Spartans Erratic In Final Open Scrimmage

Big plays, blown coverages, mistakes, and penalties are story of the day in the Spartans final open scrimmage for the fans this spring.

OKEMOS,MI-The Spartans took the field for the final open scrimmage before the fans and they saw their Spartans make a bevy of mistakes on a warm afternoon at Spartan Stadium.

There were some bright signs on this day, but for the most part, some mental and physical breakdowns, fumbles, interceptions, missed blocks, a blocked punt, and poor punt coverage led to big plays in all phases of the game today.

GSN takes you inside of the action today:

With John L. Smith looking to get more action for Brian Hoyer and Dominic Vitale, Hoyer started the game and looked sharp early.

He hit Terry Love and Dwayne Holmes with passes, before Andrew Hawken, who was outstanding on defense, recovered an A.J. Jimmerson fumble.

On his next possession, Hoyer hit Jerramy Scott for 11-yards, and then had Ryan Allison wide open 45-yards downfield, however Allison dropped the ball near the goal line.

Hoyer showed a little grittiness after the drop however, by hitting Scott for 11-more yards, and Kerry Reed for 20-yards on a great catch. After a stuffed run, Hoyer found Jerramy Scott for 14-yards and a touchdown. Todd Boleski added the extra point.

Hoyer lead the White to another touchdown as A.J Jimmerson broke off a run of 12-yards, and Hoyer hit T.J. Williams for 15-yards. A.J Jimmerson then scored on a quick pitch and Boleski added yet another extra point.

Working then against the first team defense, Hoyer hit Matt Trannon but it was called back due to an ineligible man downfield. Hoyer then fumbled the exchange from center leading to a punt.

However, in his next action, after Caulcrick ran for a tough 7-yards, Hoyer found Terry Love for a 45-yard strike and another touchdown with Boleski adding the extra point.

Hoyer lead them on one more scoring drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Irving Campbell which lead to a excessive celebration penalty as Campbell dunked the ball over the cross bar. Backed up 15-yards, Boleski knocked the extra point through.

Regardless, Hoyer lead the offense to four scoring drives, and had their not been a drop, it would have been five. The fumbled snap and an interception his only miscues.

As far as Dominic Natale, he also looked much better than he did last week. He was much more comfortable in warm-ups and his ball had zing.

Natale found a wide open Deon Curry early but he dropped the ball. He then hit A.J. Jimmerson on a nice scramble but it came back because of another illegal man downfield penalty.

However, Natale bounced back on his next possession, finding Diego Oquendo with a pass covering 26-yards. Jimmerson then rambled for 16-yards. After Hawken stuffed Jimmerson for a 6-yard loss and a holding penalty, Natale tossed a screen pass to Jimmerson that went 62-yards, and Jehuu Caulcrick punched it in from the 2-yard line and Boleski added the extra point.

Natle then threw a bomb to T.J Williams covering 55-yards for a touchdown.

It then to began to unravel for Natale somewhat. Center Joel Nitchman was hurt (mild ankle sprain), and the Spartans were stuck with another ineligible man downfield penalty. The Spartans then commited two false starts, and Reggie Graham forced Natale to fumble and the ball went out of bounds for a 15-yard loss.

Then Jonal Saint-Dic forced a fumble and Adam Decker recovered, ending the possesion by Natale and the offense.

But Natale bounced back for a second time, hitting Curry, and then T.J Williams for 38-yards to get within striking distance of the end zone. Jimmerson then scampered in from 3-yards for a touchdown and Boleski added the extra point.

Natale lead the offense against the first team defense in the red zone. After a Caulcrick run that was stuffed by Steve Juarez and Brandon Long, Jerramy Scott took a quick pitch right 25-yards for a touchdown.

Natale's final possession wasn't as pretty, as Sir Daren Adams stepped in front of a pass in the flat and raced 82-yards for a touchdown with a nifty interception.

All in all, Natale played fairly well, leading the offense to a touchdown on four of his seven possessions.

