Details gleaned from Wednesday’s post-practice media availability.
1. Safeties Christian Campbell and Jalen Johnson and A-back Clinton Lynch, who have missed spring practice after undergoing various surgeries following the season, are on track to be cleared in time for preseason camp, coach Paul Johnson said.
Missing spring practice was particularly detrimental from an experience standpoint for Campbell and Johnson, who are trying to compete for more playing time behind starters A.J. Gray and Corey Griffin.
2. TaQuon Marshall is gaining confidence in his ability. Now the No. 1 quarterback at least through the end of spring practice after Matthew Jordan’s foot injury, Marshall said he is throwing the ball better, as evidenced by three touchdowns in the scrimmage this past Saturday.
“I definitely feel like I’m improving week to week,” he said. “Personally, I still think I need to work on my arm and throwing. Even though I had a big day throwing this past scrimmage, but other than that I’m just trying to progress week to week and work on the small things more than the big things to kind of progress week by week.”
3. Scott Morgan is coming along as the backup center. Morgan began his career on the defensive line (he was named defensive scout-team player of the year in 2015) and moved over to the offensive line going into his redshirt freshman season a year ago, but did not appear in a game. He is the No. 2 behind Kenny Cooper.
“The center-quarterback exchange, that’s been developing, and I think that’s something you have to work on all the time,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said. “Because you can go and take snaps on the side all you want, but it’s when you’re in the critical situations when you’re in the heat of the battle whether or not you can take a snap (that counts), and he seems to have done a fairly good job at it. I can’t say it’s the best job, but he’s ahead of the curve I thought he’d be at.”
While center Freddie Burden was remarkably durable, missing only one start in three seasons, Sewak places a high value on having depth at center because it’s a position susceptible to injury. Having Morgan ready to go is a high priority.
4. Guard Will Bryan wants to become a leader on the offensive line. Bryan, a junior, started six games as a freshman at tackle and then 11 games last season at guard. His 17 starts are the most of any offensive lineman and fifth most on the team.
“I definitely want to take more of a leadership role this next season because I feel like now I’ve gone from being one of the younger guys to all of the sudden a veteran out of nowhere,” he said. “It kind of surprises you because Freddie’s been here the whole time I’ve been here and now he’s gone. It definitely leaves a power vacuum when it comes to leadership.”
One way that Sewak would like to see that leadership exercised is helping get incoming freshmen acclimated when they arrive in June. Sewak recalled the assistance that Burden gave to the incoming freshman lineman last year (Parker Braun, Kenny Cooper and Jahaziel Lee). All ended up making starts and Braun might have been the best lineman on the team.
5. B-back KirVonte Benson is trying to develop consistency in trying to win the No. 2 job behind Dedrick Mills in his competition with Quaide Weimerskirch. A sophomore, Benson has shown promise on the practice field, but has to demonstrate his trustworthiness to win the job. Benson is 5-foot-9, shorter than most B-backs, but has speed and has a thick frame.
“Doing the same thing from week to week, not taking a play off, just going from week to week as if I was the starting running back,” Benson said of his goals. “That’s mostly the thing I want to work on and just things like knowing the plays, getting in the right spot, hearing everything, just getting better from week to week.”
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