BEARS BEGIN INSTALLING GAME PLAN FOR SEASON OPENER ON AUG. 29
The University of Central Arkansas football team spent Sunday afternoon splashing and frolicking at Wild River Country in North Little Rock.
Monday, after the fun, things gained a more serious intensity.
The UCA coaches began solidifying the two-deep and began the installation of the game plan for the season opener Thursday, Aug. 29, against Incarnate Word at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
The UCA coaches began structuring their scout team while some major competition continues for starting positions at outside linebacker and cornerback.
UCA coach Clint Conque said five or six true freshmen will be placed on the regular roster for the first game. The rest of the class will be redshirted and slated initially for scout team work.
“Every one of these players were some of the best players on their high school teams; to tell them they are not quite ready for the varsity yet is difficult to deal with for some of them,” Conque said. “It’s emotional sometimes. But the players may need to gain more weight, strength or are just not ready for the speed of the college game.”
Several positions were solidified after the Bears’ second scrimmage Saturday, one that had big plays from both the offense and the defense.
“Our offense did better when we changed the tempo and shuffled personnel in and out quickly,” Conque said. “The second group on defense got a little tired later on. We’re gonna play some up-tempo offenses, so the defense is going to have to play fast for a lot of plays for a long period.”
He said the Bears’ linebacker corps had an outstanding preseason camp and defensive end Markeith Gaines, coming off surgery, had his best effort of the preseason to complement the steady play of counterpart Jonathan Woodard.
“We have tremendous competition at (outside linebacker) among Ricky Wyatt, Blake Childress and Zach Bush; the depth chart there changes about every day,” Conque said. “We may have somewhat of a three-man rotation.
“Bailey McIver had a good scrimmage at defensive end, and D.J. Willis had an outstanding scrimmage in the defensive line along with freshmen Terence Partee and Jordan Tolliver.
“We feel right now we have four quality defensive ends and five quality interior linemen, and we have nine or 10 inside or outside linebackers who have been outstanding in camp.”
He said Dominque Brown and Marcus Peters are in a back-and-forth competition for a starting cornerback position.
He was encouraged by three straight touchdown drives by the offense at the end of the scrimmage and one at the beginning.
Quarterback Wynrick Smothers completed 18 of 24 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
“I was most proud of a third-and-13 play in which Wynrick went through all his checks and hit a pass for 6 or 7 yards that got us in field goal range,” Conque said.“Dezmin Lewis (receiver) is a big-play guy we’ve got to keep on he field and (freshman) Jatavious Wilson is very dynamic and explosive and could be a difference-maker. We’re going to have to get him six to eight touches a game in various ways.
“We missed some things at running back, but we’re changing some footwork things that will make us better. I’m very concerned about the amount of turnovers we had in preaseason, but we’re dealing with a lot of different skill kids.”
UCA will hold primarily a newcomers scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of Welcome Week on campus. Conque, however, said some regulars may participate in five or six plays if the coaches feel they need the additional work.
“There will be a band, a couple of thousand students in the stands, and it’ll be under the lights; our newcomers will get about 1/10 a feel of a game situation,” Conque said.
“Now, we shift to a different mindset. We had a pretty good camp, not a great camp. We had some frontline guys kind go through the motions but we saw growth from several younger players. It’s time now to pick it up and get ready for our first opponent.”