In looking at the difference between Hoyer and Natale, Hoyer has the stronger arm, while Natale throws the ball deep with a little loft, which is nice, because this allows the receiver to run underneath it with a higher trajectory. Just like Steve Spurrier teaches his quarterbacks.

The problem is, when you float it out in the flat, it tends to get picked off, and that was the case today.

Drew Stanton looked more off than any of the quarterbacks, but again, he saw limited action.

Stanton started with a option run, and another short run of 3-yards, but couldn't generate much more which lead to a 41-yard punt by Brandon Fields.

On his next possession, Stanton hit Matt Trannon for a short gain, and with pressure from David Herron Jr. overthrew Carl Grimes. Javon Ringer busted a run for 27-yards, and Stanton hit Terry Love for a first down. But Trannon fumbled a pass from Stanton that was recovered by Justin Kershaw.

Stanton then had a short run of 1-yard , followed by a 9-yard run by Caulcrick, but then Stanton missed a wide open Matt Trannon streaking all alone on what would have been a sure touchdown.

Stanton then hit Kellen Davis for 38-yards, and Caulcrick had 8-yards on the ground before Stanton once again overthrew Trannon. Boleski stepped in and then kicked a 52-yard field goal.

On Stanton's last possession, Stanton hit Ringer for 2-yards. Then came the scariest play of the game, with Stanton scrambling to his left and taking an awkward hit at the back of his legs by Justin Kershaw, ironically similar to the shot Stanton took against Nebraska in a bowl game a few years ago.

A collective sigh of relief went through the crowd as Stanton slowly scrambled to his feet. However, that was enough for John L. Smith to end Stanton's day on the field. Boleski then missed a 54-yard field goal, and Drew's day was over.

Quarterback Clay Charles was impressive running the ball, he is fearless as a runner and has a knack for finding room. He had a twelve yard run, a 4-yard touchdown run and completed a pass in limited action.

As a passer, his release is slow with a wind-up, and he doesn't have much zing on the ball.

A.J. Jimmerson had an up and down scrimmage. He fumbled early in the game. However he got open downfield to catch a pass from Natale that was called back due to penalty. After getting stuffed for a 6-yard loss on a run, he came back with a 62-yard reception on a screen.

A Holding penalty then brought back an 18-yard run Jimmerson had. He ran for a first down on a pitch from Hoyer, but once again it was brought back by a holding penalty. Jimmerson then scored on a quick pitch. But later fumbled a shovel pass.

All in all, Jimmerson is getting better, has nice juke moves once he breaks into the second tier of the defense, and actually picked up the blitz a couple of times.

Some of the other notables, first on offense:

1. Tight Ends:Kellen-Davis seemed to play better today than last week, his blocking was better, and he showed good speed with a reception once he got into open field. Dwayne Holmes also showed good power when catching the ball as usual and had an impressive one-handed catch.

2. Offensive Line-I though Joel Nitchman was playing well until he went out with a undisclosed injury. John Masters played a little better than he did last week, but the offensive line as of yet is not opening holes and providing great pass protection like they should. This unit has a lot to work to do.

In fact, the offensive had its share of holding penalties, false starts, and ineligible receiver down field penalties today.

3. Wide Receivers-After an off week last week, Jerramy Scott came back and played well, catching passes covering 11-yards, 11-yards, 14-yards (for a touchdown), and running for a 25-yard touchdown.

T.J Williams caught a long touchdown pass by splitting the defense deep. He also caught a nice 15-yard one hand grab, and added a 38-yard catch from Natale. He reminds me of former Florida wide receiver Reidel Anthony-being tall, slender and explosive.

Terry Love once again broke a long punt return, but may have to live down the fact he was tackled by the punter, John Goss. Love also added a couple of receptions.

Matt Trannon struggled but it was not his fault totally, as he was overthrown twice, and short-hopped once to add to a fumble. He did catch a pass that drew the ire of the defense, who loudly questioned his toughness in one of the few displays of emotion on this afternoon.

