Defense shines, offense ‘better’ in Blazer scrimmage
Samuel Logan The Valdosta Daily Times
With two weeks until their first game of the season, the Valdosta State Blazers football team took the field on Saturday morning for the team's second intra-squad scrimmage.
The scrimmage began at 9 a.m., with the Blazer football team participating in team warm-ups and position drills, before the offensive and defensive squads lined up to begin the actual scrimmage portion of the day.
The scrimmage was broken into situational football. Each time the offense hit the field, it rotated different quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, while the offensive line stayed the same primarily for the whole game. Blazers Football Head Coach David Dean and his staff previously discussed the need to get their five chosen starting linemen as many snaps as possible.
“Those are the five guys. After about 20 practices together, they are beginning to come together and gel as a unit,” said Dean.
The segments included 1st and goal situations, two-minute drills and basic football drives beginning at the 35-yard line.
Dean had two main focuses for the team coming into the scrimmage. He wanted his team to minimize mental mistakes and to remain as healthy as possible.
“We cut mental mistakes down. We're still making some, but I guess you can’t be perfect yet, which is why we will continue to practice,” said Dean.
The Blazers did not make many mental mistakes offensively; however, the defense did come away with a couple of penalties that would have cost the Blazers a real game.
As far as injuries, a few Blazers hit the turf in the scrimmage, but Dean had no serious injuries to report.
“We had two wideouts that missed a few snaps due to injury. They missed a few snaps but went right back in. We will get with the training staff to see where they are exactly,” said Dean.
Two notable players on the defense were missing from the scrimmage. Safety Chris Caspari and linebacker Chris Pope; neither dressed for the game.
“Caspari is going through his concussion progression, and Pope has a bad ankle right now. Both players should be fine for the season opener,” said Dean.
On the offense, the Blazers were much improved from a dismal performance in their first scrimmage. Starting quarterback Cayden Cochran led the first drive of the scrimmage and quickly went three and out with his first team offense. After the first drive, however, Cochran came out looking sharp, completing two passes in a row to wide receiver Willie Downs, one that went for a very long touchdown reception.
Cayden Cochran spoke highly of his newfound relationship with new receiver Willie Downs.
“We’ve been working really hard this summer with the basics, working on timing and routes. He’s been making an impact so far, and he should continue to keep getting better,” said Cochran.
Cochran, overall, had an average performance, showing spurts of greatness throughout the scrimmage, but making a few mental mistakes, too.
Cochran found receiver Regginald Lewis on a play that seemed to be a disaster. As the pocket collapsed, Cochran launched the ball in the air and Lewis made a spectacular catch in coverage for a 50-yard touchdown. Another play where Cochran looked game-ready was on a 3rd and goal situation, where Cochran found receiver Seantavious Jones for a two-yard touchdown reception.
Cochran had one particular drive in the red zone, where on four straight passes, the quarterback was unable to connect with his receivers.
“Overall, he [Cochran] had a good game. Much improved from last week and his leadership showed,” said Dean.
Cochran finished the scrimmage going 13 of 29 for 187 yards and four scores.
The bigger story of the offense game in the form of two running backs, trying to make their spot on the roster as a solidified third running back option for the team.
Greg Archibong carried the ball 16 times for 80 yards, including a long run from the option formation that caught the defense off guard.
The other running back, Nick Davis, ran 13 times for a total of 78 yards, and was rewarded in the red zone with a six-yard touchdown run.
“Both of these guys are good solid third runners for us. It’s too early for us to decide right now, but both guys are pretty neck and neck,” said Dean.
At receiver, there were big plays that included nice catches, but there were also some very easy catches dropped. The team will continue to work on the consistency of the wide receivers in the coming week.
As for the Black Swarm defense, the scrimmage was once again a success. While the offense came away with some scores, overall the defense stood strong on most drives, wreaking havoc in the backfield with a few tackles for losses and even caused a forced fumble.
Cornerback Dominique Wheeler played exceptionally well and looked like a true leader in the secondary. Wheeler played great man-to-man coverage through the game and even came away with an interception from quarterback Cayden Cochran in the red zone.
“The defense played good but we have to get better. My expectations are high. I still have to get better,” said cornerback Dominque Wheeler.
Cornerbacks Kenny Moore and Jazzin Anderson played well on defense also, providing some big hits, great coverage, and both compiled a few broken passes.
“Outside the penalties, the defense played well. We tackled well. We made some plays back field. Last week, the offense got us a lot in the red zone, but this week we improved it,” said Dean.
The Blazers' final scrimmage before the regular season begins 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29. The scrimmage will take place at the VSU practice field.