4-4-12 North Texas Spring Practice Scrimmage Observations
Posted by Harry , 04 April 2012 · 722 views
After Evan and I recorded our make-up podcast with UNT AD Rick Villarreal, I was able to catch most of the scrimmage that took place this afternoon. Here are some of my impressions:
- Running back Brandin Byrd had an impressive 75-yard touchdown run against the 1st team defense. For those who have questioned his speed, I may suggest you may want to revise that. The kid is deceptively fast and his powerful inside running make him very useful in the offense.
- I saw good things from all of the running backs today. Even little known Dimitri Wilhite (#26) had some bright spots and could end up helping us this Fall. I was particularly impressed by a short yardage touchdown run by redshirt freshman Zac Whitfield, who went wide on the defense - who seemed to know the play - and was able to stretch the ball for 6 just across the goaline with a mixture of athleticism and toughness. Antoine Jimmerson had some nice moments and showed some very good toughness in between the center and guard. The days of the workhorse running back at UNT appear to be behind us, I can see 3 running backs get significant time in this offense.
- #7 QB Derek Thompson is clearly the lead guy out there and I could really see some seasoning in his footwork and decision making in the scrimmage. I thought to myself a couple of times this guy looks the part - he looks like the guys we often have played against. #5 McNulty is getting the next most snaps although it did seem like Brent Osborn got close in plays to McNulty in this day. Both had their moments. I was pleased to get to see young Cooper Jones on a couple of plays, one in particular when he kept the ball on an option. He looks a little stiff at times (perhaps because he is so damn tall) and I was worried that when he took a big hit but he bounced right up as if nothing had happened. I did not see Dodson play but that could have been just me missing him.
- The energy level on both sides of the ball and off the field is insane...players, coaches are all waving around towels and jumping up and down on both good plays and bad...more on good plays of course. There is a lot of encouragement and cheerleading going on out there and you get a sense that with all the video equipment no one wants to be caught with their dopper down.
- I can confirm that new defensive coordinator John Skladany will use a curse word now and again. He's very tall and lean, and sort of looks like a stork flying in after plays to offer his critique. He's not as loud or athletic as Clint Bowen (Skladany wears a knee brace and favors it a bit) but he's certainly quite vocal and active on the sidelines.
- A big fight broke out between defensive end KC Obi and offensive tackle Antonio Johnson. It took 4-5 teammates to break them up and Coach McCarney came absolutely unglued. He told both players to leave the field and start running laps. Both complied immediately. If anyone believes for a second that McCarney has pulled back a bit after his medical situation you just needed to see how pissed he got about that fight. Later, when practice was ending, McCarney told both players that he did not question their toughness but that those types of episodes would get them pulled out of a game and he needed his best players against LSU.
Here are a few individual player observations that I had:
#71 Antonio Johnson - He may be the most impressive physical specimen we have on the line and his demeanor in the fight against senior KC Obi surprised me a bit. I wonder if even though McCarney was pissed about the lack of discipline he was pleased inside to see the nasty side Johnson displayed. This kid is only a sophomore and I think has a bigger upside than Matt Tomlinson although he isn't there yet.
#6 Hilbert Jackson - Will be a junior this season. I was surprised at his height, he is a legitimate 6-1 which looks really tall at the corner position. He has real good quickness, he caused an interception which was returned for a touchdown by Jeremy Phillips. I came away impressed with him and at this point he is playing better than juco DQ Johnson in my opinion. The kid is an athlete and just needs an infusion of confidence to be a fairly high level Sun Belt performer.
#8 Marcus Trice - He's short but very strong and very quick. His speed at the safety position takes a lot of heat off of the corners. I liked his instincts and the fact that he will deliver a blow at the point of attack. He kind of remind me of Marikeith Knowlton but he's faster and more athletically gifted. Should be a LOT of fun to watch the next two years.
