DO OR DIE BOWL DIARY: DAY TWO WITH THE EAST SQUAD
Day started on an up note with the arrivals of Macomb's Eli Cousins and Garrett Kline; who had to miss Monday practice and were both rumored to be out due to injury issues. Thankfully, both are healthy. Two outstanding players who help broaden our roster at two areas that needed added depth.
Fun to also see some old faces in new positions. Illini West's Ben Gittings is getting a jump start on his college career by making the move this week to safety; where he has been impressive. Quincy High's Connor Kelle has made the jump from quarterback to wide receiver and picked up really quickly. Kelle also delivered the play of the day with a leaping one handed catch off a Tanner Huddleston pass in 11 on 11 drills. Kid is quite an athlete.
Most notable characteristic of this East Squad: Defensive Closing Speed. East Coaching staff was quick to mention it on Monday and you can see it very obviously as running lanes that appear to open up evaporate just as quickly. And the speed is obvious everywhere. Diontue Armstrong might be the fastest Defensive End anywhere in Tri State Football. And Jeremy Frieden may be 2nd on that list. Heck, Rolando Luna might be the quickest 310 pound kid in Tri State Football inside as well. And the East Linebackers and Defensive Backs are incredibly reactive. Obviously, Nick Weiman and Jarrod Rockhold as expected but the kid who really impressed me today was Connor Obert. The QND Senior cuts through the clutter of a play effortlessly and made at least three huge plays today, including a near pick six where he jumped the slant pattern like he had ESP. Saint Ambrose has gotten a real steal with that kid.
Hit of the day honors go to Macomb's Jarrod Rockhold, which really isn't a surprise. That said, the kid he hit, Quincy High's Ethan Rockhold, was his own Defensive Back teammate. Apparently, Jarrod got confused as to who his teammates where (the Defense wasn't wearing bonnets or pennies) so he just laid out Ethan...because he was there. A moment that brought down the house.
Can't tell you how much I enjoyed the running back stylings today of All State Offensive Tackle Drew Miller.
I was also particularly entertained by Illini West Tight End Ethan Neally trying to come to grips with the concept of a passing tree, given his alma mater's meager interest in the passing game. Neally really does a nice job catching the football.
Jacksonville's Harley Van Bebber put on a clinic at Defensive Tackle today in individual blocking drills. The guy is as good at splitting a double-team as anyone who has come down the pike here since Trevor Frericks. Some one needs to recognize what a great recruiting job Lindenwood-Belleville did in finding this kid. One of my favorite players in this game.
Wide Receivers are as good as expected. Reggie Bratton's speed is well established but its easy to take for granted how good his hands are as well. Had a couple of nice juggling catches today. Heard raves today among the East Coaches for both Delaney Ortiz and Kolbie Schilson. Offensive Coordinator Paul Petty was quick to not just how tough and unselfish Schilson is, especially in giving up his body on the block. And Ortiz is Linebacker tough, fearless over the middle, and has tremendous hands. Delaney is pledged to play basketball the next two years at Lincoln Land. It's a shame to see him go away from football because he would be a superstar small school Cornerback with his toughness. Bottom line, the East Pass Catchers are loaded
Quarterback both did a nice job throwing the football. Someone needs to chide Rich Thompson for not putting the ball into the air more. Tanner Huddleston can wing the football. And Coy Dorothy was, Coy Dorothy.
Don Bigley on his running back rotation: Douglas Weese and Zach Abney are completely interchangable one backs. Hard nosed, explosive and effective. Play em and forget em.
Sleeper kids to watch this week: West Prairie Offensive Lineman and QU pledge Nathen Beasley, who is really a crafty blocker, and Rushville Industry's heady duo of Taylor Fiegl (who made two really nice pass breakups to day) and no-nonsense linebacker Stoney Haines.
Individual matchup I am most excited to see in this game: Keokuk Wide Receiver Darrion Sanders vs CSE Corner Dalton Heubner. That one will be worth price of admission alone.