Post-practice roundup, Day 4: Joel Stave, Tanner McEvoy continue to impress

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Day Four included a switch-off at "rover" linebacker, Ethan Armstrong out with a minor leg injury and an intriguing way to end practice.

Day four concluded a little after 4 p.m. Thursday. Sorry for the delay in posting; an appointment for new windows and a quick family time-inspired Dairy Queen Blizzard run was a part of my itinerary this evening. First things first:

News and notes:

  • It was announced senior linebacker Ethan Armstrong was held out of practice due to a lower left leg injury. He was wearing a black covering on his left leg and walking with a small limp. UW is being cautious with him. No timetable was given for his return, though coaches obviously want him ready for the home opener vs. UMass Aug 31st. Sophomore Joe Schobert stepped in with the starting defense in Armstrong's place.
  • Linebacker Marcus Trotter and nose guard Warren Herring were on the sidelines for the first part of practice. From what I saw, Trotter returned to run some drills with the inside linebackers later. Herring, not so sure.  Freshman receiver Jazz Peavy was also on the sidelines with them.
  • Just announced via Twitter:

Key observations:

  • On kickoff return drills, sophomore receiver Jordan Frederick had a nice onside recovery.
  • Senior Conor O'Neill took over as the "rover" inside linebacker in place of junior Derek Landisch. Landisch worked with the second defense. All other starters remained the same.
  • Speaking of the second-string defense, true freshman Leon Jacobs got some work in there as the boundary-side linebacker with sophomore Vince Biegel on the other side as F-side linebacker. Judging by the motion 'W' going on Jacobs' helmet, he's turning some heads. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda talked about how Jacobs' really flashed and mentioned one play in particular where he showed instincts and intelligence. Aranda says both him and freshman Alec James are interchangable at both F- and B-side linebacker.
  • Cornerbacks coach Ben Strickland told me this afternoon there's been some separation between some corners whose playing time has been "warranted" and others who need to continue to develop. Junior Peniel Jean and sophomore Darius Hillary have been with the first-string defense.
  • Passing was on display in skelly and 11-on-11 team periods. Senior Curt Phillips, by my records, was 2-of-7 with a touchdown to senior tight end Jacob Pedersen in skelly drills, a drill just for skill-position players with no linemen. Two were throwaways due to coverage, and one incompletion was a nice throw that Frederick extended out for but couldn't reel in.
  • Stave threw the ball well. In skelly, after a couple of check-down completions, he hit senior tight end Brian Wozniak in the end zone for a touchdown. Stave also hit senior wide receiver Kevin Arnold on a crossing route and he took it in for a score. In the 11-on-11, he hit sophomore fullback Derek Watt by the right sideline for another touchdown.
  • Sophomore Tanner McEvoy looked good, as well. Of the three days I've seen him so far, he looked the best on Thursday. McEvoy had a nice touchdown to junior tight end Sam Arneson in team drills, and another nice pass to sophomore Austin Maly in skelly.
  • He's not getting as many reps and not in the running, but I liked redshirt freshman Bart Houston's arm today. On one throw in particular, the ball just seemed to fly off his arm seamlessly.
  • In one of the drills known as "star search," where a player sprints back half the field then turns around to block a sprinting player head on, sophomore fullback Derek Straus took Landisch off his feet, eliciting an excited response from one of the coaches.
  • The last session was a special "run two-minute drill," as safeties coach Bill Busch labeled it. Essentially, first, second and third teams lined up starting at the 5-yard line and ran a play. The coaches would then tell the players where to line up next and force the players to sprint up and line-up in their particular positions and continually pattern this down the field until they reached the end zone. Per Busch, it's more of a mental drill for the players, although the physical execution of the plays matters as well. "Eventually, fatigue will make a coward out of everybody," he said. The coaches want the players to have the highest threshold possible for battling fatigue.
  • Busch also praised sophomore safety Leo Musso. I'm hoping to get an article on the competition at safety, along with Busch's thoughts, this weekend. Also, as Busch said today, the depth chart can change by the hour.

Follow me on Twitter @KKSE_Kuba for more info right after practice. Pending changing diapers and the walk back to wherever I have to park, I hope to tweet out some tidbits right after practice and interview time. I'm hoping to be back out there tomorrow and hopefully Saturday.

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