** Greg Romeus has returned!!! Well not really - he did some individual drills during the morning session but didn't play in any of the team drills or the contact drills and then wasn't even dressed in the afternoon session. Dave Wannstedt continually says he is not worried about Romeus, that things are fine, that it is minor, that it is just a little bit of stiffness and soreness. Today, however, he added the word "back spasms" which could mean a lot of things and for the first time in four days would not say definitively that Romeus will return tomorrow. I understand they want to be smart and cautious with Romeus, but at some point, either he can play or he can't and he needs to just rest all together. If there is a benefit out of all of this with Greg Romeus it is that Nate Nix, Shayne Hale and Brandon Lindsey and even T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy all have gotten a lot of work in this camp and that position seems to be getting deeper and deeper.Still, I can't imagine there isn't starting to be at least a little bit of concern about Romeus and whether this issue will linger all season and limit his effectiveness. Of course, it could also be a case of an upperclassman with NFL aspirations preserving his body by taking some time off during training camp.Don't discount that angle, either --- I've seen several guys over the years try hard to find ways to get out of camp during their senior seasons so they don't risk injury in a camp that doesn't matter.
** Speaking of Nix, Wannstedt had high praise of him after practice today. He called him one of the great success stories on the team because he was a guy who stuck with it even when things didn't turn out the way he had hoped. If you remember, Nix was a highly recruited linebacker from Thomas Jefferson but simply put he wasn't fast enough to play linebacker at this level. But he didn't pout or whine, he just became one of the team's best special teams players over the past two years and then last year, happily accepted a move to defensive end. He will still be a special teams ace this year but I expect him to get some snaps every game at defensive end because as Wannstedt said, he is a winner, a tough guy and a guy who finds a way to make plays whenever he gets an opportunity. It is definitely a feel-good story because I have seen far too many guys like Nix - highly recruited but can't get on the field -- quit, go elsewhere and never get heard from again. Nix is going to get a degree and he has been a contributor for the past two seasons and will likely have a nice senior year.
** Keeping up with the theme of taking a day or two off -- Jonathan Baldwin didn't participate in drills this morning (he did some individual work but didn't exactly have a tough morning) then was excused from afternoon practice along with Juantez Hollins and Brandon Lindsey. That's because the three former Alliquippa teammates went back to their hometown to go to the vieiwing at a funeral home for former Quip quarterback Stephen Hardy. The trio were all on the team in 2005 when Hardy, who was shot and killed last Saturday in Beaver Falls. Hardy shared the starting quarterback spot in 2004 and then was the starter himself in 2005.
** Ryan Turnley (shoulder) and Andrew Taglianetti (groin) are two more injured guys to watch but it appears Turnley is fine because after not practicing in the morning, he went full strength in the afternoon. Taglianetti has a lot to overcome and as each day passes it will be tougher for him to get back into it. Remember, this is a guy who has not played in a year and while he is a good football player, that (his ACL) is a tough injury to come back from to begin with. He has been slated as the nickel-back/bandit/hybrid/whatevertheheckyouwanttocallitguy and he is clearly a favorite of the coaches but in his absence redshirt freshman Jason Hendricks has done a very good job and has made a case that he should at least get some snaps in the defense. He has made at least one play pretty much every practice and he will help on special teams as well. As for Turnley, he needs to be in every practice he can be in and not waste a rep because if ever there was a starting job that was wide open it is at right guard, where Greg Gaskins has really not got it done to this point. Turnley hasn't been a world beater either, but he certainly has a chance to move up the depth chart if he works hard and shows he can shore up that spot.
