Fritz showcases offensive in final preseason scrimmage

Hayden Boudreaux

After the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new football operations center, fans quickly grabbed their seats to watch the Eagles’ improvement over the off-season in the final scrimmage before their kickoff with NC State.

Booming cheers from the stadium speakers and 500 eager fans pushed the team to complete nearly two hours of quality work in the newly-renovated Paulson Stadium. This was a situational scrimmage, meaning Head Coach Willie Fritz gets to line the offense up at a certain yard line with a predetermined amount of time left. This allows the offense to practice scoring or getting in field goal position late in a game.

Fans saw entirely new offensive sets grace their side of the field and very few flashes of the old triple option. Nearly every play was ran out of the gun with either one or two backs flanking the quarterback. There were instances when the tight end was pulled behind the tackle with a running back and quarterback still in the backfield. The play calling was pass heavy, with handoffs to a host of running backs sprinkled in throughout the morning.

What to take away:

– Most plays were ran out of shotgun formation

– Quarterbacks both threw well and handled situations calmly.

– Group of backs performed well, but with no obvious standout

– Kickers were perfect on the day

– Very few mental errors

Both quarterbacks looked strong and confident in the wide-open system. Redshirt sophomore Kevin Ellison flicked a pass to junior receiver B.J. Johnson on the left sideline for a 40-yard gain on the first drive, which ended in a field goal from junior kicker Alex Hanks. Ellison also threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Montey Crockett.

Sophomore quarterback Favian Upshaw was able to hook up with junior wideout Ryan Longoria on a 25-yard score along with completing several short-to-mid range passes throughout the day. Upshaw had a busy offseason tweaking his mechanics and adjusting to airing the ball out on most drives.

“I’ve been working on trying to throw on the run, get all my (play) calls right, but mainly trying to slow myself down mentally and have everything ready before I snap the ball,” Upshaw said.

A host of running backs were seen from the Eagles on Saturday. Offensive Coordinator Doug Ruse said that it was too early to name a starting running back, instead listing a group of backs to rotate in with the first team.

One of the running backs involved in the first group is senior Ean Days. Days transferred to Ga. Southern after a stint at Illinois, but suffered a season-ending hip injury last season. He expects to see the field against NC State and has set his goals for the season.

“I had surgery on my hip, so this offseason has been about getting better and stronger. I want to go this entire season without an injury, rush for 1000 yards, and go undefeated,” Days said.

The question of the offseason was whether or not the coaching change and shift from the traditional triple option would be well received and executed by the players. Saturday showed the leaps and bounds made over the last eight months leading up to their kickoff against NC State in two weeks. Ellison believes his team has adjusted well and is excited for his opportunity to play in the new system.

“(Fritz) has done a great job teaching us this new scheme of putting the ball in the air and relaxing in the pocket. All the quarterbacks and offensive line did a great job switching over to this new offense,” Ellison said.

After the last eight months of coaching changes, personnel changes, new adjustments and a new stadium the Eagles are ready to start their season out with a bang. The game against NC State will be held in Raleigh, N.C. at 12:30pm on Aug. 30.