SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Based on the afternoon time in mostly sunny conditions and the long-term forecast, Friday’s practice session at Wofford College could eventually prove to be the hottest one of camp.
But in figurative terms, the heat will truly turn up Saturday morning.
“We’ll be in pads tomorrow for the first morning session. I’m kind of anxious to see who’s going to step up,” head coach Ron Rivera said after a humid practice with temperatures around 90. “We don’t have the pads on so you don’t want to get too excited, but there have been enough good things out there to get you excited about certain individuals. But once you put the pads on, you get a better sense and feel for who is stepping up, who is making plays and who looks like they’re going to make an impact.”
Impressively, cramps weren’t a major factor in the second practice of camp, and everyone save those players on the Physically Unable to Perform list participated in a session with shells.
- Rivera is particularly interested to see how the candidates at left guard perform in pads. Just like in the opening practice, Amini Silatolu was first up Friday, with Greg Van Roten getting the second look. Several positions up and down the line saw one player compete with the first team in one team period, then a different one in another team period.
At running back, Cameron Artis-Payne was next up after Christian McCaffrey early in practice, but then C.J. Anderson followed McCaffrey later on. Kevon Seymour again started out opposite cornerback James Bradberry and Da’Norris Searcy opposite safety Mike Adams, but in a later period, rookie Donte Jackson started out opposite Bradberry and rookie Rashaan Gaulden opposite Adams.
“We’d be foolish to come in thinking everything is set, and quite honesty you can say that about every position you have on the field probably with the exception of one,” Rivera said, referring to the quarterback spot. “You look at all of our other positions, we have questions that have to be answered.”
- Quarterback Cam Newton got in a rhythm during the second team session (9-on-9 work) and showed off his rhythm breaking out an impromptu dance after completing a pass to tight end Greg Olsen just ahead of a closing and clearly frustrated Thomas Davis. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the one with a little hop in his step when Newton missed the mark by a good margin on the next play, but his signal-caller responded with a successful shot deep in the seam to rookie tight end Ian Thomas.
- The defense was parched for a takeaway, so much so that when OTA interception king Lorenzo Doss didn’t haul in an opportunity, his teammates got on him pretty hard despite it being a difficult chance. Doss recorded a nice pass break-up on the next snap, and much later in practice, safety Dezmen Southward picked off a Taylor Heinicke pass sent deep in Austin Duke’s direction. Heinicke got a good amount of second-team reps Friday, taking full advantage of one such opportunity with nice back-to-back strikes to Mose Frazier and Duke.
- Speaking of Duke (kind of), quarterback Garrett Gilbert helped the University of North Carolina enjoy a victory of sorts over Duke University in the same session. In short order, Gilbert twice connected with Tar Heel product Bug Howard when he was matched up against Blue Devil product Ross Cockrell.
- Southward’s late interception was followed by a fumble recovery by Jackson after Frazier lost possession, but then Newton got one final series of snaps and ended the day on a good note for the offense. He peppered the defense for several completions, including one for about 25 yards to Olsen that ended practice.
“That’s a series!” Newton screamed.
The specialists are sometimes picked on – and sometimes pick fun at themselves – for their lack of inclusion in significant portions of practice.
Friday, they got a little extra work in what arguably wasn’t in their comfort zone.
During a special teams period aimed at working with players on cutting off the angle of would-be tacklers in return situations, the would-be tacklers were tracking kicker Graham Gano, punter Michael Palardy and long snapper J.J. Jansen.
Here's a look at Jansen taking his turn. McCaffrey had better watch his back.