Defense Dominates First Scrimmage of Spring

Other than an early drive by the second offensive unit against the second team defense, Jeff Casteel's troops pretty much had their way against the offense in Saturday's scrimmage.

After an early drive by the second team offense, featuring some lengthy runs by superbacks Jason Colson and Erick Phillips, the defense stiffened to shut down the offense on most of the series that followed.

The scrimmage format gave the ball to the offense at different points of the field for several series of plays, but the offense was stymied for much of the afternoon. Linebacker Adam Lehnortt and nose guard Ernest Hunter were standouts for the first team, which pressured the quarterbacks and allowed little running room. Lehnortt had an acrobatic pass deflection, which he batted into the air and caught while lying flat on the ground. Head coach Rich Rodriguez was pleased with the defense, but termed the offense "soft" in his post scrimmage evaluation.

"I though our defense played pretty good. They were pretty disciplined, although they didn't do a whole lot. The offense didn't do much. I didn't think there was a whole lot of effort, or straining, or blocking. We've got to get some things corrected. I don't think anybody on offense did much good," Rodriguez said with a rueful smile.

Warrne Young also continued his push for playing time with several nice plays, including a pass deflection of a Rasheed Marshall toss.

The second team defense also performed well after yielding the early drive, with players such as linebacker Jay Henry and linebacker Scott Gyorko making solid contributions.

The offense had better success when close to both goal lines. While working on their "coming out" series from inside their own five yard line, the offense managed to pick up a couple of first downs on Quincy Wilson runs and pass completions to Nathan Forse and Miquelle Henderson.

The offense also fared a bit better when starting sereis from the defense's 25 and 5 yard lines, as might be expecte. Bryan Wright and Colson scored TDs, and placekicker Brad Cooper was perfect on his field goal attempts.

MUSKET BLASTS

Several veterans, such as Quincy Wilson and Grant Wiley, didn't see a great deal of work as the coaching staff wanted to evaluate some of the young players. There are more than 120 players listed on the spring roster.

"It's a challenge when you have that many guys, because we want to give everybody a chance to get a few reps and get an honest look at them," head coach Rich Rodriguez said after the scrimmage. "It's hard to do that. We try to get everybody in there, but until I watch the film I'm not sure if we did or not."

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Windy conditions hampered the midrange and deep passing game. Gusts of 20-25 miles per hour made throwing difficult, although Miquelle Henderson, Dee Alston and Travis Garvin did look good on the chances they got.

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Work also continued on punt protection and punt returns. the punting game was a bit shaky, with the wind haveing a definite effect. Lance Frazier and Garvin split punt return duties.

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Offensive lineman Travis Garrett injured a knee in pre-scrimmage one on one drills. He remained on the sidelines with an ice bag on his knee, but had to be carted from the field afterward. Wide receivers Aaron Neal and John Scott remained sidelined, and were joined by tight end Tory Johnson and linebacker Leandre Washington, who has a shoulder injury.

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A number of visiting coaching staffs were on hand to view the weekend practices. Wake Forest, Central Bucks West (PA), Brasheer (PA), Sherman (WV), and Massilon (OH) were among those schools represented.

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Wide receiver A. J. Nastasi also took in the weekend's practices. He is finishing up his coursework this spring, with an eye toward moving into either coaching or athletic administration. Also on hand was native West Virginian and former Minnesota Viking Lonnie Warwick.


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