The University of Central Arkansas Bears ended preseason camp Monday with a couple of subtle position shifts as they began preparation for their Sept. 2 opener against Elizabeth City State.
Marshall Loyd (6-foot-3, 270 pounds), who had been playing defensive tackle, has been moved to tight end. He played tight end at Aldine Nimitz High School in Texas. Trey Lippe, another defensive lineman who was a tight end in high school, will also get spot work at that position, primarily on the goal line and red zone. The moves are partially in response to starting tight end Rico Moss being lost for the season. Brennan Rushing and Jeremy Jester are the pass-catching threats at that position. Another tight end prospect, Josh Ragland, is getting most of his work at fullback and H back.
"The NFL has players cross over from offense to defense all the time," said head coach Clint Conque, referring to Lippe playing a dual role on offense and defense. It’s a matter of trying to make the best of your 65-player roster. You want to look at all your assets and put them in the best position to help the team. Loyd will give us a 270-pound presence at tight end and Lippe is a physical player on defense. You’ve got to have edge players. We hope it makes a difference in the red zone in turning some of those field goals we kicked last season into touchdowns."
After reviewing the video from Saturday’s second and last major scrimmage of the preseason, Conque was generally pleased with the imrprovement on offense, particularly the production of the running backs.
Terence Bobo led the rushers with 70 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 40 yards. Anthony Blackmon rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns and caught two passes for 15 yards. Freshman Marcel Threat rushed for 41 yards on six carries and one touchdown. Jackie Hinton, who saw limited action after being sidelined with dehydration earlier in the week, rushed for 38 yards on five carries (7.5 average) and one touchdown and also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Quarterback Nathan Dick ws 18 for 25 for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Conque said he also was plaqued by four dropped passes. Wynrick Smothers was nine of 16 for 67 yards and a touchdown. Willie Landers caught four passes for 72 yards. Derrick Steele caught two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Adams caught two passes for 54 yards.
"We ran the ball better and our protection was better," Conque said. "We played faster and were more consistent up front. The subtle move we made line in moving Matt Dickerson to right tackle and Rogeric Govan to left seemed to pay off. We were more physical at times in the offensive line. Matt played well and Govan probably had his best outing since he’s been here."
Conque said Jon Mark Holden, a true freshman from Bentonville, is now listed as a starter at left guard.
Conaque said the UCA defenders had too many missed tackles.
"I did not feel we played as physical as the first scrimmage," Conque said. "A lot of freshmen and newcomers got some reps and some will be counted on to make a contribution this year. They have got to understand better the speed of the game and the sense of urgency. We missed some tackles in the secondary and we can’t have that."
Among the defensive backs, Radarious Winston graded 100 percent on 41 snaps with two solo tackles and a pass breakup. Marcus Dumas graded 91 percent with a pass-breakup and a tackle. Linebacker Tok Opeloye graded 89 percent with one tackle. Frank Newsome graded 85 percent with seen hits and a tackle for loss. Justin Heard graded 83 percent with five tackles and a tackle for loss. "Those are our starting linebackers and they are very consistent right now," Conque said.
On the defensive front, end Markell Carter graded 94 percent and Lippe 93 percent. Freshman John Miles graded 73 percent and has made excellent progress at end replacing Jermaine Lett, Conque said.
"I’m very pleased with how Hutton Andrew is playing," Conque said. "He’s coming off pectoral surgery but has had a good summer of rehab and has come back strong."
Conque said he was also pleased with the kicking of junior college transfer David Bailey, who handled all the kicking duties while Eddie Carmona was held out because of injury. If Carmona stays healthy for the season, Bailey will be redshirted, Conque said.
"All of Bailey’s kickoffs were inside the 5 and one was 2 yards deep in the end zone," Conque said. "His hang time is not as good as Eddie’s but he’s getting the ball consistently down the field in the place we want them on kickoffs. And his two field goals had good height and were good."
Conque said Daniel Harrington has made significant improvement as long snapper and that Kirby O’Meara, a transfer from TCU, will be the short-snapper.
The Bears also got two players back at Monday’s practice who missed the scrimmage with injuries, defensive back Seth Allison and wide receiver Isaiah Jackson. There were no new injuries in the scrimmage.
The Bears will go through another scrimmage before students and fans at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"Our upperclassmen will be on a short pitch count, every one of them," said Conque. "The band and students will be there and it will be a game-type atmosphere that will help our freshmen and backups get more familiar with the game environment."