One area in which Coach John Bunting seems pleased is special teams. On two consecutive days freshman place-kicker Connor Barth has missed 57-yard field goal attempts by just a yard and now sophomore punter David Wooldridge is coming around. In an open practice on Sunday he consistently kicked 45 yards in the air with occasional kicks of 50+ and 35 yards. And deep snapper Greg Warren returns, which will lend consistency.
The return teams offer a lot of options, according to Bunting. "We have very, very, very fine athletes out there on kicks in the kicking game, covering punts, blocking for Jarwarski [Pollock] or Mike Mason or whoever else might be back there," he said. "We have more candidates for returning kicks than we've ever had here before, and that’s exciting."
While questions remain to be answered on defense, especially at linebacker, one aspect that already looks improved over last year is the overall attitude.
"That started last spring," Bunting said. "There are a lot of positive things happening with our defensive people, and it all start from the neck up. We're more athletic [than we were]. When you combine that with guys who can think fast and play fast, you've got the possibility of being pretty good.
"But we are still young, so we have a lot to learn. This training camp is extremely important to us--every single practice. Every single minute of practice is important to us. Having a great attitude and working extremely hard gives us the best chance to get better in this short period of time.
Madison Hedgecock, who first played as a fullback, moved to defensive end to fill a void at that position before moving back to fullback--or H-back as it were--this spring. Tuesday evening, John Bunting explained the subtle difference.
"There's not a whole lot of difference," he said. "The basic difference is that people started going to that H-back in the early '80's, the Joe Gibbs days. He was kind of a 'move' guy. You didn't just line up in I-[formation] or an off-set position. He was a guy who would move. The H-back is that move guy who positions himself either as a tight end moving in the backfield or aligned in the backfield. It's glorified.
"[Madison Hedgecock] is perfect. He has the perfect body for it and has a good mentality for it. He has some experience doing it. He's worked all spring at that position, so he can line up any place on the field."
With senior quarterback Darian Durant entrenched as the starter, the back-up position remains in question, but junior Matt Baker is currently in the lead with red-shirt freshman Roger Heinz in the hunt.
In the running game, it's looking like Ronnie McGill will be the starter with Jacque Lewis as the third-down back, but "I see Chad Scott playing an awful lot too," Bunting said. "I think the three of them play an awful lot in every single game because they all have something very specific to contribute. Ronnie is a guy is a guy who can carry the ball a lot of different ways--inside, outside, a slasher, can wear people out. Jacque is probably the best all-around back in that he can pass protect, pass catch, and run every one of our running plays. Chad Scott gives us a tremendous mix."
Of those named on the injury report from 8/13, only Joe Kedra and Shelton Bynum were considered to be serious. Everyone else is expected to return by the end of the week. Larry Edwards, who had a pulled groin, was in a green jersey (limited contact) and could be back to full participation on Wednesday.
"Bynum is much better," Bunting said. "We'll scope Joe Kedra, I think, before the week is over and take a look inside. I think Bynum will be back to practice by the end of the week or, at the latest--barring unforeseen circumstances--by the beginning of next week."