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Thoughts and theories: Intrasquad Scrimmage

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There's only so much which can be learned from an intrasquad scrimmage in the middle of August. The objectives are simple: stay healthy, be efficient, stay healthy, work the reserves, stay healthy.

 

In theory, the Bearcats accomplished their goal. Nobody suffered any major injuries and the first-team offense looked relatively smooth during the first two drives as they moved pretty easily down the field.

 

Vidal Hazelton, D.J. Woods and Armon Binns didn't take many reps together. What does anybody really need to know about those guys at this point? They will be fine.

 

Days like Wednesday were made for the reserves to fight for positions. What Butch Jones learned about those reserves, particularly on offense...

 

"We got a long way to go," he said without hesitation to kick off his post-practice interview.

 

"There was some real good teaching that came out of today. We ran 80-some odd plays and we are trying to figure out who is going to be on the plane to Fresno. By no stretch of the imagination are we game-ready yet."

 

--- As far as players Jones picked out as playing particularly well, DE/LB Walter Stewart drew praise for his work rushing off the edge. Hazelton also earned a mention for plays he made during the few drives he was in the game.

 

Although, Hazelton did draw a personal foul penalty that assisted in stifling the third drive of the day for the first team. He got a little chippy after some late blocking on a third-down play.

 

No surprise Stewart and Hazelton were top performers on Wednesday. Those two have been playing well all camp thus far and both are playing with as much dedication and focus as anybody at Higher Ground. Stewart put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason in hopes of being a more physical player and all Hazelton can think about is hitting the field for the first time in two years hoping to have a season that will get him noticed by NFL scouts.

 

--- The negative play of the day for Zach Collaros came when DB Camerron Cheatham intercepted the UC QB on a miscommunication on a timing route intended for OJ Woodard.

 

Only two weeks from boarding a plane for Fresno State, Jones knows an excuse for miscommunication won't cut it.

 

"That is obviously something that can't happen," Jones said.

 

That said, on the list of issues Jones is concerned with, Zach Collaros throwing too many interceptions is somewhere between what type of cups the team's water will be served in and the deodorant used by the Bearcat mascot.

 

Any interception by the junior almost seems like an hallucination considering all we have seen from him last year, this spring and so far this fall. He's ready.  

 

--- Jones' primary concern was with the overall physicality of the team. Tackling wasn't up to his standards.

 

The defense played relatively well, but coaches will always complain about tackling. One missed tackle is one too many.

 

Jones wants a team with an attitude on defense. That begins with being more physical.

 

That mentality transfers to the offensive side of the ball where the Bearcats ran the ball more than they had been this fall. Jones wants to establish a ground game and find ways to wear teams down both with the outside speed and inside strength.

 

--- Jones also criticized the high number of penalties committed, realizing this team can't afford to be one that hurts itself.

 

He also pulled out a fact that in analyzing last year's touchdowns allowed, 92 percent of those came from drives where there was a defensive penalty or big play.

 

The ideal for this defense is to force teams to complete long drives.

 

--- One of the most important developments to come out of the scrimmage was the offense earning a true understanding of the speed this attack will run at.

 

"Last year we had a fast tempo," D.J. Woods said. "I thought that was as fast as we could go. This year, I have never seen this kind of speed before. We all have to get our conditioning up."

 

One play ran into another as the offense kept the defensive players huffing and puffing as they plodded to the three-point stances. On top of utilizing a plethora of weapons, the Bearcats believe their uptempo style will wear down teams not used to constantly running at that pace.

 

"It was nice to have referees out here, have the person spotting the ball," Collaros said. "We can move and don't have to wait on the coaches. (Defensive lineman Derek) Wolfe told us after the scrimmage, 'You guys were moving out there, it was crazy.'"

 

Moving the ball from one end of the field to the other at the rapid pace was a great run-through in comparison to practices where coaches take time to teach or only use half the field.

 

"A day like this helps them understand the conditioning necessary to sustain a drive which we might not see in a practice situation," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said. "They know what to expect."

 

--- There were plenty of snaps for the backup quarterbacks.

 

Brendon Kay played well when he ran with the second team, including a smooth rollout on a two-point conversion where he showed off some mobility in cutting back to run in to the end zone.

 

Chazz Anderson connected with Tomaz Hilton for a nice touchdown pass.

 

That battle will likely go down to the final practices before UC boards the plane for Fresno.

 

Munchie Legaux hasn't seen many reps in practice, so the scrimmage served as a nice opportunity to see what the true freshman from Louisiana could do. Legaux ripped off a nice touchdown run of about 30 yards, but looked very much like a freshman who hasn't taken many reps. His passes rarely connected and he needed Collaros on the field behind him to help with all the play calls coming in.

 

Cody Kater also took some reps, but threw a pick-six to sophomore transfer Aaron Roberson.

 

"They are really green right now," Bajakian said. "We wanted to see how they responded to that situation."

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