Spring practice report: Picks aplenty in 7-on-7
Six days into spring drills, Coach Willie Taggart still wants to see his defense exhibit a little more passion.
But he'll settle for picks. On a warm Wednesday morning, the unit delivered them in profusion, especially during a seven-on-seven period in the red zone.
Four defensive backs -- Sickles alumnus Nate Ferguson, former Plant High star Mazzi Wilkins, S Malik Dixon and CB Lamar Robbins -- notched interceptions in the session that spanned roughly 10 minutes. MLB Cecil Cherry also deflected a pass.
Jefferson alumnus Juwuan Brown, working with the first team at defensive end, intercepted his own batted pass later in the practice.
"We improved defensively (in 2015), but we want to be known for taking the ball away from the offense," said Taggart, who watched the "Bull Shark" 4-2-5 scheme finish 14th nationally with 17 picks last season.
"We stressed that a lot Monday, and it was good to see these guys come out and get some turnovers. I want 'em to be excited about it. I think we can get a little more excited about getting 'em, but it was good to see."
The offense found atonement in 11-on-11 work, with QB Quinton Flowers dashing right for a 30-yard TD and Asiantii Woulard immediately following with a 45-yard scoring strike over the middle to Chase Whitehead.
HIS JOB TO LOSE: Taggart didn't hesitate when asked who's pushing incumbent Emilio Nadelman at place-kicker this spring.
"Emilio," he said.
At this stage, the 5-foot-6 junior appears to be among the handful of Bulls to have secured a starting job after a strong finish in 2015, when he converted nine consecutive field goals to end the regular season. For the year, Nadelman hit 15 of 23 field goals (six of 40-plus yards) and 53 of 54 PATs.
"Hopefully come fall we'll have someone else," Taggart said. "But right now it's just Emilio, and we expect for him to be a lot better than what he was last year. ... I'm gonna push him."
ODDS AND ENDS: A scrimmage is planned for Saturday's public 2:30 p.m. practice. ... WR Tyre McCants, who had two TD catches in a practice last week, indicated he feels far less tentative about his left knee now that he's more than a year removed from ACL surgery. "I know especially last year, there were a lot of times where cutting and planting kind of bothered me a little bit," said McCants, who had seven catches in 2015. "But this year I definitely feel a lot stronger." ... Walk-on Nicholas Munera of King High got some first-team reps at defensive end.
AUDIBLE: "He's very talented. ... I just remember last year during scout team, Malik was just all over the place. He can cover a lot of ground, and I think today was his best practice so far this spring." -- Taggart on Dixon, a redshirt freshman from Port Charlotte