So, I decided to mosey on down to Spartanburg today and watch the practice. It went really well. It was the nicest its felt (at least, at the beginning of the practice) than it ever has when I've been to Spartanburg. There was an insanely nice breeze, clouds, etc, and I imagine that it felt great on the players.
Secondly, I spotted the almighty Zod.
I got in around 9:05am, so I missed the players who were getting there first. I also missed the first part of a swag giveaway, where the fans got a Nike gym-back-pack thing with the Panthers' logo and Academy sports written on it. I did, however, get there in time to get a solid black hand-towel with the Panthers' logo on it. It's pretty cool. Suck it, terrible towel. I hope something like this is the new Prowl Towel.
Cam came out and there was the normal fans who cheer just because he's arrived. Truly a star QB.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was Chase Blackburn was taking practice long snap reps to Gay. I don't really know why he was. I'm sure it has to do with Gay just wanted some extra feel from snaps, loosening up, etc. JJ has the long snapper job locked down. At least, in my estimation.
Also regarding the special teams, JJ and Nortman took the first reps as 1st team punter/LS. They went through about half-speed. Then, they went to punting drills later on, actually kicking to punt returners. The punt returns that fielded went in order: Joe Adams 1st, Ted Ginn, Kenjon Barner, Hixon, LaFell, Smitty. Joe looked nervous as it was coming too him, but he caught it sure handed. Everyone else did as well. Gay punted after Nortman, and, in my opinion, they both look about equal. They both had punts that went too fast to the returner that would've been large returns, and they both had booming kicks. Gay, in particular, hit a sky-high, thudding punt. Where I was sitting the fans literally "oohed".
Let me talk about Ted Ginn for a second. I know it's been tweeted over and over, but the dude played incredible today. He made some amazing catches in traffic, and some amazing snags during passing drills. There were a couple of times when the ball hit him dead in the hands and it fell out (there was one particular time when he ran a route to the middle of a zone, was wide open sitting in the zone, Cam hit him in the hands, and he dropped it). I will say this, though, I guarantee Ted Ginn is our #3 receiver the first game of the season and will look great in that spot.
Speaking of receivers, Joe Adams also looked really well today. He caught all of the punts with ease (after the first one where he seemed tentative). He ran crisp routes, and he burned the ever living daylight out of Nakamura on a 1-on-1 drill. He got to the inside of Naka off the line, and Jimmy hit him in the numbers in stride and Naka was just lost after that. My guess is that Naka doesn't make the squad this year.
Speaking of safeties, Robert Lester did get yelled at once during a drill where the DB was supposed to come off the line, contact a player in front of them, get passed them, hit a player and try to strip the ball from the 2nd player (who was standing there to have the ball stripped from them). Robert didn't attempt to strip the ball from him and a coach called him out. Loudly. For it. Still, Robert looks like a quality player. How he went undrafted is beyond me.
Some surprises from camp to keep an eye on: Bersin, the WR from Wofford, will probably make a team. He's tall, he runs like a gazelle, and he can catch. I don't think he's very fast, though, but damn he is trying hard. During a passing drill, one of the QBs soared the ball about four feet over his head, Bersin jumped, fully extended, grab the ball with his hands in the air, touched down, and made sure to two-tap two feet inside the line. awesome work by the dude. Also, Jimmy Clausen looked sharp. As mentioned before, his throw is longer now, but damn if it doesn't show, he has some fire on the ball when he throws it. Don't be disappointed, but Jimmy is going to stay around for the 3rd QB.
Speaking of QBs, I read people ragging on Colby Cameron, and I don't understand why. He played well today. He did throw pick (he would've been sacked well before the throw), but everything before and after was solid, on-time, and accurate. You can tell with how fast he throws he was part of a spread-type offense in college. The ball is snapped, and the defense doesn't have time to react. The ball is in his hand and gone. Some guys behind me said, "Why can't we see more of #16. That guy looks pretty good." I wondered the same thing.
Also, on the "why didn't they play much" list, is Gaydosh. I was waiting for the farm beast to get out there. But, I never seen him in drills. Granted, when the DTs did 1-on-1s, my vantage point was less than stellar. But, during team drills, I never seen him out there. The guy is massive. He can literally just eat space.
Let me say this as well, Kenjon Barner is fast. With a capital F. He's by far the fastest of any running back we have. If he doesn't see play day 1 of the regular season, I have no idea what's going on. He drew praise from the coaches, from Cam, from everyone. He sees a hole, and he's gone. I mean, five, ten, twelve yards downfield before anyone even knows where he is. It was awesome to watch. He's our future at RB for a change of pace.
Other things I seen that were interesting: LB blitzes FOR DAYS. During the team drills, I seen an LB blitz on four out of five straight plays from the 1st team defense, with the whole house coming on two of those. Luke would've sacked Cam during one of those. Chase Blackburn also is a blitzing machine. He's going to give the nightmare fits when he's out there. It looked great to see. Truly looked like a Jim Johnson style defense.
Drayton Florence took a pick, ran past the guys on offense, back across the players watching, and into the end zone on the other side. The crowd went insane. There was also at least one other occasion when he got his hands on the ball for a pick, but it deflected into LaFell's hands. Florence looks like he has that ability to be around the ball, anywhere and everywhere. He's your starting CB, I promise.
That's about it, let me know if you have any other questions.