Bowling Green, Ky. - Some news, notes, and observations from Thursday's two-a-day session for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
I guess you could say the theme for the early morning practice was "option." After some extended individual drills, the offense went to 11-on-11 drills where quarterback Demarcus Smith ran a few option plays and the second team defense was having issues getting any penetration up front.
While the offense was getting reps, the first team defense got in a lot of practice defending the option as well with wide receiver Stephon Brown doing his best Tommy Frazier impression.
T.J. Smith was getting some run along the first team defensive line today, Gavin Rocker was running with the second team D-line.
Big hit of the day came when linebacker Xavius Boyd smacked running back Marquis Sumler as he was breaking his run towards the sidelines, those in attendance were impressed with the loudness of the pop.
The coaching staff is finding different ways to get the ball in the hands of freshmen receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris.
Play of the day came in a heavy formation where quarterback Brandon Doughty pulled a hard-sell on run, hid the ball behind his back and tossed it deep to a wide-open Tyler Higbee running down the hashes.
Catch of the day came when cornerback Cam Thomas jumped in front of wide receiver Lonnie Turner's route and tipped the ball in the air, Turner maintained his concentration and made the catch behind Thomas.
Practiced a little no-huddle towards the end of practice, Demarcus Smith started the drive at quarterback but was later pulled mid-drive by Petrino in place of freshman Todd Porter.
Fullback Kadeem Jones appeared to injury his left ankle towards the end of practice as well, he went to the locker room early, however, it didn't appear to be serious.
The second session of two-a-days began with some special teams drills, putting an emphasis on punting before transitioning to the hotly contested battle of field goal kicker.
Freshman Joseph Occhipinti continued to show off his range, showing great distance from 47-yards out (most attempts looked good, it was hard to tell from the angle I was seated) before missing a couple from 50-yards outs. Garret Schwettman got off to a rocky start on his first attempt, but bounced back nicely going back as far as 44-yards that was missed.
Nick Baisch, Tyler Higbee, and Jim Murphree excelled in blocking drills that were essentially set up to practice quarterback protection. On the flip side, defensive back Rico Brown showed great quickness and technique reminiscent of those wide receiver days.
During 7-on-7's - tight end Mitchell Henry had a beautiful one-handed cradle catch on a deep go route from the arm of Nelson Fishback.
Freshman defensive back Marcus Ward scored a nice interception on a Todd Porter pass, read the quarterback's eyes and jumped the wide receiver's route.
Wide receivers matched up with the defensive backs in 1-on-1 situations - Taywan Taylor had a nice sideline catch along the sideline against cornerback Cam Thomas. Also, Nicholas Norris beat Rico Brown on a slant route for a nice deep-bomb connection from Brandon Doughty.
Gavin Rocker, Devante Terrell, Bryan Shorter, and Ba'ree Boyd participated with the first-team defensive line during the evening session.
Willie McNeal didn't have his best practice early on with a couple of dropped balls, but was able to step up and make a couple of great catches during 11-on-11 drills - owning the middle of the field with a deep catch and hauling in another leaping grab between the hashes.
Practice resumes Friday morning at 9 a.m. (for now anyway)
Offensive Line Coach - Neil Callaway
Offensive Center - Sean Conway
Offensive Guard - Luis Polanco
Sean Williams can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org