Backups Get Chance to Shine in Scrimmage
Aug. 23, 2006
The road ahead is rough, so rest and getting a look at his depth were on the list of priorities for head coach Paul Wulff. His Eastern Washington University football team concluded its second week of pre-season practices with a 42-play scrimmage Wednesday (Aug. 23) morning at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Most of EWU's starters were held out, leading to big performances from relative unknowns such as Dezmon Cole, A.J. Jimerson, Shane Eller, Lorenzo Lomack, Jacob Kragt, Josh Jacobson, Lonnie Hosley and E.J. Whitley. The defense had the upper hand, holding Eagle offensive units to 196 yards of total offense and just one score.
"We wanted to see what individuals are going be ready to play and help us," said Wulff, whose team opens the season next Thursday (Aug. 31) at Oregon State in a game televised live regionally on Fox Sports Net at 7 p.m. Pacific time. "We are going to have a lot of players play in our first game. It was important that some of these players got a lot of reps today."
The offense passed for 131 yards and rushed for another 65, but that included minus 36 yards on seven quick-whistle sacks recorded by the defense. Jimmerson's 1-yard scoring run was the lone score in eight offensive possessions, and that came after a 64-yard catch and run by Eller from freshman redshirt quarterback Matt Nichols.
"As a unit I don't know if they functioned real well because there were individual breakdowns at times," said Wulff. "There are players who aren't ready to play and some that are ready to play, and that is what we kind of get to see when we watch the video."
Lomack, a true freshman from San Diego, Calif., led the defense with 2 1/2 sacks. Kragt, a redshirt freshman from Ritzville, Wash., added two sacks and had three total tackles. Jacobson, also a redshirt freshman, had a sack and batted down a pass.
Hosley, a redshirt freshman, had an interception and three total tackles. Whitley, a junior college transfer, had a team-high five tackles.
"I thought there were some nice things on defense," praised Wullf. "I didn't see a lot of blown assignments and our tackling looked fairly crisp. Those are things we have to look at to see if individuals are ready to play. Our backups will play in the first game and they deserve that, so that is what this final evaluation is all about."
Cole, a sophomore who redshirted last season, led the offense with 62 yards rushing on eight carries, including a 22-yard run in which he leveled an Eagle defender. Jimerson added 19 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 24 yards.
Eastern remains well-stocked at running back with the emergence of true freshman Jesse Hoffman. Hoffman sat out the scrimmage, but has worked his way up the depth chart after a foot injury to backup Dale Morris has sidelined him for about a month or more. Senior Ryan Cole, who previously played at Oregon State, is the starter.
"We lost Dale Morris to a foot injury and we really had high aspirations for what he was going to do this year," said Wulff. "He may be out the whole year or he may be out for just four weeks -- we don't know. We have starter Ryan Cole back, and true freshman Jesse Hoffman has had a very good camp and is going to have an opportunity to play. We are going to go from there with the other players and what we may end up doing at that spot. We do feel good about the talent at that position."
Starting quarterback Chris Peerboom directed the offense on three possessions and finished 7-of-12 for 64 yards. He directed the offense on drives of 40 and 67 yards, but couldn't generate any points thanks to a bad snap on the first possession and his interception into the end zone on the second.
Nichols, who will also see action at quarterback at OSU, attempted just two passes in two opportunities directing the offense. His perfectly-placed pass on a post pattern to Eller was his lone completion.
"I think we have done as much as we can do at this point in practice," said Wulff on the quarterback situation. "Now it is really evaluating their performance in the game and going from there. Once they play in the game they are going to get better too. It is just going to be a work in progress and hopefully improvement in process. As long as we do that and keep getting those guys better each week then we will get better as a football team."
"Both of them got a lot better through spring and through fall camp and it is time for them to play a ball game so we can kind of take that next step," he added. "They have done a nice job to get themselves better. It really isn't about out-doing the other person -- it is about themselves getting better as individuals."
After a day off, Wulff's team will begin preparations for Oregon State on Friday. He won't know until next Thursday exactly how well pre-season practices have gone for his team.
"Sometimes I think so and other times I don't know," he admitted. "I think as a coach you always have those questions and I think the only way you can answer that is to go play a game. So we need to go play this ballgame and evaluate our film and our performance after the game."
Rushing: Dezmon Cole 8-62, A.J. Jimerson 7-19, Toke Kefu 1-4, J.C. Sherritt 1-minus-2, Chris Peerboom 3-minus-5, Matt Nichols 1-minus-5, Alex Smart 4-minus-8, Total 26-65 (includes seven sacks for minus 36 yards).
Interceptions: Lonnie Hosley.
Passes Broken Up: Josh Jacobson 1.
Remaining Practice Schedule:
Friday, Aug. 25 - Practice 5-7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 26 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 27 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 28 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 29 - Practice 3-5 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 30 - Depart for Corvallis, Ore.
Thursday, Aug 31 - EWU versus Oregon State, 7 p.m. Pacific time (Televised Live on Fox Sports Net)