Doug Smock: Jean-Louis’ move and other camp notes
HUNTINGTON — I would love to give you 10 takeaways from the first two weeks of Marshall’s Camp Doc, but I can only come up with … hey, what do you know? I have 11.
And a’here we gooooo …
n Wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis is the real deal, and coaches have made a great move with him.
The first week and a half featured a spirited “X” battle between a rejuvenated Davonte Allen and Jean-Louis, one of several 2013 non-qualifiers. Then Jean-Louis was sent across the field as a “Z,” where he turned in a nifty touchdown reception in the Saturday night scrimmage.
“That was a great catch,” said quarterback Rakeem Cato. “I just told those guys all week, if we’ve got tight coverage, just attack the ball. Jump up, don’t let the ball come down because the defense is playing the eyes.”
Craig Wilkins, the starter most of last year, hasn’t fallen off Earth’s edge. Emanuel Beal and/or Rodney Allen need to step forward.
n Is Armonze Daniel really going to work out at defensive end?
I’m not sure if he’s hitting a wall, or if Sandley Jean-Felix is pushing him against the wall. Daniel is an important piece, even if Gary Thompson returns to full-speed and/or Joe Massaquoi pans out as well as coaches think.
n Jean-Felix may be one heck of a third tackle, if he isn’t already. With his long arms and enormous hands, if he locks on a defender, that defender is DONE. If he learns the game half as well as fellow tackle Clint Van Horn and develops half of center Chris Jasperse’s mean streak … uh, oh.
Jean-Felix’s first-team snaps in Van Horn’s absence have been a blessing to both.
n The concussion era has long since arrived.
Guards Blake Brooks and Michael Selby are expected back soon, as is running back Brandon Byrd — if they pass those baseline tests. In this day and age of advanced knowledge, you never know for sure (see: Cam Dees).
n If the opener at Miami (Ohio) was today, who would sit out? We never know for sure these days.
No worries on defensive tackle James Rouse, for he’s taking a limited load by design. Double-extra caution is being taken with linebacker Evan McKelvey and cornerback Darryl Roberts.
Defensive end Thompson? A worry. Donaldven Manning? Wake me up when he actually practices. Kent Turene? Poor guy can’t buy a break.
n There is likely a week left in the field-goal race, but I’m giving the edge to Justin Haig over Nick Smith. Haig has even found a way to boost his range to 50 yards, which I never expected. Tip your cap to Haig’s determination.
n Remi Watson’s first name is pronounced “REE-me,” we have learned after the man has been here four years. Shades of the late Johnathan Goddard, who was known as Jonathan Goddard until his senior year.
Anyway, Watson ran Saturday as if he wants his share of carries in that five-man running-back stable. If you assume Devon Johnson is No. 1 and Steward Butler is No. 2, Watson is battling Tony Pittman and Byrd for Nos. 3 or 4. Watson cannot look disinterested, as he has occasionally.
n Worry about pass interference fouls and their game-long effect.
If you have watched camp for the first two weeks, you could smell this coming in Saturday’s scrimmage with Conference USA officials. There was a stretch of three pass interference penalties in seven plays, none borderline.
Defensive coordinator/secondary coach Chuck Heater considers an occasional foul or two to be the cost of aggressively doing business. But frankly, his troops have mugged receivers as badly as I’ve seen in preseason camp. And after the DBs had to play honest Saturday, the long passing touchdowns followed.
When I asked Cato about that Saturday, he broke into a big grin and laughed. He knew.
n Gunnar Holcombe is your backup quarterback, it appears. Will he erase concerns about that role?
Despite enjoying some success Saturday, he won’t. He’ll have a heck of a time beating out transfer Michael Birdsong next spring, but 2015 is of no concern. Holcombe must get better as quickly as he can.
n Practices are closed from here on out. Still MU coaches and officials are to be lauded for giving their fans a chance to watch their team for nearly two weeks. (I’m not counting the scrimmage, opened for Big Green members and students only.)
In this era, you don’t take that for granted.
n Was there fighting one day last week? Yeah, yeah, players dropped the gloves, to borrow a hockey term.
After that practice, I am told panic swept over message boards. Sorry kids, but that afternoon of combat was a (mostly) positive development.
Remember, players get sick of hitting each other by this time in preseason camp and tempers boil. The cooler weather may have played a factor, as those players haven’t had to concentrate on just getting to the next rep in the heat. Pugilism was inevitable.
If this Thundering Herd team carries that intensity into 11 or 12 games, it can win the rest on experience and know-how. There’s your undefeated season.
Reach Doug Smock at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5130 or follow @DougSmock on Twitter.