South Alabama held its first scrimmage of spring practice Saturday at Hancock Whitney Stadium, its eighth of 15 spring practice sessions. The day featured some big plays as well as some mistakes; good plays by the defense and explosive plays by the offense. In other words, it was a typical first scrimmage.
“First and foremost, I was excited about the organization of what we did; we came out here with a certain amount of reps that we were trying to get, a certain amount of third downs and plays in the red zone and we got those things accomplished,” head coach Kane Wommack said after the 90-minute scrimmage. “We need to make sure we are getting the things we need to be able to watch the film and improve our team overall.
“I was excited about the energy. I thought the guys did a nice job of bringing some juice in a situation where coaches aren’t running around as much because it’s more of a game-like scenario. We told the guys yesterday that this is the closest thing we can do to simulate a game-like scenario for them. I wanted them to feel the weight and the pressure of that, not so that they would become tight, but so they understand how to respond in adverse situations. And I thought we saw some guys do that. We gave up some plays defensively and responded, and when the offense was knocked off the field we responded with some explosive plays downfield.”
Transfer quarterback Jake Bentley led the first-team offense on Saturday and he was joined by Jalen Tolbert, Caullin Lacy and Cade Sutherland at wide receiver, Brandon Crum and Lincoln Sefcik at tight end, Terrion Avery and Jared Wilson at running back and offensive linemen Braden Moody, Antawn Lewis, Hadon Merchant, Trey Simpson and Wyatt Green.
The defensive first unit, for the most part, consisted of Devin Rockette, Keith Gallmon, Yam Banks, Keon Voisin and Darrell Luter Jr. in the secondary, Quentin Wilfawn, Trey Kiser and AJ DeShazor at linebacker and Wy’Kevious Thomas, G’Narious Johnson and Jamie Sheriff on the defensive line.
Bentley connected on 17 of 28 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, two of those scoring throws going to All-Sun Belt Conference receiver Jalen Tolbert, covering 56 and 19 yards. Tolbert had eight catches for 121 yards on the day. QB Desmond Trotter completed 7 of 15 passes for 87 yards and one score, that coming on a 15-yard toss to Jalen Wayne. QB Eli Gainey had the day’s first big play, tossing a 69-yard scoring pass to a streaking Christian Wortham down the right sideline. Gainey was 4 of 8 passing for 93 yards. John “Tank” Miller had three carries for 33 yards and Wilson carried the ball six times for 16 yards to lead the rushing stats.
On defense, Jaden Voisin had five total tackles, with Wilfawn also making five total stops. The defense also collected six sacks on the day. On special teams, PK Diego Guajardo made 3 of 4 field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder. Jack Brooks had five punt attempts for an average of 44.6 yards.
“We’ve put so much on the players from a schematic standpoint over the first seven practices,” Wommack said. “We didn’t install anything for this scrimmage; in fact, we pulled a great deal back just to see how we would execute. I’m excited to watch that part of the film. What’s nice is we can take this film and move forward with most of the install done on both sides of the ball. Now we get to continue to clean up our fundamentals and get great at situational downs.”
Bentley said he was pleased with the work accomplished on Saturday.
“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of first scrimmages and like any first scrimmage you’re going to have things to clean up tempo-wise and getting set up faster. Overall I thought the offense competed and got after it. It is definitely a day to grow on.”
As for defense, outside linebacker Chris Henderson said, “It went pretty well defensively, we just need to work on our communication. With the new staff coming in and our first time going live with them, we needed to communicate better. But the defense brought it today.”
He added the new defensive scheme is a good style for the players. “It fits us very well,” he said. “It’s allowing us to use our talent in the correct way. We are being a lot more aggressive with our play calls and they are getting us active in the pass rush. They have added a lot more (since Wommack was at South Alabama as defensive coordinator). He is way more intense with his play-calling; he is not holding anything back, he keeps sending us and I love it.”
Watching Saturday’s scrimmage was a large number of recruits, who were seated in the visiting side bleachers.
The Jaguars will return to the practice field on Tuesday.
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