BOCA RATON – Lane Kiffin likes what he’s seeing from the players who will be relied upon the most to stop the pass-happy spread attacks his Owls will face in Conference USA play.
“I think that our corners are playing really well. I think that our guys have done a great job coaching those guys,” Kiffin said. “The first two days of spring we weren’t covering anybody, getting beat on deep balls all the time. You really don’t see guys getting beat at all any more.”
Shelton Lewis continued his strong fall camp with a Pick 6 on what was supposed to be a wide receiver screen. Second-teamer Chris Tooley picked off two passes on Wednesday, returning one for a score.
Of course, the flip side of seeing your defense make plays is that it often means that the offense lags behind.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball – way too many turnovers, fumbled snaps,” Kiffin said. “You’re not going to beat anybody doing that stuff. I’m very disappointed in that.”
Poor decision making along with a lack of execution has the offense behind the defense one week into fall camp.
“We’re not executing very well so we are definitely behind our standard of what we want,” Kiffin said. “I can say that nothing is going to matter if we turn the ball over like that.”
HARD KNOCKS at the OX: Wednesday’s Practice Report
Making Plays: Nickelback Herb Miller didn’t discriminate between quarterbacks Jason Driskel or De’Andre Johnson, knocking down a pass from both in early drills. ….Driskel lofted a perfect 30-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre McNeal during the early team scrimmage session. …Pico Harrison is enjoying a solid fall. He also made a leaping catch in the end zone. …Over the past couple days running back Marcus Clark began asserting his relevance once again. On Wednesday he took a pass in the flat and weaved his way through the defense for a big gain.
Tracking the Depth Chart: Working his way back from injury, defensive tackle Ray Ellis took snaps with the second team on Wednesday. …Like Ellis, defensive end Hunter Snyder also missed spring. He, too, is playing with the second string. …Guard Jakobi Smith worked almost exclusively with the first team, replacing Brandon Walton.
QB Battle: Wednesday was Johnson’s day to take first-team snaps, but he once again struggled to hold onto the ball. The JUCO transfer has dropped snaps throughout the fall and on Wednesday two balls slipped out of his hand while attempting a pass. Afterward Johnson said the sweat produced by the seasonably hot, humid Florida morning played a factor. …Following Tuesday’s practice Kiffin lamented the plethora of overthrown passes. On Wednesday Driskel showed he understood the message. It’s unclear whether Driskel intended to underthrow McNeal on one deep pass, but by doing so he gave McNeal a chance to come back for the ball and make a catch in front of Korel Smith and James Pierre.
Newcomer Watch: Wide receiver Willie Wright wrestled a pass away from fellow freshman Zyon Gilbert in the end zone for a score. …McNeal simply keeps making plays, and Kiffin is noticing. “He’s probably made more explosive plays since he got here than any other receiver,” Kiffin said. “That’s great to see. That’s why he was a priority in recruiting.”
Instant Message: “My job is to go out here and execute, get (Kiffin) to believe in me, get the team to believe in me, get the coaches to believe in me. That’s all that really matters to me.” – Quarterback De’Andre Johnson