On Campus in Nashville - The Commodores capped their first week of Spring Practice Saturday with an enthusiastic 78-play scrimmage held at the John Rich Practice Facility.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson saw plenty to like and other areas needing attention during the Commodores' initial scrimmage.
The Commodores dodged morning storms over Middle Tennessee, starting practice with sprinkles and concluding under sunny skies.
Johnson put the Commodores through a 16-drive scrimmage that featured two offensive touchdown drives, a pair of turnovers, and several outstanding individual plays by the defense. The session Saturday followed the team's first full-pad practice on Thursday and a no-pads workout on Friday.
Following the scrimmage, Johnson was pleased with his squad's overall effort and intensity. "Generally, I liked what I saw. I thought our coaches saw their guys giving effort, trying to make plays, and trying to get better," he said. "At the same time, it's the first time we're tackled this spring, and some guys might have lost some concentration at times.
"To be perfectly honest, just to get the practice in and scrimmage is big for our guys. The weather didn't look like it wanted to cooperate an hour before practice. We'll take a close look at the film, see what we did right and what he did wrong, and plan to make improvements when we return to practice on Tuesday," Johnson added.
All four Commodore quarterbacks - Chris Nickson, Mackenzi Adams, Jared Funk and Larry Smith - directed multiple possessions. Nickson guided the first touchdown drive, with Adams and Smith sharing duties on the final 60-yard scoring drive that concluded the scrimmage.
Though two early drives ended inside the defense's 5-yard line, the offense didn't produce a touchdown until its 12th possession when Nickson capped a 30-yard drive with a 7-yard scoring strike to receiver Turner Wimberly. The last drive ended with Smith connecting from 4 yards with tailback Kennard Reeves.
After a pass breakup by cornerback Josh Allen and pressure by linebacker Nate Campbell ended the first possession, Funk and Jared Hawkins helped the offense get untracked in its second drive. After three rushes by Hawkins produced a first down, Funk found Hawkins on a screen pass that resulted in a 46-yard gain. Tackle Reilly Lauer posted a superb open-field block to help spring Hawkins. Two defenders, linebacker Chris Johnson and safety Brent Trice, pressured Funk into incomplete passes inside the 5-yard line to force a field goal.
The offense, sparked by the tough running of Gaston Miller and a 47-yard Adams to Chris Reinert hookup, again moved inside the 5-yard line on its fourth possession before tackle T.J. Greenstone's tackle for loss and an incompletion ended the drive.
The first offensive touchdown was sparked by a 9-yard first down carry by Nickson and two Reeves' rushes netting 11 yards. Nickson found Wimberly for the score after buying extra time scrambling to his right.
The defense came right back to stop their counterparts on its two possessions. Trice, Stone, Strong and Caldwell all contributed impressive tackles for the defense.
On the final possession, Adams connected with Wimberly for 18 yards before giving way to Smith, who hit Larry Simmons for 16 yards and produced a second first down on a 10-yard rush. Smith and Reeves followed with the touchdown pass from four yards.
Wearing Gold Jerseys
Safety Ryan Hamilton and receiver Udom Umoh were awarded gold jerseys by Coach Johnson prior to the scrimmage. Other Commodores recognized by Johnson previously were Stone and offensive tackle Thomas Welch on Friday and linebacker John Stokes and Lauer on Thursday.
Commodore Practice Schedule
With five practices completed, the Commodores will take Sunday and Monday off, and return to the Rich Practice Facility Tuesday afternoon. The team plans to practice daily through next Saturday.