4. Defensive line: Joe Toth stepped up his game, and Reggie Graham used good speed again to force a fumble and is disruptive when he is in the game. Ogemdi Nwagbuo continued to plug the middle well for the Spartans, and Jonal Saint-Dic is quietly becoming a force. Bobby Jones had some good penetration a few times.

5. Linebackers:Remember the name's Andrew Hawken and Josh Rouse. Those guys get to the ball carrier with speed and at great pursuit angle's. Steve Juarez also stepped up his game a notch today. Adam Decker was steady. Sir Darean Adams had an 82-yard td interception return. Kiel Beltnick made his presence felt also.

6. Secondary: Outside of a Demond Williams interception, and a pass break-up by Tom Dance, not many good things were happening. Danny Fortener showed good speed by catching A.J. Jimmerson from behind on a 62-yard reception. Otherwise, the secondary struggled, especially deep as they got toasted all day. They do provide a presence in run support but not in pass support, and it was a step backward after a fine performance last week.

Kicking Game-Todd Boleski was given exclusive chores in the placekicking department Friday, and I thought for the most part he did ok. Boleski nailed all the extra points, and hit field goals from 52-yards, had a miss from 54-yards, had a long miss from 63-yards after another make, made a 23-yard field goal, and he finished the scrimmage by attempting eleven straight field goals-making from 22-yards, making from 27-yards, making from 32-yards, making from 37-yards, before missing from 42 and 47 yards. He then was good from 52-yards, before missing from 57-yards, and twice from 64-yards. I am surprised his leg didn't fall off at the end. Thus he made seven and missed seven, however many attempts were over 50 and even 60-yards to give the fans a show.

Punting:Brandon Fields was at best very average for him today. He had a boomer downed on the 4-yard line by Nehemiah Warrick and also had punts of 41-yards, 42-yards, and 32-yards. John Goss had a punt blocked, and had punts of 32-yards, 36-yards, and his only 40-yard effort was returned for a big gain by Terry Love. Give credit to Goss for not backing down and making an open field tackle on Love. Goss is competing and getting a little better.

One guy I thought stood out on punt coverage was Devin Pritchett, who gets down field in a hurry and made some good hits.

In my opinion this still leaves a lot of question marks heading into the fall camp:

1. Will Todd Boleski hold off Brett Swenson for placekicking duties?

2. Will the offensive line jell and get needed push during critical situations? If so they will they eliminate needless penalties? Is John Masters the answer at center?

3. Will the pass defense, most notably the secondary, be consistent and hold up? They made a lot of mistakes that they didn't make last week.

4. Will Drew Stanton exhibit a little more touch on the deep ball? The low trajectory is causing many passes to be overthrown.

5. At this time, punt coverage and punt protection look weak. Goss was blocked today, and there was a punt blocked earlier in the week.

On the positive side:

1. Add A.J Jimmerson into the mix as a solid running back.

2. Ogemdi Nwagbuo is legit run stopper as a defensive tackle.

3. Andrew Hawken, Josh Rouse, Adam Decker, and Eric Gordon are all good looking young linebackers.

4. Nehemiah Warrick is solid as a safety and brings an attitude and big hitting capability.

5. The move by Greg Cooper to cornerback has been a success so far.

6. Write down the names of T.J. Williams and Devin Thomas, two big play wide receivers. The receivers as a group are better than last year and deep. Deon Curry is back, Diego Oquendo, Carl Grimes are better, and this does not even include the veterans of Reed, Scott, Trannon, Love, etc.

7. Jesse Miller looks good at right tackle.

8. Jonal Saint-Dic, and Reggie Graham made great improvements.

9. Brian Hoyer and Dominic Natale made a lot of improvement, and are becoming solid back-ups.

10. This team looks deeper at most positions than in past years.

GSN will have more exciting Spartan football coverage, so stay tuned.

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