Not a whole lot out of the practice report today. The big news is that special teams coach Shane Beamer gave the primary punt return duties to Akeem Auguste, with Stephon Gilmore and Darian Stewart backing him up. Hopefully Auguste can be more effective than we were last year on punt returns. Beamer unsurprisingly said that Chris Culliver, who had a good year returning kicks a year ago, will be the primary kickoff returner, with Auguste and Bryce Sherman backing him up. I'll have to admit that I really, really want to see Sherman return a few kicks this year.
Beamer also reports that he's still undecided on who will handle kickoffs if Adam Yates is still unavailable for N.C. State. The contest is between Spencer Lanning and walk-on Blake Carlson. I've said it before and I'll say it again; we're probably going to miss Ryan Succop's strong leg this year. Having a guy that can consistently boot it into the endzone is a luxury you don't often think about.
Last but not least, Darrin Horn is apparently trying to pick up Nevada small forward Malik Cooke as a transfer. Last year Cooke started every game at Nevada, which, as many of you probably know, is a strong mid-major program and former home to new UGA hoops coach Mark Fox. Cooke has now transferred to USC and is looked to walk on. Cooke averaged over nine points for the Wolfpack last year. Cooke was a two-star recruit out of Christ School in Arden, N.C., where he played alongside Lakeem Jackson, our star recruit this past season.
I'm still in the process of learning more about Cooke, but my initial impression is that he has the potential to be a useful role player for us. He's athletic and has a nice wingspan for his position, which is what Coach Horn wants at small forward. He also brings experience. Here's what his high-school coach had to say about him:
"Can he play at a very athletic SEC level? I think so. I don’t think he’s going to be a 32-minute-a-game guy," Gaines said. "But the guy won in high school. And (Horn) likes winners, obviously. I think whether they pick him up as a walk on or eventually get him as a scholarship player, I don’t that’s a bad pickup, for a guy who just showed up at your school."
I'd say that's close to what I'm thinking. Cooke probably won't be able to win a starting job like he had at Nevada, but he could still have a place here. He wasn't a top recruit out of high school, which probably tells you a lot about what big-conference schools thought at the time about his ability to compete at the highest level. At the same time, though, he was able to prove himself capable of doing well at Nevada, which shows you that he's probably better than people first thought he was. It will be interesting to see if Coach Horn awards him a scholarship, which would prove that Horn believes he can really be a contributor.