Football: Opening scrimmage

The 2010 football season is two weeks from getting underway for the College of William and Mary and Saturday night marked the first general look at the team midway through preseason practice. Head Coach Jimmye Laycock scheduled an open, intra-squad scrimmage and the Green will take on the Gold at 7:30 p.m.

Stay tuned for updates throughout tonight’s scrimmage. Chime in below with any questions, and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.

7:30 p.m.

Beautiful night here in Williamsburg as we get underway. A crowd of several hundred fans has taken advantage of the weather and is here watching from the stands.

Overall, it’s a very healthy squad that will be available tonight, as the Tribe has suffered no major injuries in preseason. Several players will not participate tonight, but I’m told that if today was a regular season game, just about everyone would be cleared to play.

Several thing to keep an eye on this evening.

1) QB battle: Both junior Mike Paulus and senior Mike Callahan are locked in a tight battle for the starting job, and redshirt freshman Brent Caprio figures to get some snaps as well. The race is in its final stages as the squad has just nine days until game week, and tonight’s playing time could be revealing for whom Laycock considers ahead.

2) Wide receiving corps: With the departure of D.J. McAulay, the College is fairly untested. Junior Cam Dohse and senior Chase Hill are the top returnees, while sophomores C.J. Thomas and Ryan Moody will fight for reps as well.

3) Defensive line: The College graduated Adrian Tracy and Sean Lissemore to the NFL, while also losing C.J. Herbert. Marcus Hyde and Ravi Pradhanang will be the starting ends, while Bryan Jean-Pierre and Harold Robertson feature inside.

The quarterbacks are all in red no-contact jerseys this evening.

7:45 p.m.

Mike Callahan heads the offense on the opening drive, with Cam Dohse and Ryan Moody at wideout. Courtland Marriner and Meltoya Jones are in the backfield. Callahan drops in a beautiful throw to Dohse down the left side for a 40+ yard gain, but the drive stalls just inside the red zone. David Miller drills a 36-yard field goal to convert into points. The senior looked very strong on that kick as he transitions to the full time kicking job, in addition to his all-CAA punting duties.

8:00 p.m.

Mike Paulus out now for his first drive, and he’s content to let the running game do most of the work. He starts from inside the opposing 40, and true freshman Darnell Laws takes several carries to move the offense inside the 20. A few plays later and Paulus caps the efficient drive with a strike to tight end Nolan Kearney in the end zone. Redshirt freshman Drake Kuhn drills the extra point.

Paulus starts the offense again from the 20 and throws a pick to sophomore defensive back Ethan Lee on his first throw. Looked like a miscommunication with his receiver, but the defensive line collapsed the pocket and was in his face. He’ll start again from the 20.

On the second carry, Darnell Laws gets stuffed at the line, and both Kearney and T.J. Ptachik both go down, but each are able to walk off the field. Ptachik looks the more shaken up of the two.

One play later, Paulus drops in a nice pass to Ryan Moody over the middle who gets drilled at the goal line. He hangs on for an 18-yard touchdown. Bad snap, and Kuhn falls on the loose ball on the extra point.

Through several drives, the defensive line has looked strong, denying the running game anything between the tackles. If you ignore the numbers and faces, it looks just like Tracy and Lissemore out there.

8:10 p.m.

David Miller comes on to practice a few punts, and he looks every bit as strong as he did last season. He booms the first one 50 yards in the air, and the second kick travels 44 yards with good hang time. His third backs return man Ryan Woolfolk up a good 15 yards, and went about 55 yards. Redshirt freshman David Hoysa takes one and hits it end over end about 40 yards.

Callahan comes back out now, and he’ll go against the first team defense, starting from the opposing 25. Courtland Marriner gets the first carry and doesn’t gain much, but shows off his speed and shiftiness. He’s looked very good tonight, similar to his mid-season form last year. It appears that Jonathan Grimes is being held out tonight. Laycock obviously knows what he can do, so no need to risk any injury.

On a third down and 7, Callahan finds nobody open and pulls it down, before getting “touched” down by a defender. He’s looked a little more eager to take off and run tonight than Paulus, who’s waited more to find something open downfield.

On fourth down, Callahan drops a nice pass in to D.J. Mangas (who’s moved over to wide receiver from quarterback) at the three. The senior has certainly made some nice throws tonight. Riggins gets a carry, but is stacked up the impenetrable defensive middle.

I’ll take that back about Grimes being held out. He comes in split out wide and makes a nice, turning catch for a touchdown from Callahan. Nice connection there by the pair on an out route.

8:20 p.m.

Mike Paulus takes over again on offense and starts with a bang. He finds C.J. Thomas who’s open over the middle about 25 yards downfield, and it goes for a 50-yard gain. Thomas was surrounded by about four defenders, and Paulus dropped in a perfect touch pass to find him. He hits Terreon Conyers on the next play for five yards on a crossing pattern.

