Skyhawks spring into midpoint
Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
UT Martin’s first spring football scrimmage was, in the eyes of head coach Jason Simpson, “about where we needed to be” at the halfway point of the spring practice season.
Questions still remain with 19 seniors gone from last season’s 8-3 team. The offense will have the most questions as it is taking the biggest hit with several holes to fill.
Gone are quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Quentin Sims and running backs Jason McNair and Tevin Barksdale. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes and safety Julius McNair will have to be replaced as well.
Simpson was somewhat satisfied with the way the first scrimmage played out on both sides of the ball, even though the defense seemed to have the better day.
“It is our first full scrimmage situation to see where we are,” Simpson said. “I saw some good things on both sides of the ball and some bad. I would be concerned if one side dominated the other.”
Although there are concerns about who will fill those gaps in the offensive skill positions, the Skyhawks’ head coach liked what he saw out his three young quarterbacks vying for the starting spot and the players competing for playing time at running back and wide receiver.
“There are talented kids here,” Simpson said. “They are as talented as those kids (Carr, Sims, McNair and Barksdale) are when they were freshmen and sophomores. What we are trying to speed up is the maturity level at those spots. The mental knowledge and emotional state is what we have to improve on. We just are not there yet.”
The three young quarterbacks who are vying for the starting job — Jarod Neal, Tyler Rice and Dylan Favre — had 17 combined completions for 180 yards and a touchdown. Returning wide receiver Jeremy Butler caught the lone touchdown pass from Neal that went for 10 yards.
“I thought they all did some good things,” Simpson said about his group of QBs. “There was a lot of man coverage today, and we have got to make a couple of throws and give our receivers a chance. They had some drops, too.”
The bright spot on the offense was the running game, which gained 305 yards on 55 carries. DJ McNeil busted loose for a 50-yard score and had 109 yards on 10 carries. Trent Garland rushed for a four-yard score and Favre scrambled for an eight-yard TD.
The defense, which gave up nearly 30 points per game and 470 yards of offense each outing, gave up three yards or less on 29 plays and had minus yardage on 10 of those 29 plays.
“We challenged our defensive backs to put pressure on the offense,” Simpson said. “We want to make the quarterbacks beat us. You can always back off and play zone coverage, but you have to see who can do it when it counts.”
The kicking game was also successful for the day.
Returning punter James Satterfield had two punts for an average of 42.5 yards and sophomore kicker Jackson Redditt made four field goals from 20, 27, 32 and 37 yards out.
Simpson had one goal for the first scrimmage — come out of it with healthy players.
“The No. 1 goal was we came of out it with limited bumps and bruises,” he said. “There are two things you want in this — to play fast with an up-tempo and come out of it with no injuries. We did that.”
Published in The WCP 4.9.13