Camp report day 4: Finally full pads (Audio)

Garden City, Kan (“Real men show up in pads.” That was Matt Miller’s message to his team at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s practice. And one thing is for sure: he saw some men step up in their first session out of shells. 

Wiens outshines all

In 2012, Trevin Wiens was all over the place. Back then, he was starring in Scott Moshier’s offensive and defensive backfields. Behind Wiens 1600 yards rushing, 27 touchdowns and 60 tackles, Meade High School won their second state title in three seasons. 

“He’s an outstanding athlete,” Miller said. “There’s no question about that.”

That athleticism got Miller into a bit of a pickle during Wiens freshman campaign last season. He couldn’t find a home for the kid; mainly because he’s the most positionless player on the field; the guy can play anywhere. But leading up to the spring game, Miller had an epiphany: 

“We’re moving him (Wiens) to safety,” he said. “He’s got a home.”

Boy does he ever. During the first 11-on-11 full contact drills, Wiens made the most spectacular play of camp. On the first snap, quarterback Tyler Lasalle heaved a pass into the end zone. As the ball spiraled towards Brandon Snell’s hands, Wiens, who was backpedaling at that point, leaped up and snagged a two-handed interception. 

“Sometimes you get out recruited at a position,” Miller said. “We thought we had a touchdown and he (Wiens) makes a play like that. Unbelievable.”

That’s a perfect way to describe it. Then a few plays later, Wiens showed off his versatility-playing in the box and shutting down a Matt McDonald run. On the sideline afterwards, the sophomore drew praise from defensive back Donald Warren. 

“Way to stick em’,” he shouted out. 

Garden City might have lost Makail Grace, and Wiens is not Grace, but there’s no question what he brings to the table: a solidified, star athlete who definitely makes the Buster secondary formidable in 2014. 

A sense of security

There were times last season that Garden City’s offensive line was outworked; even their coach admits that. 

“The Hutch game comes to mind,” Miller said. “There were other games where the protection broke down.”

And there were some talented guys up  front last year. But not one of them showed the promise that this year’s left tackle Jarek Smalley has. 

The sophomore, who has already committed to the University of Kansas, was sensational on Tuesday. During team drills, Miller matched stud defensive end R.J. Hairston on his prized left tackle. The result: a fantastic pancake. Miller could only smile. He glared at some of the other guys on the sideline and muttered: “That’s why he’s going to KU.”

Odds and ends

Another standout was defensive tackle Nathan Fairbanks. The former Hutch high school star had a couple of stops during 11-on-11 full-contact drills. He also strutted his stuff during individuals. His bull rush is something to definitely keep an eye on. 

Both Quantavis Anderson and Malcom Howard recorded sacks during 11-on-11 drills. 

Quarterbacks look sharp

What a difference 24 hours makes. After being mistake prone for most of Monday’s practice, Tyler Lasalle, Bryce Gemmel and Alex Gomez cleaned up their act Tuesday night. 

Lasalle, who is expected to be the number two quarterback, had as efficient a practice as any of the signal callers thus far in camp. He completed his first seven passes in 7-on-7, including a long touchdown to Liddell Golden. But then he fell off the table, throwing back-to-back interceptions; one of those he misread a cover two, and safety D. Flow intercepted him and returned it for a touchdown. Lasalle, who finished 8-of-10, bounced back with a nice touchdown pass to Darryl Terrell to close the session.

Gomez might have been the sharpest of the three. His numbers weren’t as efficient as Lasalle’s, but his decision making and arm strength were on full display. He tossed three touchdowns-one to Snell; one to Monterio Burchfield and one to Jalen Turner.

The touchdown pass to Turner was a perfect strike on a double move, where Gomez used a pump fake to deceive the safety and floated a pinpoint pass right on the hands. He also had several sideline throws that had Miller’s eyes wide open. Even if Gomez redshirts this year (that hasn’t been announced; just speculation), watch out because to have this kid stowed away for another year to learn the college ropes, is pretty scary. 

Meantime Gemmel had a slow start. He overthrew his first first pass; then had Snell drop one on an out route. But he responded by completing 7-of-his-last-8 throws, which included a touchdown to Snell. 

As for who has the advantage-tough to tell through the first three days because Danarious Graham hasn’t suited up yet. That could change on Wednesday, as the freshman from Deerfield High School in Florida, could make his much-anticipated debut. Asked if the lack of reps is hurting his chances:

“No, because I’m taking mental reps,” Graham said. “I’m not just chilling out here; I’m watching what the other guys are doing.”

From all accounts, Graham could lock up the starting job in the next two weeks. But don’t sleep on Gemmel, who’s definitely been the most consistent in camp thus far. Gomez on the other hand is interesting because his arm strength is undeniable. His issue has been learning the playbook. Once he has a firm understanding of that, there’s no question he could lead Miller’s offense. 

If Miller had to choose a starter today, my guess is he leans towards Gemmel-mainly because Graham hasn’t had reps. That should change. But there’s no denying the kid’s an athlete who can sling it. And he’s poised. During 11-on-11, he didn’t force anything. In cerebral terms, he fits the bill of what Miller needs behind center. Flash is great, and Graham will undoubtedly provide that, but Gemmel just seems to get it. 

As he did last year, don’t expect Miller to name a starter until after their scrimmage next Saturday. 

Busters return to practice Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock.

Listen to Matt Miller’s Day three presser