There is less than five months remaining before the Eagle football team heads to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in their first game of the season. The team is in full preparation mode, having their first full pads scrimmage on Saturday.
After a short group period and individual position practices, the offense and the defense split into white and blue jerseys and took separate sides of the field. First up would be the starters, or the “ones,” on offense going against the starters on defense until they could not score or make a first down. Then, the next group on the depth chart would take over. Several players sat out of the scrimmage, most notably star running backs Matt Brieda and L.A. Ramsby, so some of the younger guys could get a chance to get some playing time.
The team has been practicing together for less than two weeks and look to remain a solid team moving forward. After all, the story of the day was the new faces that graced Paulson Stadium, including a possible new backfield tandem.
Stepping in for Brieda and Ramsby was redshirt freshman Thomas Banks and sophomore Chaz Thornton. Both backs rotated in with the starting groups and saw the majority of the reps Saturday. Banks is a hard runner with deceptive speed and held blocks well. Thornton also ran hard between the tackles but had an explosiveness that he was itching to let loose.
“Chaz Thornton and Thomas Banks, I like those guys. They are hard runners and hard workers,” Ellison said.
In examining the overall takeaways from the first scrimmage, one of the most important notes is that the practice was full speed but very minimal contact was allowed, with whistles blowing at almost the instant contact was made. This is done more than just to preserve their health; the coaches are looking at how the players respond to a game like situation, how they are using their techniques and not so much on how hard they can hit in the first scrimmage.
“We’re no where close to where we were last year, but we are working towards it at practice every day. We are working with this new offensive line to try and get those younger guys ready and prepared to play with the big dogs,” junior quarterback Kevin Ellison said.
The offense looked similar to last year, with all three quarterbacks tossing more passes than fans would be accustomed to seeing but many sailed off target, giving the offense something to work on moving forward.
“I thought it was a good day. [There was] a lot of energy out here, guys flying around and making plays,” senior safety Matt Dobson said.
With Ellison and Favian Upshaw taking two thirds of the reps under center, that left room for another new face, redshirt freshman Monteo Garrett, to make his first appearance. He originally rotated in with the third string, but towards the end of practice the coaches had him switch from his red quarterback jersey to a white jersey and both teams were now allowed full contact.
“It was a great experience. It was probably my first time getting real licks since my senior year of high school, and I got to see the flow of college football and how fast the game is,” Garrett said.
Overall, Garrett held his own for most of the morning. He nailed most of his reads and ran hard through the play. While there were some errant passes, the young guy showed poise when he dropped back into the pocket and made few to no noticeable mental errors.
The entire scrimmage lasted about 90 minutes, and coaches will certainly have a lot of film to look over. While the team struggled in some areas, they appear to be weeks ahead of where they were at this point last year. If the Eagles can come out and replicate their success on the field from last season, that will certainly keep the Statesboro faithful happy.
The season may be months away, but fans are encouraged to come out for the annual Blue-White Spring game at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, April 18 at 1 p.m.