During individual drills, current starting quarterback junior Michael Greco was sharp throwing short passes, but mostly erratic throwing the football on deeper out patterns, as many of his passes sailed high and wide, and he couldn’t seem to get in rhythm with his wide receivers.
Redshirt freshman Joe Weatherford was sharp on underneath routes, but missed on the deeper outs, just as Greco did. Weatherford, who normally throws a tight, pretty pass, had many of his balls wobble and flutter, and he couldn’t seem to get on the same page as many of the receivers.
Redshirt freshman Andy Slowik may have been the most accurate of the quarterbacks in these drills, as he showed plenty of velocity on his passes, and certainly showed enough arm to throw the out pattern safely. Fellow redshirt freshman Nate Tice seemed to struggle on intermediate and longer routes in the one-on-one and individual portions.
In the individual and one-on-one drills, most of the wide receivers looked sharp. Sophomore Kamar Aiken ran his routes fluidly, and showed good hands as he caught everything thrown his way. Redshirt freshman J.T. McArthur showed solid hands, as did sophomore Brian Watters, senior Anthony Davis, redshirt freshman Chad Alexander, and sophomore Sidney Haynes. Senior Rocky Ross caught most everything that was catchable, but had one drop in the drills.
The running backs were a little more inconsistent with their hands, as sophomore Ricky Kay dropped a pass, as did redshirt Freshman Ronnie Weaver. Senior Jayson Williams showed solid hands, as did sophomore James Jamison. The tight ends were a little more consistent, as junior Corey Rabazinski caught everything thrown his way, and mammoth redshirt freshman tight end Adam Nissley showed a nice set of hands.
During special teams drills, the punting game was pretty dependent on a stiff wind that gusted over the practice fields. Both sophomores Parker Langley and Blake Clingan struggled mightily when punting into the wind, but were booming kicks with the wind at their back, as expected. Star cornerback, senior Joe Burnett caught nearly every punt directed his way, and displayed great hands and a little wiggle when running with the football. Sophomore wide receiver Khymest Williams struggled catching punts, and didn’t look anywhere near ready for actual game action.
The Knights scrimmage began with first team offense going against the first team defense, and there were not many surprises, as the defense dominated early on. Joe Burnett didn’t allow a pass to be completed against him all day long, and senior free safety Jason Venson was very quick to ball.
The linebacking corps looked very fast as senior Corey Hogue, junior Chance Henderson, and sophomore Derrick Hallman were all active and quick to the football.
After the scrimmage I asked head coach George O’Leary about which players were a surprise to him, he responded—
“Defensively, I think (Corey) Hogue has had a really great spring, not a good spring, a great spring. Again, I think there is no question, defensively, that is where all the experience is coming back. Offensively, they have done a good job holding their own. We need help in some areas to do the stuff we like to do on offense, but, overall I have been pleased with the spring and the players have really taken after it and done well."
The most productive Knights quarterback in the scrimmage was certainly redshirt freshman Nate Tice, who tossed a pair of touchdown passes against second and third-string defense. Tice hit wide receivers Anthony Davis and Jamar Newsome on a pair of 10-yard touchdowns. Tice looked much better in “game action” as his father Mike, assistant head coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, watched the entire practice.
Running back Ronnie Weaver had an up and down day, as he led the first-team offense into the end zone with a short touchdown plunge, but he did have two fumbles on the day. The Knights head coach talked about the miscues—
“Obviously, I am concerned about the turnovers. You cannot fumble the ball like that.”
Overall, Junior Michael Greco showed great athleticism during the scrimmage as he avoided oncoming rushers and took off for some big gains. Greco also completed some nice passes on mostly underneath routes, and likely would’ve completed a deep pass to Sidney Haynes, if he wasn’t interfered with.
Joe Weatherford wasn’t as athletic as many would like, but he was able to fit the football into some small spots, while making few mental errors. Coach O’Leary spoke briefly about the quarterback competition—
“I was happy to see (Michael) Greco take off and run with the ball. He is an athlete and that is a position where we'll make a decision on (the starting quarterback) before we leave spring. We'll also make some decisions on the depth (1, 2, and 3) and where possibly the freshmen coming in can help us as well."
It’s likely that this competition will go all the way until the end of spring practice as Greco certainly seems to be the frontrunner, but he certainly hasn’t run away with the job.
As for the running backs, James Jamison showed a nice burst, and Ronnie Weaver ran tough between the tackles. Converted defensive back Jayson Williams showed a nice burst, but seems to be a little too willing to take the football outside.
The offensive line was solid for much of the day, as they gave the quarterbacks ample time to get rid of the football. Most of the sacks that the Knights defense registered were of the coverage variety. I asked Coach O’Leary about some players that stood out, and this is what he had to say—
"Overall, I would say Mike Lavoie. I am really pleased with him," O'Leary said. "He has really caught my attention. He is blocking Torrell Troup everyday in practice and some people don't understand what a chore that is with 320 pounds hitting you all day. So, he has really caught my attention in a good way.”
The quarterbacks best friends, the tight ends, appeared to be the most reliable targets as Corey Rabazinski made a nice catch to move the chains, and Adam Nissley caught not only a touchdown pass, but put a punishing block on sophomore Darius Nall as quarterback Michael Greco took off and ran with the football.
The wide receivers didn’t get great separation due to the lock down coverage of the Knights fine secondary. Kamar Aiken and Sidney Haynes were probably the two most consistent targets.
"We ran pretty much the full gamut at them today," O'Leary said. "We'll look at the tape and see how they did. There were good spots on either side. Right now I want to end the week, we have some segment stuff to get done, two-minute, red zone, that’s where we’ll spend our time.”
It appears as if the Knights offense is beginning to catch up to the defense, but the passing game certainly needs work. It’s difficult to tell how far along each unit is, being that most of the defense knows the plays the offense is calling due to seeing the formations every day in practice.