Despite an assortment of injuries to several frontline players during preseason camp, the University of Central Arkansas coaching staff is not slowing down the process.
The first parts of the game plan for the Ole Miss game on Sept. 1 will be installed Tuesday.
"We’ve only got so much time to get these guys ready and the guys we are going to get ready are the guys who can practice," said UCA coach Clint Conque.
Several of the players who had been held out of Saturday’s last major scrimmage returned to practice Sunday. UCA will have another scrimmage, primarily involving newcomers and young players, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Nine projected starters and six backups were held out of Saturday’s 96-play scrimmage.
Conque still liked what he saw in several areas, particularly at quarterback, running back and receiver.
Starting quarterback Wynrick Smothers was 19 of 26 for 184 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions. In two scrimmages, the junior is 34 for 46 with 414 yards and five touchdowns.
"He played winning football," Conque said. "He’s operating the offense very efficiently. We asked him to play faster and he operated most of the system much faster. But he made a couple more mistakes. The challenge for him is to play with poise under pressure.
"When we are playing with our hair on fire, he can’t play like his hair is on fire."
Backup Ryan Howard was 6 of 12 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Jacoby Walker was 2 of 4 for 8 for 8 yards. "When he was in there, our play-calling was pretty vanilla behind the second offensive line," Conque said. "But Howard is No. 2 right now and is going to get more reps with the first unit. We will still have some packages with the first team for Jacoby."
The receivers and running backs caught a combined six touchdown passes. Jesse Grandy had six receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Dominque Croom caught four for 67 yards and a touchdown. Al Lasker had three receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. Blake Gardner caught one pass for 30 yards and a touchdown. Clay Murphy had two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jackie Hinton caught a 6-yard touchdown.
Hinton, who played 14 snaps, rushed three times for 15 yards. Anthony Blackmon had 37 on 10 carries and a rushing touchdown. Terence Bobo had 24 yards on four carries.
However, Conque was most impressed with Willie Matthews’ 15 yards on nine carries. "He did an extraordinary job running behind the 2’s in the offensive line," Conque said. "He was physical and his ball security was good. The big thing about that is I now feel we have four guys in the backfield we can count on and that matters. It’s gonna take three, maybe four backs, to get through the season."
Conque praised offensive guard Cole Carruthers, who had four knockdowns. He said center Corey Howard played well before he went down with dehydration. Dominique Allen and C.J. Simon had good efforts in limited action. Redshirt freshman Kyle Stouffer, 6-foot-7, 321 pounds, played 67 snaps and has earned a berth on the first unique. Another young lineman who did some good things was true freshman Lance Kloker of Owasso, Okla. D.J. Appe and Jon Mark Holden were linemen held out with injuries.
Conque said the first-team offensive line consists of Allen, a junior; Carruthers, a sophomore, Howard, a senior; Simon, a sophomore; and Stouffer, a redshirt freshmen.
"I feel we have who can play competitive football," Conque said.
Defensively, interior linemen Justin Williams, D.J. Willis and Matthew Hornbuckle were held out of the scrimmage and Larry Duvall had limited plays. Conque said T.J. Randall, Parker Carpenter and true freshman Nate O’Connor had good efforts. Defensive end Markeith Gaines missed the scrimmage but Conque said Jeremy Jester had a strong performance and Jonathan Woodard and Devon Hawkins did some good things.
Linebackers Seth Allison, Rojae Jackson, Zach Bush, Blake Childress and Ricky Wyatt were held out of the scrimmage. "Play was disjointed there," Conque said. "Justin Heard continued to play at a high level and a lot of young kids got a lot of reps."
The coach said Marcus Peters and Josh Jones played werll at corner but reserved the biggest praise for true freshman Dillon Winfrey of Bryant. "He graded 90 percent, is the third fastest player on the team and he will play a lot of football at corner and in the kicking game," Conque said.
He said safety Radarius Winston continues to play "lights out" and Karl Brady and Jestin Love are in a tight battle at the other safety position. Conque said true freshman Darius Reed, a 6-3, 195-pound cornerback from Houston, has a chance to "be the next bigtime presence at safety when he gets a little bit of experience."
Conque noted Eddie Carmara made all his placekicks and put all his kickoffs at least 4 yards deep in the end zone.