The Stetson football team worked through the heat and humidity for a more than three hour scrimmage on Saturday morning at the Athletic Training Center.
Despite missing several players on both sides of the ball because of injuries, the Hatters worked through a total of 184 plays, with 35 of those coming on special teams.
Hatters coach Roger Hughes said he lost track of time during the scrimmage.
“When you are the head coach, you have all of the administrative things you have to do,” Hughes said. “The fun part comes when you are out on the field. I like to extend that time for as long as I can. One of the coaches told me that we had just crossed three hours, and I didn’t even realize it. But, the special teams part of it takes a little time to get organized.”
There were highlights on both sides of the ball. The offense was able to connect for some big plays, including a 61-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback Lucas Phillips and a 53-yard scoring scamper by another true freshman, Dre Long.
On the other side, the defense recorded five sacks to go with 15 other tackles for loss. The defense also knocked down several passes at the line and deflected others in the secondary. The only turnovers included a fumble lost by running back Jerami Singleton and an interception by defensive lineman Matt Mines on a Ryan Tentler pass that was deflected by another defensive lineman.
“We got a lot of work done, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Hughes said of the overall effort. “We were a little sluggish today. We have camp legs a little and we were a little slower. I think we are getting better as a team.
“Defensively, it was great to see some stops, which we didn’t have last week. I think having Donald Payne and some other guys back that missed the last scrimmage made a difference.”
Even with Payne and others back on defense, the Hatters piled up a total of 734 yards of total offense, an average of 5.24 yards per play.
Much of the ground game was produced by true freshmen Long and Kyle Edgar. That duo combined to rush for 231 yards on 40 carries, with Edgar leading the way with 24 carries for 122 yards. Long finished with 109 yards on 16 carries, and scored two touchdowns. Singleton also had a busy day, rushing for 41 yards on 18 carries, scoring three touchdowns in goal line situations.
“We are excited about our young running backs.” Hughes said. “I think we have four or five who can play. We had a couple who didn’t scrimmage today because they are injured, and they could add to that depth. The nice part about those athletic kids is that they will have a chance to add to our special teams as returners. But, I am pleased with them.”
Edgar, who played most of his high school career in Germany, got off to a fast start, gaining 72 yards on his first seven carries. Long got his day started with a 53 yard TD run on his fourth carry, and finished strong with 31 yards and another score on his last five attempts.
“Kyle’s style is more of a cutback, slasher type of back,” Hughes said. “He has gotten better at understanding how plays are supposed to be run and how he is supposed to hit the hole. Dre Long has all the talent in the world, but he has to become a better inside runner and has to finish plays. That comes with being a freshman. We are pleased with his progress.”
Tentler again led the passing attack, throwing for 110 yards on 6-of-15 passing, despite having numerous dropped passes. He had the one interception early in the scrimmage and closed with a 63-yard strike to Darius McGriff to set up a touchdown during a two-minute drill.
Jonathan Jerozal also had a good day, completing 6-of-12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. His TD came on a 26-yard strike to Kegan Moore. Overall, the six Stetson quarterbacks completed 27-of-51 pass attempts for 353 yards.
The Hatters had 13 different receivers make receptions, but none had more than four catches. Robbie Robertson (4-45) and Jonathan Strahl (4-35) were the leaders in receptions while McGriff (2-81) and Moore (2-54) were the leaders in yardage. Other top receivers were Taylor Dunn (3-39) and Devon Garnett (3-35).
Stetson continues to be without the services of several players who were expected to be contributors this year. That list included Jason Willix, Ryan Selimos, A.J. Washington, Spencer Whittaker, Julius Holder and Terrance Burt, among several others. Freshman linebacker Ryan Gildea also went down early in the scrimmage with a sprained ankle.
“Injuries are always a concern, but we try to take the approach that then next man is up,” Hughes said. “We are waiting to hear on Selimos, who got injured last night. Hopefully it is not as bad as we first thought. A.J. Washington, we thought might have injured his ACL, but now it looks like his MCL and we may get him back.”
The team will have some time off tonight and on Sunday before returning to practice on Monday at 8:30 a.m. When the squad does return to the practice field, the focus will be on game preparation for the season opener against Warner.
“These first two weeks have been about evaluation, but the next two weeks will be about getting ready to go,” Hughes said. “We have 17 practices, so we only get 10 more before we play, and a couple of those will be walk-throughs. We are going to start focusing on, and honing down, the actual game plan now.”
One of those practices will be a third scrimmage, next Saturday night at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium. Even though the opener will only be a week away at that point, the scrimmage that night will be full contact.
“Obviously there will be a couple of players we will protect, but we need all of the experience we can get,” Hughes said. “Next weekend will be shorter and more controlled. It is about trying to get timing down. About getting the offensive line and the quarterbacks working together. Defensively, we have to continue to work on gap integrity, coverages, two minute defense, just little things where we are making mistakes.”
With Stetson students returning to campus this weekend, and the start of the fall semester on Thursday, Hughes said it will be important for the team to maintain focus.
“You have to keep focusing on what is important,” Hughes said. “The excitement on campus is building, and our kids can feel that. The excitement in the community is building as well. It is going to be a fun day for everyone, but our minds have to be focused on the things we have to do.”
Passing (completions-attempts-yards): Ryan Tentler – 6-15-1, 110 yards; Nick LaSala – 3-6-0, 26 yards; Blake Plattsmier – 5-10-0, 50 yards; Jonathan Jerozal – 6-12-0, 83 yards, 1 TD; Ian Leggett – 4-7-0, 44 yards, 1 TD; Lucas Phillips – 3-5-0, 40 yards, 1 TD; Total – 27-51-1, 353 yards, 3 TD
Rushing (attempts-yards-TD): Mike Yonker – 2-5; Ryan Tentler – 3-(-3); Dre Long – 16-109-2, long 53; Kyle Edgar – 24-122, long 17; Jerami Singleton – 18-41-3, long 10, 1 fumble lost; Nick LaSala – 3-10; Blake Plattsmier – 4-13-1; Jonathan Jerozal – 7-1; Ian Leggett – 5-19-1; Justin Reynolds – 2-(-7); Lucas Phillips – 4-65-1, long 61; David Williams – 1-6; Total – 89-381-8
Receiving (receptions-yards-TD): MikeYonker – 1-11; Rob Coggin – 2-13; Jonathan Strahl – 4-35-1; Darius McGriff – 2-81; Jerami Singleton – 1-2; Taylor Dunn – 3-39; Devon Garnett – 3-35; Devon Jones-Stewart – 1-5; Kegan Moore – 2-54-1; Andrew Fuehrer – 1-5; Robbie Robertson – 4-45-1; Chris Crawford – 1-5; Chris Veal – 2-23; Total – 27-353
Sacks – Andrew Green, Morris Eguakun, Erick Trujillo, Shayne White, Dylan Wydronkowski
TFL – Donald Payne, Patrick Cone, Marc Kagan, David Lazear, Jamari Haywood, Taylor Greene, Jeb Boudreaux
PBU – Donald Payne, Bryne Jenkins, Sean Hensley, Tristan Juarez (2)
Interception – Matt Mines