Saturday’s second scrimmage revealed that the defense is clearly ahead of the offense. This was particularly evident when the Owls worked on their goal line plays.
The defense played really well, particularly with linebackers Tyler Matakevich and Nate Smith (he looks less bothered by the back tightness he had earlier in camp) getting penetration in to the backfield.
Coach Matt Rhule rubber stamped this after practice.
“The defense is doing a nice job and the great thing is that we’re running some freshmen with the ones at times. We’re mixing some of the freshmen in with the ones and the threes, trying to build the defense.
“We’re definitely ahead of where we were last year,” he continued, “we’ve got a lot of guys who can play for us on defense.
A few observations defensively:
Freshman defensive back Sean Chandler (Camden) is making it difficult to keep him off the field. He’s the one freshman consistently running with the first unit. He had an interception of quarterback P.J. Walker in the second half.
“He’s always around the ball,” Rhule said.
There are some other freshmen who are pushing for playing time on the defensive side. This includes linemen Michael Dogbe (6-3, 240) and Jacob Martin (6-3, 230).
It will be interesting to see who emerges as the team’s third linebacker alongside Matakevich (junior) and Smith (redshirt junior). Redshirt sophomore Avery Williams has been running with the ones and might have the lead there. Shahid Lovett (junior), Zayd Issah (freshman) and junior inside linebacker Mike Felton have also shown promise.
“We have a good group of guys who can probably go out there and play,” Rhule said.
While the offense did make plays later on in the scrimmage – a long sideline pass from Walker to Khalif Herbin and a nice one-handed grab on a short pass to Romond Deloatch for a score were of note – Rhule clearly wants to see the offense elevate its play – and soon.
“Our offense hasn’t looked outstanding at all and our defense is playing really well,” Rhule said. “Our offense better get it together here pretty soon.”
The offense is making mistakes, particularly on third down – like putting the ball on the ground, missing crucial blocks – that Rhule believes they will have ironed out.
“They can get going but it’s like they have to get warmed up,” he said. “We need them to have energy. They need to be more consistent. They are pretty hard to stop when they get going but right now they are stopping themselves consistently.”
Rhule said some of the offense’s problems on Saturday might have stemmed from the absence of starting center Kyle Friend (hamstring).
“He’ll be back Monday, we just wanted to give him some rest,” Rhule said.
Brendan McGowan (redshirt sophomore), who started three games at right guard last season, handled Friend’s chores Saturday.
Sophomore running back Zaire Williams also sat out Saturday’s practice – “he’s a little dinged up,” Rhule said – but is likely to return by Monday.