Following an up and down offensive performance during last Saturday’s scrimmage, head football coach Watson Brown granted praise to a couple of often overlooked position groups.
The praised efforts came largely from the offensive line and tight ends group, who grabbed six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown in the team’s second scrimmage.
“We’ve got some nice looking tight ends,” said Brown. “That’s been a pleasant happening this spring. I think every position has gotten better, but the offensive line and tight ends group has probably been the biggest area of improvement.”
The positive performance follows a season that saw limited action for tight ends in Tech’s passing game. The position’s absence from receiving stat totals could be attributed – in part – to injuries, most notably to starter Dametris Watson.
Another contributing factor to the position’s quiet 2014 campaign was the offensive line’s continued struggling to protect quarterbacks Darian Stone and Jared Davis. The Golden Eagles led the OVC last season in sacks allowed, giving up 36 total on the year (3.0 average per game), with 20 in OVC play.
Given the early loss to injury for Watson and a combined 18 sacks allowed in the first four games, the offense was forced to scale back on catching routes in order to add bodies to better shield the pocket.
As the season progressed, so did the offensive line, which developed continuity among its core five. Brown said that as of now, the core consists of tackles Charles Rutledge and William Chatmon, Brett Dillard and Jibrin Linge at the guard position, and Charles Mouton snapping the ball from center.
While Brown said he’s confident in his starters from the line of scrimmage this spring, he said he’d still like to see development from younger players, as they try and push for the starting role in the fall.
"I think our first team offensive line has been pretty dang solid all spring,” said Brown. “But, we’ve got to get some of the guys behind them to come along, too.”
As for the rest of the offense, quarterback Jared Davis continued his successful spring, passing 14-of-21 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Davis took the first team offense and marched out of the gate fast. On the first drive, the junior threw 5-for-5 for 65 yards, completing his final throw to Brock McCoin for a 16-yard touchdown.
And then there’s Colby Brown, the Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College transfer who arrived on campus in January. Brown, along with redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Jobe, is in line to challenge Davis for the starting job. In the first two scrimmages, each of the backing suitors have thrown an interception.
Given Brown has spent the past few months learning a foreign playbook, or as Coach Brown calls “the stuff,” it goes without saying that it’s going to take time and experience to adapt and adjust. The same case could be made for Jobe, who’s still relatively new to the system, too.
But still, Davis, who’s been turnover-free in the two scrimmages, remains the favorite for the team’s starting signal caller spot. Although Brown still has yet to officially name the team’s quarterback for the fall, he said that Davis is “well in the lead.”
"Jared, as of right now, is our starting quarterback, and it’s because he just knows us so much better (than Brown and Jobe),” said Coach Brown. “He’s just quicker in what he does. I’m not saying I’m naming anybody, but y’all see it – he’s head and shoulders the best right now.”
Brown continued, “But, every day, these young guys get a little better. They just need more reps. The difference to me isn’t ability, it’s polish, and they’re just not there yet.”
Aside from the one interception to senior rover Jimmy Laughlin, Brown threw 10-of-13 for 111 yards, completing his first seven passes in a row.
Jobe finished the day 6-of-7 for 62 yards. After completing his first six passes, Jobe’s final pass was a pick-6 to freshman Josh Poplar, who took the pass down the sidelines for a 42-yard score for the defense.
The rushing group scored two touchdowns, both from seniors Radir Annor (three carries, 64 yards) and Ladarius Vanlier (four carries, 18 yards). Willie Davis added 49 yards on six carries, with Jared Davis rushing for 32 yards on five attempts.
Wide receivers continue to impress this spring. Tyler Harrell finished with five catches for 71 yards to lead the team in receiving Saturday. Krys Cates caught five catches for 61 yards in the showing. Cates, who missed last season with an injury, seems to have picked up where he left off in 2013, after leading the team in receiving with 28 receptions for 390 yards. Brock McCoin added five catches for 45 yards to his first drive score.
The team will conclude its spring slates Saturday after the annual Purple vs. Gold Spring Scrimmage. Free to the public, the game will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Tucker Stadium.
Expect to see a few unfamiliar faces, as younger players look to try and catch the attention of their position coaches and coordinators. While there are several key positions locked in place, there are still a few jobs that have yet to be filled.
“These scrimmages are all about evaluation,” said Brown. “The more kids we can get in and the more we get to see them, the better decision we’ll be able to make. We know what we’ve got in guys like Brock McCoin and Jay Rudwall – we just need to see some of these other guys step up.”
Following the scrimmage, an awards dinner honoring last season’s standout performers will be held at 5 p.m. in the Roaden University Center. Admission to the event is $18 per person.