Chris Hawkins and Cedric Holt are getting valuable repetitions with the first team defensive unit. Derrick Johnson appears slotted for the nickel back role he held last season. Michael Waddell is working with the second unit at this point as he works his way back from injury.
Players seeing their first significant repetitions are providing some punch. Tommy Richardson made several good plays yesterday, and brings a lot of vocal leadership to the defense. Rashaad Tindall also seems to add intensity to the defense. Melik Brown, to this point, is making a case for sticking at outside linebacker. Jacoby Watkins had a good practice yesterday, and Ced Holt continues to impress. It is somewhat surprising to see the leadership skills these young players bring to the table, encouraging other defenders and developing camaraderie on that side of the ball.
Alden Blizzard has made a lot of gains in size and strength over a year ago, as has Brian Rackley, and along with Kendall High and Xavier Rainey that group adds a great deal of depth to the defensive end position, while Jacques Dumas and Tommy Davis continue as the first team ends.
Offensively, Ronnie McGill was held out of practice yesterday with a sprained left ankle, but the running backs as a group continue their impressive showing through the early part of spring practice. Notably, both Willie Parker and Chad Scott had some impressive runs during scrimmage. Rikki Cook also had a good run up the middle.
The running game is being complemented with an offensive line that has made significant strides, and is even showing some signs of building depth. At this point, we have seen no muffed center-quarterback exchanges, and yesterday a light rain fell during the latter part of the scrimmage. On the second team unit, Brian Chacos appears to be making a smooth transition from the tight end spot, and Steve Bell and Jupiter Wilson provide some experienced depth.
At the wide receiver spots, Michael Gilmore had a good practice yesterday. He made several tough catches and if he continues to shine look for him to be part of the wide receiver mix next year.
Derrele Mitchell and Danny Rumley on occasion lined up together on the same side of the field, and Rumley, who has been somewhat overlooked in some quarters, may be a surprise in 2003. He is a capable blocker as well as a receiver. Wallace Wright, who may also figure into the mix next year, was held out of practice with a strained hamstring.
With the "loser" of the scrimmage forced to run "gassers," after practice, the level of competition between the offensive units and defensive units runs very high. There is a good bit of banter between the two units, and that feeds the competitive nature of practice.