After one week of practice in preparation for the 2013 season, the Stetson football coaching staff got their first opportunity to evaluate the Hatters in a scrimmage setting Saturday night at the Athletic Training Center.
The two-and-a-half hour scrimmage opened with a long special teams period that included 27 total reps on kickoffs, punts and PAT/field goal. After that, the offensive and defensive units squared off for 114 plays.
The result of all that work was nine touchdowns, three passing and six rushing, to go along with six turnovers, three on fumbles and three on interceptions.
“We turned it over too much on offense, but the good thing is that we did turn it over on defense,” Hatters head coach Roger Hughes said. “The bad on defense is that our run defense is not where it needs to be. We need to be much better, and our conditioning is not where it needs to be to make that happen. We have to be in better condition than everyone else.”
Despite putting the ball on the ground six times in the scrimmage, losing three fumbles, the Hatters piled up 337 yards rushing on 65 total carries. A.J. Washington was the break-away leader among the running backs, carrying the ball 15 times and piling up 131 yards and three scores. He capped his evening with a 78 yard touchdown run during a two-minute drill late in practice.
Even with all of the rushing yards the team piled up, the running backs were the last to leave the field after the scrimmage, putting in a little extra work with assistant coach Atif Austin as a reminder on the importance of protecting the ball.
Beside the running game, the offensive production was spotty. Starting quarterback Ryan Tentler led two quick touchdown drives early in the scrimmage but finished the evening just 4-of-9 passing for 91 yards and a score.
All six quarterbacks got into the action with similar results. The totals for the passing game were 19-of-49 attempts for 233 yards, but all of the passers suffered from having passes dropped.
“Offensively, there were some good spots,” Hughes said. “Tentler took them right down the field and Jonathan Jerozal (3-6, 40 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) showed some good signs. It is never as good or as bad as it looks.
“What we have to do is find a way to get the ball to our playmakers. Chris Crawford (two receptions for 25 yards) didn’t touch the ball much tonight and we have to get him the ball. We’ll look at that and start fine tuning. We just have a few more things to put in offensively, then it will just be a matter of improving execution.”
While Tentler opened as the starter in this scrimmage, the competition between him and Jerozal is ongoing.
“There is some great competition between Ryan and Jon and they work well together,” Hughes said. “They work to help each other. I think we have two that can play. Nick LaSala got a lot of snaps tonight and we will have to access the film to see where he is. He was a little behind based on what we saw earlier, but we still have to find a number three.”
LaSala completed 4-of-14 passes for 45 yards and led one 10-play touchdown drive. Junior college transfer Blake Plattsmier led the most scoring drives, three, but completed just three of seven pass attempts for 21 yards.
The standout among the receivers was Devon Garnett, who had two catches for 58 yards. He had 50-yard reception from Tentler to set up a score and then hauled in a nice 8-yard TD pass from Jerozal.
The Hatter will take a break from practice on Sunday, holding meetings and getting in some conditioning, before jumping back in with a pair of practice sessions scheduled for Monday.
“We are going to do a little fun run tomorrow, but we mostly want to get them off their feet,” Hughes said. “We want them to get their legs back a little because, on Monday, we are going to go right back into a two-a-day. We’ll focus on the run game in the morning and the pass game in the afternoon.
“We got a lot of work done today. We are still a long way from being a good team, but they still have a chance to end up being pretty good.”
Season tickets for the return of Stetson football are still on-sale, but good seats are going fast. Visit www.gohatters.com/tix to order tickets or call 386-738-HATS to order by phone.
Fans can also follow the Hatters online via social media on the official Stetson Athletics Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/stetsonhatters ) and through the Stetson Football Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/stetsonfootball ). On Twitter, follow the Hatters @StetsonHatters @StetsonFootball and @JohnB_Stetson.
Fans should also remember to signup for Hat-Alerts, the official Stetson Athletics Text Messaging service at www.gohatters.com/text .
As the countdown clock continues to wind, also visit the Stetson Football A-to-Z Gameday Guide ( www.gohatters.com/gameday ) to get all the information you will need for making the 2013 Stetson football season successful.