** Speaking of the offensive line, this was the third day in a row that Dave Wannstedt said Jack Lippert could play guard which tells me they are beyond the point where they are thinking about it and are now just trying to figure out what the best way to make it happen would be. The problem is obvious with that move, however -- they will have no back-up at center.So this will be interesting - to watch this offensive line get pieced together because it sure looks to me like there is going to have to be at least a little bit of smoke and mirrors to make it happen. Two other names who Wannstedt brought up today, by the way, as guys who are having a good camp and making a push are redshirt freshman Cory King and true freshman Brandon Sacco, the kid from Don Bosco Prep. Sacco is an interesting prospect, he moves well, seems stronger than an average freshman and is probably a little more physical than most freshmen as well. King is very large, but I haven't seen enough from him to get that excited yet. I'm sure he has ability but he is young still and unfortunately for this team, they need linemen who are ready to play right now, not a year from now when Baldwin, Lewis, Romeus, Sheard and Pinkston are all in the NFL.
** I know Tino Sunseri to this point hasn't lit it up, but he has been OK and has, at times, shown that he can get it done. That being said - he is worlds ahead of where Bill Stull was at this point in camp last year so if he continues to progress and improve, he should have a very good season. Remember, last year Stull stunk up the joint for the first week or so of camp, to the point that he allowed Sunseri to crawl into the competition. But as he settled in, he took control of the offense and he went on to have a very good year. There were two throws in particular Sunseri made today where I said to myself 'wow, that was impressive' and I will be willing to bet he'll make more and more as he gets more comfortable.
** The last two days, Devin Street has come on strong and frankly, looks to me like he is now starting to hammer down that fourth receiver spot. I wrote about the receivers for Friday's paper and had a talk with receiver's coach Scott Turner and receiver Cameron Saddler and they both raved about Street's talent. And now we are starting to see each day, Street come up with some big plays and he is getting more physical and developing into a very good receiver right before our eyes. But it is funny - my story is about just how deep the receiving corps is - Ed Tinker doesn't want to let anyone forget he is still fighting for that spot as well and he just makes plays as well. I think honestly between Baldwin, Mike Shanahan, Saddler, Street and Tinker, there just isn't going to be much room for either a guy like Greg Cross, who is still learning and then had a little setback with his ankle injury so he fell a little behind, or any of those true freshman to get on the field. I like Tinker a lot because he really is a physical player and I've seen him hold onto the ball after taking a big hit. This is a very good group of receivers, probably the best collectively I've seen since I've covered the team (my first year full-time was 2002).
** The more I watch freshman quarterback Anthony Gonzalez run around, the more I say to myself "why isn't this guy starting at safety?" And when I say starting, I mean, as in the starting lineup. The guy is an athlete, he is fast, he has good size and he has all the tools to be an excellent safety. And I think, given that Dom DeCicco looks like he has been bench pressing Yugos all summer (he has bulked up, he is listed at 6-4, 230 but he looks at least ten pounds heavier than that) and is towering over everybody back there and looks like he is now big enough and strong enough to play linebacker -- maybe it is time to move him to weakside linebacker and let him play the hybrid position as well. That would kill two birds with one stone - it would strengthen a position that has been shaky to this point and it would get another of your best looking athletes on the field. DeCicco is certainly physical enough to play linebacker and he's faster than a lot of linebackers as well and he's a smart football player who would pick things up quickly so it would probably work. I know, it is a pipe dream and it won't happen, but it is just a thought. But the coaches have promised Gonzalez they will give him a legitimate opportunity to work at quarterback and see how he develops before asking him to move and they are committed to doing it. And who knows, he may turn out to be a standout quarterback so it will be interesting to watch him develop.
** I asked Saddler about the potential returners on the team and he told me an interesting name to watch - freshman K'Wuan Williams. He said Williams might be the best of them all (well, besides himself of course.....) by the time he is done and he said he wouldn't be surprised if Williams was a second-team corner by the time the season begins. He isn't the only one saying this about Williams, the coaches have raved about what a pleasant surprise he has been and how he is a different player than they recruited because he got bigger and stronger. He has played a lot with the second-team defense so it will be interesting to see if he is actually on the two-deep once camp breaks and the games begin. I would think, given how he has played, it is a pretty safe bet that he'll be at the very least a special teams player and at least get some work in some situations at corner.