The University of Rhode Island men’s football spring practice continued this week and there were some more technical aspects to the practice as they prepare for their annual Blue against White scrimmage this Saturday at 10 a.m. in Meade Stadium.
With that being said here are my takeaways from this week’s practice:
First Down: The more the team practices and the more looks the defense gives, the more impressive freshman Nasir Jones looks at safety. Jones once again stood out as a do-it-all safety stuffing the run on one play, then playing shutdown coverage against three different wide receivers on other plays. Jones showed very good ball skills and fought for position against some of the bigger receivers, specifically standing out against freshman receiver Marven Beauvais. Jones looks to be a clear starter and could battle for freshman of the year next to do-it-all safety and senior Tim Wienclaw.
Second Down: An overall impressive day for the defensive line as a whole. The unit looked stout when they did team offense holding the point of attack against the runs and containing the quarterbacks in the pocket. The defense also set the edge very well preventing runs from bouncing outside on them.
As far as the pass rush, they had a good, not great, day as they struggled to get off blocks, but got their hands on a number of passes. I counted four tips on the day.
“Coach has been talking to us about our pass rush lanes,” senior defensive lineman Joe Simon said. “Our defensive line as a whole has been working great together. Our defense as a whole is the most cohesive I have been a part of in my entire life.”
“We are working our butts off to make our fans proud to be fans of us,” Simon said. “We have had such amazing support from the community, faculty, and the students especially and now it’s time for us to put on a show this season. We need the fans more then anything and they have proved this past basketball season that their support can lead to victory.”
Third Down: This was perhaps the best day for sophomore Mack Lowrie when doing the passing drills as he looked really crisp. Lowrie had a few mistakes, throwing one interception on the day, but was hitting his receivers in stride. Lowrie looked particularly impressive on the flag routes showing good anticipation and touch on the deep throws near the sidelines. He also did a good job getting the ball out before his receiver cut on the slant routes, giving the defender no chance for the interception.
Fourth Down: The screen game has been a big focus of the coaches, but throwing the ball to the running backs out of the backfield should also be a good option. Sophomore running back Harold Cooper once again showed the ability to have consistently above average routes and hands. One play in particular Cooper ran a wheel route out of the backfield and out ran the linebacker in coverage, making a tough catch along the sidelines on an impressive touch throw by Lowrie.
“I think our defensive line has done a good job and improved technique wise,” head coach Jim Fleming said. “We are active and move around a lot. I think we make up for what we don’t have physically, with effort.”
“The quarterbacks are making improvements,” Fleming said. “We are looking for consistency, we have to put the ball on people and make catches that are there for us. We have to be more productive.”
“We are relatively healthy, knock on wood,” Fleming said. “We lost a couple guys to shoulders, but get through a couple more days we should be fine.”
Extra Point: Blue and White Game
The Blue and White game should be a good test to see where each grouping is as it will simulate game action. There will be a unique scoring system that will reward defensive plays such as sacks or tackles for loss with points. Look for the secondary to make some plays against the passing attack, and the offensive line to create some running lanes running off the guard and inside the tackle.