After reviewing the video from Sunday night’s 95-play scrimmage, University of Central Arkansas football coach Clint Conque saw several bright spots.
And the Bears’ injury situation, which resulted in nine frontline players missing the first major scrimmage of the season, got a little better Monday.
Indicative of the solid play of the entire first-team defense were the efforts of linemen Uriah Perry and Taylor Scott, who were dominant in a limited number of snaps. Tackle Hutton Andrew had a particularly strong scrimmage, as did cornerback Desmond Wilcox.
"And Tok Opeloye (who has been moved from middle linebacker to outside linebacker) probably played the best of any time he’s been in our football program," Conque said.
James Lancaster and Opeloye are alternating at the weakside backer position with freshman Frank Newsome behind them.
"Tok and James gives us a nice 1-2 situation there, and Newsome is really making that a position of strength," Conque said.
He praised running backs Brent Grimes and Leonard Ceaser and said receiver James Lovett had some good moments.
"Grimes and Ceaser both did exceptional jobs," Conque said. "They are playing really fast and really confidently. Both of them have found another gear."
The coach said the first-time offensive line had a good outing and praised the efforts of tight end Rico Moss and Anthony Blackmon and Terence Bobo in backup roles in the backfield.
"It’s starting to become a deep group at running back," Conque said.
Quarterback Robbie Park completed six of 11 passes (three of them deep balls) for 111 yards. He was also sacked three times.
"Two of them were the fault of the offensive line and one was his fault for holding the ball too long," Conque said.
True freshman Wynrick Smothers, whom the UCA coaches plan to redshirt, got all the work with the second team as sophomore transfer Nathan Dick was held out because of a triceps strain on his throwing arm. Smothers will continue to work with the second team as Dick will miss live action for another 10 days to two weeks, Conque said.
"There is nothing structurally wrong with his arm and there is no break," Conque said. "It’s one of those injuries that the only thing you can do is rehab and rest. Now, he will be active in practice; just he can’t throw or have live (scrimmage) work. He’ll be in a lot of the drills and he can concentrate of his footwork and ballhandling. I’ve told him his footwork and ballhandling with the backs should be top-shelf with the work he’s going to be getting there."
Offensive lineman Joe Lehocky, defensive lineman Trey Lippe, defensive back Derrick Boyd, fullback Nick Cowger all returned to practice Monday with Boyd being held out of live work. Linebacker Jacob Bane was still being held out of practice as did senior offensive linemen Lane Freiwald and Corey Howard. All except Bane and receiver Willie Landers (who will undergo knee surgery Tuesday) are expected to return for Saturday’s 4 p.m. scrimmage, the last significant live work of the preaseason.
Conque said he was also pleased with the special teams work in intervals of the scrimmage.
"On field goals and placekicks, Eddie Carmona was spot-on," Conque said. "All of the technical aspects and mechanics of the snaps and hold and that type of thing were good."
As part of a special "Welcome Week" event for students, the Bears will hold a short, 36-play scrimmage at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Saturday afternoon’s scrimmage should run about 110 plays, Conque said.
"We’re giving a lot of young kids a lot of work right now," Conque said. "On offense, our 2’s are exclusively made up of freshmen and redshirt freshmen."
UCA opens the season Friday, Sept. 4, at Hawaii.