Coach Hugh Freeze did not feel like he could field enough healthy players to have a “real” game, so the Grove Bowl was a modified form of a practice with the offense taking on the defense.
By: Chuck Rounsvaille, Publisher OMSpirit.com
“I thought today there were some bright spots on offense, but we are so shorthanded over there right now it is difficult to evaluate fully,” said Freeze. “We started out the scrimmage portion with some good plays and converted a few third downs.
“The story of the spring, though, is that the defense was way ahead of the offense this spring. I don’t think that is all bad – you have to play great defense to win in this league. We are headed in the right direction there. On offense, when we get all our players back and get more consistent at quarterback, we will be OK and be able to move the ball effectively.”
There was really no winner or loser in the game/scrimmage, but Hugh got what he was looking for.
“I just wanted to see the kids play hard, do their assignments and make plays and I think today we saw some of that,” he continued. “I thought on defense Serderius Bryant had some explosive plays, but we had a chance for a couple of picks that we missed. On offense, Ja-Mes (Logan) probably had the best day and spring of anyone. He’s been very solid and made some nice plays today. Mark Dodson showed some burst before he got injured (hit to the head).”
As has been the theme most of spring, Freeze is clamoring for more consistency from the quarterbacks.
“I think they can do better, but I want to watch the film from today and see if it was them or the protection or poor routes. There were some decent things from them at times, but also some missed opportunities as well,” Hugh noted. “Obviously, QB is a concern. There are things that both Barry (Brunetti) and Maihkail (Miller) can do to help us with their athleticism, but yes, there is concern.”
On the offensive line, Freeze pointed out three who he thought played well.
“Pierce Burton and E-Man (Emmanuel McCray) were physical up there and Evan (Swindall) is out leader of the front,” he said. “I thought Justin Bell improved a lot this spring and that showed some today.”
MLB D.T. Shackelford had his debut before a crowd today and garnered kudos from Freeze.
“He’s everything you want in a student-athlete,” Hugh began. “I think he is still knocking off the rust, but he did some good things this spring. I think it will be great for him to be in an offseason program where he is not restricted and can turn loose a little bit and have less apprehension with his knee.”
Freeze was asked about the progress of DE Channing Ward, who Rebel fans have a close eye on and are expecting to make a big jump before fall.
“Channing did better at the end of spring. Today, he made some plays – maybe because I was out on the field getting after him every play,” Freeze laughed. “Channing wants to do well badly. I just think he is a high rep guy who will just get better and better with time.”
Who were the “surprises” of the spring for Freeze?
“On defense, it was Chief Brown. He got a lot better. On offense, I’tavius Mathers and Mark Dodson had real good springs. Justin Bell also surprised us some with the spring he had,” Freeze said.
Overall, Freeze was pleased with the spring.
“Despite the injuries, we made progress this spring. The retention from the fall was good and we were able to go fast most of the time, which is what we want,” he closed. “We can do better, but I thought we showed good improvement and had a lot of individuals step up this spring. The kids had a great attitude and gave us great effort all spring.
“We just need to develop more depth with the incoming players like Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and some others we signed. I am anxious to see what they can do when they come in here.”
* In the kicking game, Andrew Ritter missed a couple in the 45-50 yard range, but both he and freshman Andy Pappanatos were perfect inside the 40.
* One area that needs more depth is cornerback, but in polling the wide receivers through spring, here’s the consensus of the best the Rebs have. In press coverage, Senquez Golson, Carlos Davis, a newcomer to the position, and Nick Brassell. In zone, Charles Sawyer.
* In one-on-one passing drills, Donte Moncrief did what he always seems to do – gets open and scores a touchdown. Donte missed most of spring with a banged up shoulder, but took a few live reps in drills today.
* JUCO transfer Q. Mireles also had a long TD catch and is starting to show up daily in practices. While he still has a lot to learn, he has shown he can make plays and is comfortable in the slot.
* Dehendret Collins was moved from Husky to corner this week and responded in one-on-one drills with an interception.
* Logan caught two long balls, one a 40-yarder from Brunetti to open the scrimmage portion of the practice and a 30-yarder from Robert Ratliff to set up a short TD plunge by short yardage back Nick Parker.
* Davis, who has impressed the coaches after his move to CB, also had a pick on the day.
* The play of the day? Bryant picked off a pass and returned it 70 yards for a TD, running over a couple of would-be tacklers and weaving through traffic for the score. It also looked like he got an assist from Freeze, who was trailing the play and got in the way.