Getting right to it….
Overall-The spring game was overall very much a success and a good indicator of where this group is as a team and the strides that have been made in just one calender year. It is truly amazing to see this. In the prior games, we saw either defense dominate, or the offense dominate, and Saturday this was not the case. Both units showed what they can do with split squads and different guys around them. So ananlysis/grades, and then awards time.
The Good-With Tyrik Rollison out, Harrison Stewart and Deric Davis played most of the snaps for both squads. I have written how I hope that Davis finds his spot with the team maybe in a different capacity being a 3rd string guy, but he proved he is starter material with the first group. He threw 3 very good touchdown passes and despite constant pressure, may have gotten touch sacked a couple of times. He used his feet to buy time and I really see he is fighting for his position. Whoever starts at QB, will have earned their position. The QB’s that played, every one of them, played well. Davis played well from start to finish. Stewart started slow, but as soon as his guys started to get open he was very good going vertical. Trevor Lasseter played well as did Austin Smith and new QB Joshua Brown played well in limited time. The QB position is a log jam, but competition just makes the other guy better. The offensive line played very well in run blocking and also pass protection with virtually no calls on false starts and dead ball fouls. WR’s got open on intermediate length routes and ran sidelines very well. The Running backs were the biggest surprise. They will be an X factor to the offense and they showed that they can gash very well with screens and draws.
The Bad-Coach Carthel talks about consistency, and this unit needs its from every player and at times both squads were running their offenses well and then would start to sputter. WR’s dropped, yes dropped many big gain touchdowns, and the line allowed some penetration for touch sacks. Also, two holding penalties wiped out two scores for the blue squad and they came at critical times and beautiful throws by Harrison Stewart. Those are absolute killers.
Unit Grade-B Plus. I am grading on a curve because as solid as they were overall, they can be better and need to work on dropped passes and some communication on plays.
Pressure. All of the pressure was there. It forced quick throws from all of the QB’s. Very few missed tackles and good assignment defense. They kept the offense’s big plays from turning bigger, which is what you hope for when the inevitable big plays do happen, as they always do. We also saw the front 7 play with multiple looks and execute their coverage schemes very well. I am just amazed with how smart and quick to pick things up the whole team is, especially defense. Both squads created turnovers that were big and due to pressure and good coverage.
The Bad-There is one glaring weakness I see and that is one on one coverage. Both the blue and white squads scored on one on coverages where its was just WR VS. DB and the QB taking end zone shots. Now, you have to give credit to the QB’s for throwing excellent TD passes, but they spotted man coverage and the WR won more often than not. Like I said, sometimes you can play the best coverage in the world, but if the QB puts the ball where only the WR can get it, it is pretty hard to defend, but this is something I am sure the defense will want to prevent. After all, they did force some drops due to pressure they put on QB and REC alike.
Grade-A minus. Saw a great effort and hard hits from a quick aggressive defense who has improved against run defense and played well against the pass.
The Good-Saul Martinez and Chase Thrasher are going to be your kickers and both have incredible legs. Martinez has the edge on the punting duties, but expect Thrasher to handle at least some kicking duty. At the halftime break, both guys were blasting and nailing kicks from 50 plus yards out. When Martinez was punting, he did a very good job.
The Bad-Not really bad, but there were some dumb penalties for things like kick-catch interference and defensive holding. Things that can be corrected and it was just guys trying to make plays. A few punts were kind of shanked due to the wind, but bear in mind we will have to play in Witchita Falls, Portales, NM and possibly Abilene so wind will be a factor and it has to be compensated for.
Overall grade- A Minus. Correct the correctable and this is a very good and talented group.
Last year Coach Hawkins and Sam McCord were guest coaches. This year, the staff asked area Superintendents and former Lion lettermen Blake Cooper and Mike Lamb to be guest coaches. Cooper was a letterman in the early 1980’s and was the starting Center for the 1980 team that were National Semi-Finalists that bowed out to Elon College in the National Semifinals. Lamb lettered from 1994-1996 and was a member of the 1995 Lion team that won the North Division and finished second overall in the conference and lost to Portland State in the first round of the 1995 NCAA Division II playoffs. Great to have former lettermen on campus to influence this group. I love the guest coach idea. HC Carthel did a fantastic job putting this scrimmage together in structure. He just sat back and observed and let the team do their thing. I was impressed by this approach and I think since coaching is an art form, this guy has it down. He let them play and figure out their mistakes, and that is how you make a good player in my opinion. Grade is nothing short than a A Plus.
Deric Davis. He played well from start to finish and really played well and made virtually no mistakes. He was excellent on the run and in the pocket and going vertical. He was just outstanding.
Broderick Thomas. The guy was Johnny on the spot and was everywhere on the field making tackles solo and assist. I counted 12, maybe 13 he had solo and assisted on a bunch more. He played very hard and very well.
Special Teams Co-MVP’s-
Thrasher and Martinez showed what they can both do and they both kicked the ball very well and we will need that. Kicker is a position we do not have to worry a bit about.
Ricky Collins scored the lone TD for the Blue squad but he played very well. I saw some highlight film of him from Kilgore Junior College, which produces a ton of good athletes and man he is really a good one on one player. He is very fast and plays to get the ball in his hands. I think he will complement Vernon Johnson quite nicely. He plays opposite side of Johnson so I am excited to see what he can do.
Austin Smith, a back-up QB who was a Redshirt Freshman last year stepped in and took total control of his unit when he was under center. He changed plays, audible in and out of plays and read coverage very well. Out of all the non Senior QB’s, I was most impressed with him and his confidence and not forcing anything, but taking what the defense gave him.
Attendance-Saturday was a beautiful day all over North Texas and I expected a bigger crowd, but as I was chatting with a coach afterwards, it was a good crowd, but it was one those days to run around and get things done, but the attendance was good for the most part and it shows how interested the students and community continue to be in the resurrection of the storied Lion Football program.