By Adam MacDonald
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State football held its final scrimmage of spring practice on Saturday, and one of the state’s most popular figures was on hand to see it.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt spent the morning with his son Jon watching the Blazers practice at Bazemore Hyder Stadium. Richt would only say that his son Jon was looking at schools to transfer to. Jon Richt was redshirted as a freshman at Clemson last year. He played prep ball at Prince Avenue Christian.
As for the action on the field, it was similar to what fans saw in the 2008 season — a dominating defense and an offense with mixed reviews.
VSU’s offense ran 36 drives, nine of which ended in turnovers. The defense had six sacks, three interceptions and a touchdown.
“We’re young but we have a lot of chemistry carrying over (from last year),” VSU linebacker Larry Dean said about the defense. “All the way around we have players that are going to step up. We’re coming together and gelling together. We’re trying to figure out who’s who and what’s what and just trying to get that camaraderie built up into the summer so we can carry it over into the season.”
VSU’s offense looked sloppy most of the time. Three of its nine drives from the defense’s five-yard line ended in fumble recoveries by the defense while two more came to an end via sacks on third down.
“It was a little worse than I expected offensively,” VSU head coach David Dean said. “I knew we were going to be a little rusty because we missed a day of practice this week because of weather and coming off of spring break, but I thought we’d execute a little better. I was very disappointed in our turnovers. We have to hang on to the ball better, there’s no excuse for that.”
Most of the snaps at quarterback were taken by Russ Callaway and Ronnye Nelson.
Callaway is entering his junior season. He was the third string quarterback last year behind senior Tucker Pruitt and redshirt freshman Chris Hart, who decided to leave VSU back in January.
Nelson is also entering his junior season. His freshman and sophomore years were spent mainly at running back, but he occasionally lined up to take direct snaps at quarterback. Nelson last played quarterback full time in his senior season at Dougherty High School.
“Any time you have the opportunity to lead a team it’s always a great challenge, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, living up to challenges,” Nelson said.
Nelson said what he needs to work on most is keeping his eyes down field because he has the tendency to run once he starts feeling pressure in the pocket.
The offense’s biggest play of the morning came when Nelson rolled out of the pocket to his right and threw a perfect spiral on the run to Isaiah Jupiter who caught in stride and took it in for the touchdown. The play went for 70 yards.
“The read was to look into the flat, but by looking at the play I saw Jupiter running down the field and I threw him the ball,” Nelson said. “In high school the only thing I did was roll out so I have a lot of experience throwing on the run. That’s probably my strongest point.”
The Blazers will hold three more practices this week leading up to the spring game on Saturday at noon at Bazemore Hyder Stadium. On Thursday at 1 p.m., the coaching staff will be divided into two and a draft will be held to pick players for the spring game.