The University of Rhode Island’s spring football practice is now underway, so here are some notable takeaways that I came away with:

First Down:  The opening stages of practice began with conditioning drills and working on getting the ball off at the snap count. Penalties are something that plagued URI in the early going last year, but decreased as the year went on. Limiting them will be extremely important, considering it is rare that Rhode Island is the more talented team when they play.

Second Down: Harold Cooper was on the field after suffering a broken leg late last season. He looked sharp and explosive, and seems to have recovered nicely from the leg injury. One set of drills saw the quarterbacks and running backs both working on the read option and trying to squeeze under plastic bars in the middle of the field. The read option is extremely important to this team’s offensive success.

“[The] read option is important because we have quarterbacks that all can run, we have some fast backs and the read option will definitely help us a lot,” Cooper said. “Nobody can really read two guys at once so with Wesley McKoy and Paul Mroz we got something special going on.”

Third Down: After having multiple players play quarterback last season due to a plethora of injuries, this season looks to be another where there is an open competition for the job. The favorites are senior Paul Mroz, who played well but also forced some things, and sophomore Wesley McKoy, who at times struggled to throw the ball but can run it fairly well. Both quarterbacks split reps evenly with both struggling on some throws, but succeeding on others. It was in an inconsistent day throwing the ball, short especially.

Fourth Down: The defensive backs focused mostly on their backpedal and swiveling their hips, while trying to keep their eyes on the ball.  The corners need to be more aware of the ball and faster on their hip transfer if they are going to be disruptive, especially without the recently graduated Tim Wienclaw back to help over the top this year.

Coach’s Takeaways:

  • Head Coach Jim Fleming seemed well aware of how important spring practice is and how he must finish close games into wins soon. “We know what shortfalls we have had,” he said. “Three wins over two years is hard to swallow, but how many of those had the opportunity to go the other way that we didn’t finish. This spring is a lot about finishing. It is a critical spring for us.”
  • The quarterback competition is completely open and he feels they need multiple ones given the injury problems they have had in recent seasons. “We played a number of different quarterbacks and none have made it through healthy,” Fleming said. “We have to make sure we have two to three guys we can go in and win with.”