After today’s final scrimmage, the University of Central Arkansas Bears will turn their focus to Hawaii.
The scrimmage, which will begin at 4 p.m. at First Security Field at Estes Stadium, will end the first phase (a fundamental one) of preseason camp for the UCA football team, which opens against Hawaii at Honolulu on Sept. 4.
"Until this point, we have been repping 90 guys in camp; we can’t spend time repping 90 players after this," UCA coach Clint Conque said, "We’ll evaluate where we are, and then we’ll concentrate on the players who give us the best chance to compete and win from here on out. We will move on to the next phase, which is game-planning for our first opponent and giving the reps to the guys who give us the best chance in that game."
During the scrimmage, the UCA coaches will look at organization on both sides of the ball, some kicking game action and some open-field and red zone situations with the 1’s and the 2’s.
"This will be a major scrimmage because we still have some battles going on at certain positions, whether it’s for a first-team spot, a major backup spot or on the special teams," Conque said. "Every year at this time, some tough decisions have to be made. And they’ll be based on performance down the stretch of preseason camp."
Most of the UCA players who have clearly established themselves as frontline players will receive only limited action.
"We know what most of the guys on the No. 1 units can do, but we need to give them a few plays to keep them sharp," Conque said. "But one of the main things we want to do is find out where our depth is."
One of the primary areas in focus will be at receiver, where the Bears will try to compensate for the season-ending injury to Willie Landers, their most experienced and leading returning receiver.
"Losing Willie is a huge blow, but it’s not just a receiver issue," Conque said. "To help make up for that loss, we are going to have to play better in the offensive line, at running back and at quarterback. Eddie Carmona is going to have to be more accurate as a place-kicker. Our punting will have to be better. Our quarterbacks have to be a little more accurate and make better decisions. We have to be more careful about penalties. I think this is a real teaching opportunity for this to be a defining moment for this football team."
Conque said quarterback Nathan Dick will likely be held out of the scrimmage because of a triceps injury. Conque said it will be at least Wednesday before Dick can throw.
The coach said he was very pleased with a 30-play scrimmage Wednesday night for the newcomers, freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
"Matter of fact, it went extremely well," he said. "It gave a chance for the newcomers to move around more and play. We saw a couple of guys who we knew who were improving and that we may have to find more opportunities for them to play. I think there are some positive things ahead if this group stays together."
The scrimmage was part of "Welcome Week" activities and was preceded by a pep rally.
"The band was there, quite a few people were out at the pep rally and the "Bear Den" students went into the stadium where they usually sit and cheered us on," Conque said. "There were probably a couple of thousand people in the stadium for a scrimmage. I think it caught some of our players by surprise. It caught me by surprise. But it gave our young players a taste of the atmosphere in the stadium on game day. It was exciting."