The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State’s offense carved up the defense in the team’s first scrimmage last week.
On Saturday, it was the defense’s turn.
The Blazers’ defense returned to its Black Swarm moniker, registering five sacks and forcing four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumble recoveries — and dominated the final scrimmage of fall camp.
“We had an extra week, and guys were busting their tails, watching film, trying to learn the defense,” linebacker Larry Dean said. “We were flying around and more comfortable. We were upset (after last week). We were still upset (Saturday). We had some busts that, if the offense had capitalized, would have been big plays.”
That was the case of the first play of the scrimmage. Quarterback Brett Whitmire threw a long pass down the sideline that was dropped. It was one of five drops by VSU receivers on the day, and head coach David Dean was also displeased with the receiving corps’ missed assignments.
“We had way too many drops by our wide receivers, way too many missed assignments by our wide receivers that put us in bad situations,” David Dean said.
VSU’s passing game was ineffective. Jimmy Coy was 14-of-20 for 108 yards with an interception, and Whitmire was 14-of-22 for 117 yards with an interception. The offense couldn’t muster any long scoring drives. On the first six drives, the offense ran 18 plays for minus-8 yards. However, when put inside the 10-yard line, VSU did score touchdowns on three of its four drives.
“Our quarterbacks, for the most part, did a good job,” David Dean said. “They were put in some very difficult situations, because we didn’t protect very well and the wide receivers didn’t run very good routes. It made it very tough on those guys.”
Dean added that the best part of the offense was the running game, led by Ronnye Nelson and David Bailey, but even that was lacking.
“I still think we’re running the ball fairly well,” David Dean said. “There’s some things we’re doing well there, and I’m pleased to see that. We didn’t run the ball like I wanted to, but that’s probably the highlight of what we did.”
The day clearly belonged to the defense. The secondary, which gave up big plays all last season, and gave up some big plays in the first scrimmage, looked much better. Cornerback Stevie Harden picked off a deep pass early in the scrimmage, and towards the end of the day, Alex Webster returned an interception and leaped inside the pylon for a touchdown.
“It was big. It was big to see those guys be ball hawks,” Larry Dean said. “We kind of lacked that last year. (Secondary) Coach (Seth) Wallace has been doing a good job, and everyone’s been buying in to the scheme. We swarmed to the ball.”
Saturday’s scrimmage was two weeks to the day of VSU’s first game against Wingate. The season is rapidly approaching.
“Watching the scrimmage (Saturday), I was a little nervous, because we’re not ready to play yet,” David Dean said. “We’re making way too many mistakes on both sides of the ball that we need to get corrected. Hopefully a lot of that has to do with fatigue and being lethargic after practicing for two weeks and hitting on each other so much.”
The Blazers will start looking at film of Wingate in the middle of the week. Dean said he hopes that preparing for an actual opponent will rejuvenate the Blazers.
“We’ve been talking about it,” Larry Dean said. “It’s going to be a quick turnaround, but there’s a lot of excited guys. We’ll be ready.”