Golden has this team exceeding expectations so far.
The Canes held their first fall scrimmage today at around 1pm. It was closed off to basically everyone, including the families of the players. This is pretty much to be expected this early in the practice game, so no surprises there. On the actual field of play, however, there were plenty of surprises. Not all of them were good, though.
That being said, hit the jump and let's take a look at what went down.
The scrimmage was sort of a mix up of different game scenarios, so when you add up the total touchdowns (yes, there were a LOT), you have to keep in mind that they ran a bunch of goal line sets, 2 minutes drills, etc. There was plenty of time for the defense to put in work, and that time helped expose one of the things that we here at T7F highlighted early on as an area of concern. More on that in a bit.
For starters, there were a total of 15 (fifteen) touchdowns spread out among the offense. Now remember, a lot of those came in short yardage situations, but there were also more than a few regular game flow scores. Here's a breakdown of who scored what and how, courtesy of Susan Miller Degnan over at the Herald:
Duke Johnson - 9 rushes for 49 yards and 3 TD (10 yard run, 13 yard run, 1 yard run), 3 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD (37 yard screen pass)
Mike James - 13 rushes for 137 yards and 3 TD (1 yard run, 1 yard run, 51 yard run)
Eduardo Clements - 10 rushes for 55 yards and 1 TD (2 yard run)
Rashawn Scott - 3 catches for 23 yards and 2 TD (2 yard pass from Williams, 3 yard pass from Williams)
Dyron Dye - 2 catches for 13 yards and 1 TD (3 yard pass from Williams)
Dallas Crawford - 3 rushes for 3 yards and 1 TD (2 yard run)
Allen Hurns - 1 catch for 29 yards and 1 TD (29 yard pass from Morris)
Phillip Dorsett - 3 catches for 27 yards and 1 TD (10 yard pass from Morris)
Maurice Hagens - 1 catch for 3 yards and 1 TD (3 yard pass from Morris)
What stands out here is that Duke Johnson may not be the feature back this year, possibly even next, but good lord is this kid going to be fun to watch. One on one in the open field, I am already willing to place bets on the fact that there may be no one who could stop him. Mike James also appears to have looked very good. Golden raved about him in the post scrimmage interview (posted below). Golden said that James looks stronger, faster, better, and pretty much any other word you can think of from that song. Overall, the run game looks like it is going to be pretty damn good, with yet another stable of running backs for defenses to choose from. The receiving stats show that things are rounding into shape, with Malcolm Lewis showing that he can in fact be a starter. Walford and Dye showed that they will be passing targets as well, with Dye making good on a previous comment that the TE group calls the end zone their home.
The QB situation revealed that while the top two guys are extremely close and will anchor the offense, the gap between them and the two rookies is a LOT larger than previously thought. Frankly, Kevin Olsen should have nothing to worry about when he gets here, unless something drastic changes over the next year. To be fair, it may just have been that Crow and Dewey did not get a lot of work, but they were both 0 for 3 passing, and that is not good. Stephen Morris was the man on top today, finishing 24 of 36 for 193 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The pick came off a batted ball in a 2 minute drill, so while it is still a turnover, it wouldn't necessarily be classified as Morris' fault. Ryan Williams also had a big day, going 12 for 17 for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns. Coaches said recently that Morris has connected on somewhere along the lines of 78 percent of his passes throughout the off season. That kind of consistency is much needed, and shows why his transfer was a welcome one.
The defense also showed more than a few surprises, along with an unfortunate lack of turnover prowess. A.J. Highsmith led the team with 9 tackles, which is a great sign since he is battling for a safety position. His counterparts also did well, with Telemaque registering 5, Deon Bush tallying 3, and Kacy Rogers with 4. The corner backs also showed why coaches are raving about the position, with Tracy Howard getting 7, Brandon McGee with 4, Thomas Finnie with 3, Antonio Crawford with 2, and Rayshawn Jenkins, Nate Dortch, Ladarius Gunter, and Vernon Davis getting 1 each. It is becoming harder and harder to not see Howard in the backfield from day one. He still has some work to do, but he has definitely been outperforming his age. Brandon McGee seems to be back to what he needs to be after an apparent illness, and that is good to see. If for whatever reason he does end up slipping, Gunter and Jenkins are playing well and will be great reserves.
Now to the biggest issue on the defense right now, the linebackers. The biggest problem right now is that they are thin due to various injuries, although none of them are serious. One of the bright spots is seeing Ramon Buchanon out there flying around, finishing with 7 tackles today. Tyrone Cornelius also had 7, including a sack. Denzel Perryman had 3, Jimmy Gaines had 3, Gabriel Terry had 3, rarely seen Nantambu Fentress had 2, and Akil Craig had 1. JaWand Blue finished with a sack as well. It will definitely be nice to see Eddie Johnson and Paul back out there helping out. Once they are healthy, the position should get a lot more reliable. The defensive line is certainly not impressing CAG, with none of them really stepping up the way he would like to see. Anthony Chickillo hit for 4 tackles including a sack for 10 yards, and as far as the line is concerned, that's about it. While they all had their fair share of tackles, they are playing pretty vanilla right now, and that will need to change if they are going to impose their will on opposing offenses. Curtis Porter joined Chick with 4 tackles, Shayon Green had 2, Tyriq McCord had 2, Jalen Grimble had 2, Earl Moore, Olsen Pierre, Luther Robinson, Jake O'Donnell, Dwayne Hoilett, and Darius Smith all had 1. Outside of Chick and Porter, the rest of the guys seem to be going through the motions. I could easily see McCord putting things together and stepping up as a freshman, but it would be a lot more comforting if guys like Pierre, Smith, Robinson, and Green stepped their game up.
The offensive line drew praise from Golden, especially in red zone situations. He did say that they still had some learning to do, but they were playing well. If you are wondering about Seantrel Henderson, Kehoe said a few days ago that he would say it is safe to assume that he will earn his starting job back. He is not fully cleared for practice yet, but is just a day or so away. If you are looking for the most consistent position on the team right now, it is hands down the kicking game. That depth chart is set for good, with Jake Wieclaw booming field goals of 56 and 51 yards.
Overall, the scrimmage provided a lot of learning points, and showed quite a bit of talent at a few positions. What makes it even better is that this one apparently went well enough for Golden to say that the depth chart should be set by next week, potentially by the next scrimmage this coming Saturday. That will go a long way in helping guys get settled in, although it does provide a bit of worry that guys may get complacent knowing they are starting (although with this coaching staff, I don't see that happening.)
(Video courtesy of HurricaneSports)
Leave your questions below, and GO CANES!