#74 Cam Feldt - Man I love his size but I was a little disappointed in his play. He's certainly not a come right in and start right away type of player - based on my limited views from today. Let's keep in mind, he's just a sophomore and hasn't really played college ball. Because of all the line injuries he's getting fed to some of our better defensive players. He certainly has promise but he is not an immediate starter at this point in the game.
#15 Mike Marshall - Marshall had the biggest hit of the scrimmage from I believe the safety position...I recall Marshall had some huge hits on special teams last season and this walk-on looks like he may be earning a scholly if he keeps this up.
#52 Derek Akunne had a big play in the goal line situation where he burrowed through two blockers and kept the running back from getting into the end zone by hog tying his legs out from under him. Zac Orr is still the top dog of the linebackers but Akunne is really doing some nice things out there and is making himself be known to the coaches.
#14 Chaz Sampson had a couple of nice grabs in traffic.. this guy looks a foot taller than everyone he was up against. They seem to like having him run 7-yard curl/timing patters and just beat out the defensive back for the ball. He could add an interesting possession aspect to the passing offense.
#81 Chris Bynes was making catches all over the field and really looked to be in a groove today. You just have to hope that he stays healthy because he could have a huge final year for UNT.
#92 - I think this is Micah Thompson but I am not sure (he is listed at #65 on the roster)...anyway it looks like he is playing tight end and fullback, perhaps h-back. Anyway I didn't really see him do that much but it was interesting worth mentioning that he is playing that position.
#95 Lincoln Alexander is getting a lot of reps at the defensive tackle position. Not sure he will oust Ryan Boutwell but they are giving him plenty of chances to show himself.
#29 Kerry Swarn really impressed me with his size at safety. He looks a foot taller than Trice and showed some solid plays against the run.
#70 Coleman Feeley looks the part of a legitimate D-I offensive lineman (6-5, 305) and had a couple nice blocks in the running game.
#84 Marcus Smith the greyshirt freshman is getting a lot of the reps at tight end with Andy Power being out this spring with the elbow. Smith is a physical specimen at 6-4, 245? and really could turn out to help us. There are two other tight ends battling for playing time. Drew Miller (6-2, 250?) had a nice grab in traffic and doesn't appear to shy away from contact. Tanner Smith #88 had his moments in the scrimmage as well, primarily in the running game. He is every bit of 6-3, 240+.
This is a different team than the one that had Lance Dunbar on it. There is not one "showdog" player out there but one gets a sense that on a whole the size and athleticism has improved in the program.
After practice McCarney told the team that he was pleased with their effort and that they would be studying the video of the scrimmage to identify the playmakers. I am starting to get a better feel for McCarney's style with the players. He is very businesslike and matter-of-fact that the players who will help him win on game day are the ones who will show that same ability during these scrimmages...essentially it is all about making plays. He addressed the fight situation between Obi and Johnson being careful to let each player know that he knew both of them could be counted on and needed them both on the field against LSU. He said that there were some players that they knew could get the job done but others who had not yet shown this, encouraging them to make the most of the opportunity.
The discussion of summer school came up and it appeared that Friday was the deadline for them to identify the pairs of players who would be rooming together at Mozart Hall this summer. McCarney pointed out that last season some of the players signed apartment leases and that the program's preference was to have all of the scholarship players living on campus so they could better manage their funds and would have access to meals etc...
It sounds like there is a scrimmage on Saturday and tomorrow's practice will be at Apogee with shorts and shoulder pads earlyin the morning - in fact tapings are slated to begin at 5am (ouch!).
I would describe the practice as very intense and crisp. Unlike some prior regimes, there is very little standing around or group discussion...everything is geared toward getting as many clean reps in as possible so a good number of video evaluations can be assessed. McCarney seems to be enjoying himself and it comes across to the players. All of the assistants are very vocal and active during the practice - as are the players, but when you see McCarney jumping up and down or raising a fist all the white noise seems to disappear and it becomes very clear who is running the show. GMG