestepping the wide receiver whose job it was to block him and blowing the play up in the backfield.