The defensive line stuffs a running play and an incompletion brings up fourth and short, where Laws bulls through the left side for a first down. A play later, Laws goes left side again and picks up some tough yards down to the goal line. The true freshman has looked very strong tonight while running impressively. I can’t imagine he gets any playing time with the Tribe’s deep stable of backs, however, and will probably redshirt.

Paulus hits Thomas on a fade in the corner of the end zone, where he uses his size to outmaneuver his defender. That’s a play Tribe fans have been excited to see, and the pair seemed to have very good chemistry on that connection. Thomas has outstanding size and athleticism, but the knock on him last year was his hands. I’m told he worked hard on his catching ability this summer, and could be a crucial component of the College’s redzone offense this fall.

8:30 p.m.

On to kickoffs now. Miller takes a few and looks somewhat mediocre, sending them down to about the 12 and the 7. That area has definitely been a weakness for the College in the past few seasons. True freshman John Carpenter now has his chance and doesn’t seem to have a much stronger leg, sending his only kick down to the 15. He was highly regarded in high school however, and the coaching staff is hopeful he can develop into a strong kicker in the next few seasons.

Mike Paulus back out, and the units will switch, as he will go up against the first team defense. Arguably I’ve though Callahan has looked slightly better thus far even against the first team, although both have seemed sharp. It’s also important not to read too much into this; even though it’s a scrimmage, it’s only one practice in many.

Paulus completes his first throw to Chase Hill on an out route. Nice throw, placed perfectly over his shoulder, away from the defender. They then try going deep, where Hill is badly overthrown. Ethan Lee almost had his second pick of the night on that one. Woolfolk gets an end around and picks up a seven or eight. The sophomore converted to wideout from a defensive back this offseason, and will look to earn reps there.

The defensive line gets yet another stuff up the middle on third and short, bringing up fourth and two. Kearney is back out, so he must be fine after being shaken up earlier. The defense jumps on fourth down, and the offense gets a new set of downs.

Paulus makes a great throw, putting one right on Woolfolk’s fingertips 20 yards down the field. But the sophomore is drilled coming down, and can’t hang on. Good coverage, but a really great throw. The quarterback then drops one in to Mangas who was well covered. Paulus has made some very good touch throws tonight, showing great accuracy.

8:45 p.m.

The offense stalls, and Miller drills a 26-yard field goal.

Brent Caprio now in to get his first reps and he begins by hooking up with Conyers down the left sideline for 45 yards. The defense has been torched through the air tonight, although about 65 percent of the offense’s plays have been passes. Caprio then hits Moody for another 15 yards on a nice stopping pattern. A third straight completion goes to John Ribble for a few yards.

On second down, true freshman Stephen Sinnot breaks through the line and “sacks” Caprio who was running for his life. He then recovers by rifling a bullet in to Mangas just across the goal line for a touchdown. That one looked like it would be picked, but Caprio got just enough on it to get it through the defense.

Overall, a very good drive for the redshirt freshman, who was very accurate in the pocket.

9:00 p.m.

Callahan back in. He hits a short completion while on the run, before connecting with Kearney over the middle. Kearney has been active tonight and he, along with Alex Gottlieb, will seek to fill the production lost from the departed Rob Varno this fall.

Callahan then misses an open Moody with only the end zone in front of him. That’s one of the only balls he’s really misplaced tonight. On the next play, Marcus Hyde blows up Mike Salazar to force Callahan into a dumpoff. Impressive bull rush.

Several plays later, Callahan is picked off by Evan Francks, who jumps a sideline route to make the play. Great range by the senior. The linebackers have been fairly silent tonight, but Francks, Jake Trantin and Wes Steinman stack up to be perhaps the best unit in the CAA.

The offense resets, and is now running a two-minute drill. The defense is giving them the short, flat patterns and Callahan is content to complete some passes there, but it doesn’t move the chains particularly efficiently. Trantin then breaks through to “sack” Callahan, which keeps the clock moving.

Interestingly, that defensive approach is how Richmond and Villanova were able to effectively contain the Tribe in victories last season. Laycock is throwing it at his offense now, I suppose, in an effort to prepare them. Guess he’s got 200 victories for a reason.

A few plays later, another sack, and the clock runs out. The offense looked great for much of the night, but the defense dominated the two-minute drill.

9:15 p.m.

Paulus out now, and he will go against the first team defense as well, leading the first team offense in a 30 second drill from midfield. His first throw goes deep and incomplete. A short completion to Mangas, is followed by a great run after catch for the former quarterback. He’s been active tonight.

A nice completion gets the offense down to the 29, and David Miller will come on for a 46-yard field goal to end the night. The snap is bad again, and he won’t get the chance.

That’s it for tonight, as both Mike Callahan and Mike Paulus post good performances in their race for the starting quarterback job. I’m off to talk to Laycock, but I’ll have more later, including quotes and analysis.


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