Fan Appreciation Day Break Down

In a controlled scrimmage, the defense still wins the day

Fan Appreciation Day came and went and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. Despite a forecast of rain and storms, the precipitation stayed away and the sun even popped out before the scrimmage was over.

The scrimmage itself was a bit tough to follow, the defense wasn't taking runners or receivers to the ground, and at times the whistle blew before contact was made. With multiple players already being held out for precautionary issues, the caution can be seen as preserving the depth.

On the offensive line alone, Devin Mondie, Brandon Berg, and Troy Elliott were held out. None are season ending injuries, but with the top two centers out, Austin Moreton took over for the first team, with Dalton Ford moving up to the first unit at right guard. The second unit moved all around, with Alex Novak moving inside to right guard, Robert Maxwell moving from left tackle to right tackle, and Jamal Fontenot was at left tackle. Cam Davis at left guard and Jacob Still at center rounded out the second unit.

Defensively, Cody Brown and Mark Johnson were out today, though Brown went through some pregame drills and looked to be moving fine. With those two out some others were pushed into service.

As for the quarterbacks, the reps with both the first and second teams were split almost 50/50 between Voytik and Hansen. With the format of the scrimmage, it was tough to get accurate yardage stats but I do have completion stats which will give you an idea. 

Hansen finished 11 of 16, though he couldn't get his group into the end zone. Voytik was 10 for 20, with a touchdown pass to Blake Mack of 14 yards. Both quarterbacks would have had better numbers, but there were a few drops. Also, with snaps being dealt by an emergency center and a true freshman, the timing seemed to be off, especially on the jet motion and deep balls. 

Again, with the quick whistle and minimal contact, the running backs weren't really empowered to run through tackles, though there were some bursts that looked good from almost all the backs. 

Down on the goal line, with the dearth of TEs, the offensive coaches are enlisting the help of defensive linemen. Griffin Riggs, Javier Carbonell, Robert Mondie, and Donovan Ransom all lined up in H-back/Fullback type positions. We also got to see more of Avery Johnson at TE, who had two catches and a third that he elevated for but couldn't come down with. He worked with the first team, along with Blake Mack. 

At wide receiver, Echols-Luper, Sanders, Paschal, and Sterling Stowers all had multiple catches. One more thing that will most likely help with continuity will be once less players are getting reps, starting Monday. 

Defensively, I hate to sound like a fan too much about this, but we're fast. 

The defensive line had a good day. Multiple defensive tackles had sacks or pressures. Roberson, Swalley, Liner, Mondie all got in the backfield quite often. The defensive ends also looked very good. Griffin Riggs recovered the only turnover on a fumbled exchange between Hansen and Christian Booker.

At linebacker/nickel one interesting move was one that we saw in the Spring, with Xavier Woodson-Luster at Nickel. Because of this Khari Lain moved to the first Will position, with Quanterio Heath at Mike.

All the linebackers had some nice moments. Trent Ellis had a ball that should have been a pick six. Anderson was heard telling him so after the play. Ben Sukut and BJ Edmonds looked good. Edmonds got a lot more reps with Chris Humes sliding to cornerback (another move we saw in Spring). 

At corner, all the guys looked good, very little in the way of busts or out of position plays. Even the young guys and new guys were so much more in sync this weekend. 

On special teams, Blaise Taylor had two touchdowns (I'll say two, though it seemed he would have at least been hit on the kickoff return), one on a kickoff return and one on a punt return. Echols-Luper ran as the second string returner on both kick off and punt.

It was a rough day on the field goal front, as both Sawyer Williams and JD Houston missed their only FG attempts, though Houston hit both PATs. 

Probably the best part of the entire evening was seeing all the kids running around and seeing the players and coaches interacting with them. The openness of the program is a difference maker with the local fan base. 

As far as takeaways from this weekend versus last weekend, it was difficult with the scrimmage format to take anything concrete away from this other than the speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. I think that if the timing issues are taken care of and the offensive line holds up, we could be looking at a really special year.