The defense held the offense out of the end zone during 11-on-11 drills. The defensive highlights included recently returned missionary Kellen Fowler separating a receiver from the ball with a brutal hit. Ben Criddle had an impressive play when he stayed with McKay Jacobson stride-for-stride on a fly pattern and then knocked the pass away. Criddle also batted down a Jason Beck pass at the line of scrimmage. David Nixon and Ian Dulan recorded sacks.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Bower stepped up his performance recently. He was the only quarterback other than the Becks to get reps today.
"You don't really realize how much a mission takes out of you until you've practiced," said Bower. "I'm making strides and it's coming, but I still have a long way to go. I'm happy where I'm at now, but I have to get a lot better, and that's my goal this year."
Bower's improvement is most notable in his mechanics and his release. Bower has a very strong arm, which explains why his best passes are often 20-yard outs. Bower completed one such pass to Zac Erekson during today's practice.
"For the first week, I was just concentrating on my release so much," said Bower. "My release was bad and getting over that was my biggest obstacle, and now that I got over that, I can move on. It's a progression, and I just have to make sure I'm getting better every day."
With the release concerns behind him, Bower is working on the next step: making the correct reads on passing plays.
"For the first week it was just hard getting the ball out on simple flare passes," said Bower. "Now I feel that I can make more reads and the timing is a lot better since I don't have to just concentrate on my release. It's all about getting things down so they become automatic. That's what John Beck has and what Jason does. Getting there is what I'm striving for."
Getting the Green Light
Several players were back on the field practicing with the team. The list included Kellen Fowler, Matangi Tonga and Dan Van Sweden. Justin Robinson and Kayle Buchanan both also took all the reps with the ones. They completed the practice despite their lingering injuries.
Wagner, who has been getting over an ACL injury that kept him out of spring practice, is getting back up to speed.
"I don't even feel it, I don't even think about it," said Wagner regarding his injury. "I'm not as fast as I want to be yet, but I'm not thinking about it and that is what I'm most excited about. It's coming back and I have no doubt that I'll be in top form come the Arizona game and for the rest of the year."