I'm not going to say anything profound about the weigh-in but I will try to pepper my comments with some initial observations about Fall practice. The caveat is that I am dealing with limited second-hand observations and making assumptions based on that limited sample, but practice is more open this season than it has been since the first season of Dabo's tenure. You can tell he is a bit more confident about where this team is and doesn't have a big opponent in Week 1 to worry about poaching information.
We all love some practice type nuggets....so here you go...
I have been slobbering on Twitter and will continue to do so here. Christian Wilkins is every bit the War Daddy that we thought he was. He is big (299 pounds) but has elite agility and next level ability to play in space for a man his size. It's ridiculous and he will be on the two deep exiting camp. They will play him where he is needed. He is a nice piece to have in case of a disastrous injury on the defensive line.
This year's freshman class is coming in looking exceptional. I haven't seen a crop of freshman look this good, this early. You contrast this with the current Junior class and you see a much more committed, dedicated group of underclassmen. If I had control of the program I would have "graduated" some of these guys to make room for a bigger class this year.
RayRay McCloud already looks like one of the best punt returners on the field. Scott, McCloud, and Hopper are the main options. RayRay will work in the two-deep and depending on how much he can process, should see the field a good bit in the second half of the season. He weighed in at 181 pounds, which is already more than Hopper's 175. McCloud is going to figure into the running game in one way or another (there have been no signs of this but if our CB situation were to deteriorate significantly I think McCloud would get a look there).
Deon Cain weighed in at an eye-popping 197 pounds. He isn't in the two deep right now--the two deep looks like Mike Williams, Charone Peake, and Scott, which is then followed by Trevion Thompson, Germone Hopper, and RayRay. Yes, I have my orange tinted giant sunglasses on here but I think Cain will progress into the two-deep easily and will be a force during the season.
Hopper has insane agility but is frustratingly inconsistent. Thompson looks like he can contribute and was a good late take (QT approved) after the staff waffled back and forth on him. However, Cain just gives you a different look and he is so silky smooth. He made an impressive one-handed grab over Edmonds to cap off his first practice. Yes, others have written that he struggled during the first practice--not what I was told. I went back and got clarification and was told that sure he had some acclimation bumps but the talent is so evident. He is just silky smooth and physically ready.
I made a Sammy comment on Twitter (probably too much orange blood pumping), which I need to qualify. I think at the end of camp he will show to have his level of talent. But the depth chart just isn't the same when you compare it to when Sammy was in camp. Sammy had DeAndre Hopkins and no one else ahead of him. Cain has three potential NFL guys, so it will take some time. I'm confident he will be a factor for the offense his freshman year, though.
Deshaun Watson is wearing a brace--so is everyone coming off knee injuries like Adam Choice, Travis Blanks. Watson looks like he is close to 100% though and is moving around well. Dabo said he will wear the brace all year. Blanks looks much better and was running with the ones in nickel packages. Not sure he will stay ahead
Hunter Renfrow is a legitimate candidate at punter. We will probably be alright at punter but I am very afraid of other kicking duties. Dabo was right to label it one of the prime concerns of fall camp in his presser.
Jay Guillermo gained a ton of weight but is back down to 324, which is a great number.
Joe Gore looks great early. He is a chiseled 294 pounds--up from 283 last year. Gore just needs to sustain this and learn to transition from the practice field to game situations.
Carlos Watkins looks to be returning to form. He made a couple of nice plays and is moving around better than last year.
Jayron Kearse at 224. I'm not sure what to say, jaw dropping. I don't think he sticks around next year because, goodness...
Same goes for Mack Alexander (although we have always said here that he would be gone after this season). The only problem you have with Alexander is that he seriously wants every single rep--its hard to keep him off the field. The other corner spot continues to be Cordrea Tank's to lose. Mark Fields certainly looks the part but will have some acclimation. He possesses the physicality that Venables desires at the corner position.
QB play behind Watson is suspect at best. Nick Schuessler of Spring infamy had a bad day. I understand the desire and need to build him up, but if we are being honest any national aspirations will get torched by a Watson injury. Isreal is injured for the next 4-6 weeks but I actually think this is a good thing. Tucker will most likely redshirt and Kelly Bryant will get more reps. Kelly could come in and help the team with the injury of Watson because he can physically do some special things with the zone read. His mechanics need work and his accuracy is suspect right now. But he has a cannon of an arm and plus tools for Coach Streeter to work with.
Germone Hopper is just frustrating. Tons of speed and potential but weighs the exact same 175 pounds as last year. He already fumbled once in practice. He does that on one play and then makes some special open field moves and generates some "ooohs" with an electric play. He is consistently inconsistent though. Still needs more strength and focus.
Lots of guys walking around a bit gingerly. Choice still needs more time to heal from knee surgery. Korie Rogers was in a yellow jersey doing things on the side and my potential X-factor Kendall Joseph got banged up and had to leave drills. Not sure how severe the injury is but he had to see the trainer.
Lots of different combinations being explored on the offensive line. Testing to see how versatile some guys can be--going to be a lot of experimentation early.
Starting defensive line looks very good but we are extremely thin. This whole injury thing needs to completely stop.