By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Helmets only
During a practice heavy on teach periods this morning, the pace quickened during a 7-on-7 drill around the midway point. Marcus Mariota was peppering the ball around the field, to Devon Allen, then Byron Marshall, then back to Allen.
“This is the time in camp,” a fellow regular practice observer noted, “when the offense starts clicking.”
Indeed that seems to be the case, as a clutch drill to end this morning illustrated. With the offense needing just a field goal, Mariota completed balls to – who else – Marshall and Allen, then found Allen sliding across the end zone for a “game-winning” touchdown.
When the twos were up later in the drill, needing a touchdown, Jeff Lockie hit Dwayne Stanford and then Chance Allen, who snuck a foot inbounds after making the catch. Lockie then connected with Darren Carrington for the score, and after the play was called back due to a penalty, the two went ahead and connected again on the next snap.
“Over the last couple weeks, to be able to go through all those practices really helped us build confidence as a group,” Mariota said. “Through the whole offense – the ones, the twos, the threes – everyone’s playing well.”
In particular, Mariota and Allen have really developed a nice dynamic over the last few days. Right now the best-case scenario is developing at receiver, which was a muddled picture entering August but which has seen several guys emerge as capable targets. And Allen has developed as much as anybody.
“It’s not only him but other guys as well,” Mariota said. “But Devon’s done a great job of getting open. He’s really done a good job focusing on his route-running and being able to get separation. Especially with his speed, that’s going to be a huge asset for us.”
Highlights: That said, the defense also had a couple nice moments during the clutch drill, with a pair of veterans making smart decisions with a game theoretically on the line. Troy Hill intercepted a pass in the end zone, and wisely took a knee to end the scenario rather than run the ball out and risk another turnover. Later, the offense tried a Hail Mary on fourth down, and Erick Dargan knocked the ball down rather than trying to catch it. That came when the No. 1 offense was going for a touchdown; moments earlier, Chris Seisay had an interception when the No. 2 offense was trying to get in position for a field goal.
Other observations: Mariota and Allen were on the same page from the start, connecting for a long completion during the tempo drill to start practice. Allen had to make an adjustment to bring the ball in, and easily did so. … Juwaan Williams managed an interception in 7-on-7. … Even though the teach periods are at a slower tempo, there’s a sense of urgency. The words “South Dakota” are starting to crop up, with the opener looming in two weeks. “We’ve got to get game ready!” John Neal shouted. “We’ve got to get game ready!” … Neal liked what he saw – or more accurately, heard – during one teach period. “When you guys communicate pre-snap, you’re 100 percent right,” he said. “So keep doing it!”