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Catamounts Hold Two-a-Day, Scrimmage Session
Pair of two-hour practice sessions culminated with a 55-play intrasquad scrimmage
Western Carolina held its second football two-a-day practice on Saturday, working through a 19-period, two-hour session in the morning before reconvening for a 15-session practice and a 50-play scrimmage in the afternoon on the turf at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
The morning session was in half pads with the team wearing helmets, shoulder pads, and thigh pads under shorts, with the afternoon practice going in full pads.
“Our morning practice was real crisp and I thought we got a lot out of it. We covered our special teams, the guys flew around well and the weather was great,” said head coach Dennis Wagner following the second practice on Saturday evening. “In our scrimmage, I thought the defense played really hard and on offense, we did not play well at all, and in particular, along the offensive line. We have got to get a lot better; have got to give Zack (Jaynes) and our quarterback’s time and have to be able to run the football.
Wagner continued, “We decided to have the 15-period practice prior to the scrimmage essentially because we are limited in numbers in depth at a couple of positions right now.”
One of those positions mentioned by Wagner was the running back slot where sophomore Nate Harris and redshirt freshman Dion Wilson split the majority of the snaps. Senior Jayson Williams continues to be held out of contact as he recovers from the off-season knee surgery. Another position alluded to by Wagner is at defensive back where he stated the squad does not have two totally healthy sets of DB’s with which to hold a full-on scrimmage.
Saturday afternoon’s scrimmage session opened auspiciously enough for the defensive unit. With the offense starting first and 10 from its own 35 yard line, sophomore linebacker Ricky Schwarz scooped up a fumbled exchange in the backfield and rumbled 32 yards for a touchdown for the defensive unit.
Senior DB Chris Collins continued the offense’s woes on the next two plays from scrimmage, blowing up a hand-off to Harris and dropping the converted tailback in the backfield for a three-yard loss and then batting down a would-be Zack Jaynes pass at the line of scrimmage to force third and long. On the third-down conversion play, senior defenders Adrian McLeod and Gene Singletary converged to corral Jaynes in the backfield for a blown-dead sack.
Collins, playing defensive coordinator Matt Pawlowski’s hybrid back position, finished with three tackles for loss unofficially, while classmates Antoine George and Chaz Jackson, junior C.J. Johnson and freshman Tanner Hidrogo each tallied a TFL.
The offense mounted its best drive of the scrimmage midway through, but was unable to come away with points despite a nine-play drive. After obtaining a first and goal from the nine, Collins and George combined to stop Wilson behind the line for a second and goal from the 10-yard line. Jaynes scampered to the five where Schwarz prevented the score on second down, while his third down pass was batted at the line of scrimmage. On fourth down, Wilson could not cleanly handle the pitch from Jaynes on a toss sweep and was met by a host of defenders, led by McLeod, at the goal line preventing the score.
The offensive unit did have a couple highlights, both coming on two big plays. First, Harris broke a 32-yard inside-to-outside run into the secondary before Mitchell Bell was able to pull him down to save a touchdown. The rush was a part of the nine-play offensive drive. Harris led all rushers unofficially with 65 yards on 11 carries, while Wilson rushed six times for 32 yards.
The other play accounted for the offensive unit’s lone touchdown of the session. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jonathan Efird found rookie wideout D.J. McLendon on the right sideline for a 65-yard pass-and-catch. Efird rolled right after a play-fake left and found McLendon on a come-back route. The Thomasville, N.C., native did the rest as McLendon turned and raced up the far sideline for the score. He added two end-around reverse rushes for 13 yards on the day.
Jaynes took all the snaps with the first team, completing a pair of passes for 16 yards, while Pressley and Efird split second team reps and McCoy was under center with the third unit. Pressley was unofficially 2-for-3 for eight yards passing, while Efird (3-for-3, 83 yards, 1 TD) and McCoy (2-for-2, 8 yards) were both perfect on the day.
After a full week of practice, the squad will take Sunday off from the field, while the coaches will stay busy in the offices, according to Wagner.
“With the players having Sunday as an off day, I want them to rest up, relax, get off their feet, eat well and take care of their bodies. For the coaches, we will catch up on our film and make sure we are prepared for Monday’s practice as we continue to get better,” Wagner concluded.
WCU will resume practice on Monday morning with one session before taking on two-a-day practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with the latter including an 80-90 play intrasquad scrimmage while also representing the final two-a-day session.
* True freshman quarterback Ryan World, who has been held out of practice as he recovered from a bout of pneumonia, saw his first collegiate practice action on Saturday, working through both sessions, although limited in the afternoon workout;
* Senior RB Jayson Williams (knee) and redshirt junior WR Marquel Pittman (hamstring) continued to be sidelined – Pittman did spend most of the practice running the sidelines, however – both were out for precautionary purposes;
* New additions to the “red-cross jersey” list on Saturday were DB Curtis McGill (groin); DB Brandon Vaught (concussion); RB Michael Johnson (concussion); OL Nathan Postelle (foot); and WR George Richardson (concussion) – all were restricted in practice for precautionary purposes;
* WR Josh Cockrell suffered a mild concussion during the scrimmage session … the WCU athletic training staff re-evaluated him following the scrimmage;
By Western Carolina University Media Relations