The biggest news of Saturday’s intrasquad football scrimmage was obviously the severe injury suffered by junior safety Brad Wilmer. But prior to that, many young Govs were proving themselves in the opening half at the Academy Sports Complex.
While we may not have seen a full 72 plays which were expected, it was clear there have been improvements from many newcomers on the roster. No one is going to complain about ending the scrimmage, though, after the tough injury that affected the players, coaches, and fans who were watching from the stands.
Another scrimmage will take place in the near future to determine some starting positions. But for now, here’s a look at what stood out after 38 plays.
Defense dominates in the trenches
Things got off to a rocky start for the offensive line, beginning with the opening drive. A seven-yard sack would come on the third play from scrimmage, and a snap over the head of quarterback Darrien Bone soon followed.
Protecting the quarterback became a issue throughout the day, with the defense totaling six sacks. But the defense was expected to be ahead in the first major scrimmage, as Coach Cannon said afterward.
“I think it was a typical first scrimmage,” he said. “It’s harder to play offense, (and) harder to do those little things to move the football.”
Cannon has been very impressed with the new defensive ends on the roster, primarily the trio of Jule Pace, Nic Matire-Bey, and Tyler Schneider. Matire-Bey and Schneider started on both ends of the number one defensive unit, while Pace tied the team lead in tackles (four) and recorded the most sacks (two). The remainder of the starting unit featured Malcolm Goines and Gino Roberson at defensive tackles, Antonio Turner and A.J. Gray at linebacker, with a secondary of corners Buddy Mitchell and Montez Carlton, and safeties Mikhali Creech, Damien Whitfield, and Jeremiah Mitchell.
APSU’s leader in tackles last season — senior safety Johnathan Shuler — did not participate due to migraine headaches.
Young speedsters stand out
When it comes to skill positions, there are many newcomers on this roster who have made significant strides since camp opened.
Let’s start at running back. We know that Rashaan Coleman is going to be a major piece of this offense in his first season as a true back. But there’s going to be a lot on his shoulders, meaning other guys will have chances to get carries. Returning players — Julian Franklin and Justin Roberson — are there to help out, but the freshmen are what stood out on Saturday.
Otis Gerron, Kendall Morris, and Josh Tatum combined to rack up 62 yards on the ground, which is definitely a good sign to see in terms of depth at the position. Morris led all players with 24 yards on just two touches, while Gerron and Tatum helped the offense move the chains down field.
As for the receiving core, they may not have gotten many chances, but a couple of guys had nice days. Alex Price led the way with three catches for 26 yards, while Jared Beard made a couple grabs for 15 yards.
Quarterback battle still yet to be decided
After a stand-out performance in the Red vs. White spring game earlier this year, it appeared the quarterback job was Trey Taylor’s to lose.
However, Cannon said on Saturday that it’s a three-man race between Taylor, Mickey Macius, and Darrien Boone.
“I think they’re significantly ahead of the other three,” Cannon said. “I think that will be decided after our second scrimmage, and we’ll have two full weeks to look and see who will be ready to go for that first game.”
Taylor has looked sharp in practices, but it’s been Macius and Boone who have come on strong as of late. Cannon believes Macius could be a special thrower if they are able to protect him, while Boone is more elusive out of the pocket. On Saturday, Macius went 3-for-4 on passes for 13 yards, while Boone was 3-for-3 for 35 yards. Taylor finished 2-for-2 for 15 yards.
But the lone touchdown of the scrimmage came from freshman Ladarrious Wimberly, who easily found the endzone on a great read option fake to walk in from a yard out.
Photo: Mickey Macius (#7) hands off to Josh Tatum in the spring game (The All State)