Training Camp Observations 2/21/2020

The River Kings Report was briefly on hand at today’s training camp at the US Cellular Center. Some quick, random observations:

There’s going to be a QB battle. Veteran signal-caller Derrick Bernard enters camp as the clear favorite for the starting spot, but the backup job is wide open. Javin Kilgo is an exciting young player who put up gaudy numbers (8 of 9 passing, 4 TD, no INT) in limited action with Duke City last season, when the Gladiators were part of Champions Indoor Football (CIF). He’s tall and lanky and looks like he can really move when he needs to; he throws a catchable ball.

Javin Kilgo’s 2019 highlights.

QuinTon Fonville isn’t the tallest guy on the field, but he’s built like a wrecking ball and is a veteran leader. He’s also a lefty, which can add a wrinkle to the opposing defensive coordinator’s schemes.

QuinTon Fonville’s highlights with the Bloomington Edge (2018)

This should be a very interesting competition to watch, as one or both of them could end up pushing for the top spot.

The Wide Receiver group is young, but looks solid. Whoever ends up throwing the ball for the River Kings, he’ll have a talented group of targets. The team is also very fortunate to be able to use the Cell Center for practice. With the dasher boards up, the house lights high, and music blaring, this young group of receivers got to practice making catches in near-game conditions from the outset. With so little arena experience, these wideouts are going to need to develop “wall awareness” very quickly. I saw the quarterbacks make several near-perfect arena throws — right to the edge of the boards — that came up incomplete because the receiver lost his concentration that close to the wall.

Receivers and Running Backs group in a receiving drill. Photo credit: Joe Donovan

That said, I got to see the same receivers redeem themselves a bit later in the drill, crashing into the boards like veterans. Unfortunately, the first round of cuts will probably hit this group first, as there are a lot of them fighting for a few roster spots. They all have talent, though, and are obviously determined to make the coaches’ decision as tough as possible.

There’s some beef on the D-line. One of last year’s most intriguing prospects was DE Sam Mabany.  Originally from the Sudan, Mabany is raw, but undeniably talented.  He’s also lean (relative to his 6’7” height), so to use his length effectively the D-line needs some heft inside.  They’ve got that this year, as the defensive tackles are both big and nasty.  The other D-ends have some size on them, too.  Veteran lineman Desmond Raiford wasn’t in pads yet, but he looks to be the anchor of a group that returns veteran Walter “Surge” Walker.  DE Sam Person also looked impressive in my very brief time observing the D-line – if his combine photos are anything to go by, he’s beefed up just since the DFW tryouts, but hasn’t lost any explosiveness. 

Defensive back drill. There’s some size in the defensive backfield, too. Photo credit: Joe Donovan

The coaches are natural leaders.  Coaches Mann and Ivory give off a “field general” vibe that the players really seemed to respond to.  Mistakes were largely self-correcting.  Their calm, competent demeanor almost covered over the electricity in the air…. Almost.  The whole building had a subtle buzz about it.  Everyone’s excited to be here, and they go all-out all the time.  If my one brief look at an early practice is any indication, this is going to be a special year in Cedar Rapids. 

Head Coach Victor Mann directing traffic with the offense.

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