By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Hornets defense made strides during Thursday’s spring practice at Bryant Stadium after something[more] of a lackluster day on Wednesday. With cooler weather, the Hornets scrimmaged again and plans are for a lengthier scrimmage on Friday.
“Today was a better day,” stated defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. “I felt we got some good work done in our groups. We went over some of the things that we needed to correct from yesterday.
“When we went to the team scrimmage, we challenged the guys to step up their intensity and I felt, especially the first group of guys we had out there had a good eight or 10 plays,” he added. “All the groups picked up better than we were yesterday. I thought the first group made the biggest jump. Hopefully, we’ll continue that tomorrow.”
“It was a great day for practice,” head coach Paul Calley concurred. “I thought, considering we have been so physical the last three days, we might have a little down day today. But we didn’t and I think the cool air had a lot to do with that.
“We got a lot of people reps on both sides of the ball,” he added. “We got a lot of sophomore reps and we had about a 55-play scrimmage. It was a good day.”
Griffith mentioned that a few players have been moved around.
“Jacob Powell came over from running back and worked at defensive end,” he said. “He’s showing some good instincts there. So that’s encouraging. We’re working a lot of guys in and out at linebacker, trying to find guys that, number one, understands what we’re doing and, number two, have the athletic ability to accomplish it.
“The secondary group, I thought, had great communication today, much better than yesterday,” he added. “They got their checks and alignment better, especially the first group. So we’ll work to make sure that not only the first group gets that but everybody does.”
Calley too saw improvement.
“We’re starting to understand a little bit better,” he said. “We’re starting to comprehend the big picture and understand what we’re trying to do as a whole. I think that helps make them more consistent.”
Reacting and not thinking about what they have to do is what Calley wants to see.
“I don’t want them to think at all,” he explained. “You’ve got to understand, we’ve got very little in right now. Compared to what we’ve had in the past, we’re very basic. So they ought to be able to execute, especially on screens — there are certain things you have to do on screens and we weren’t doing them early. We worked on them hard today and we improved.
“The other thing I was pleased with is, when the protection does break down, when they run a stunt and they were slipping on through, our quarterbacks stepped up and continued to look downfield,” he added. “They made some plays.”
Griffith, who’s the position coach for the linebackers, said he has several players getting a look but none who have separated themselves from the rest.
“Marshall Everett, a move-in from Joe T. (Robinson High School in Little Rock), he’s working the middle along with Kaden Mills, who was a JV linebacker for us last year and Tyree Reese, a young man who moved in from (Little Rock) Central,” said the coach. “They’re all getting some work but we’re just going to have to see, when the spring’s done, who kind of comes to the top.”
Moving to the strong side spot, Griffith said, “Parker Dunn and Tyree Reese, who’s working at the Sam some as well. Jalen Bell, a running back, is working some, mainly for pass situations to add his athletic ability on the field. And Collin Battaglia is working some at Sam.
“Those are the guys that are getting the work with the first and second teams right now,” he noted.
On the weak side, Griffith said, “We’re working Cameron Price who got a little playing time last year; Walter Dunn, who’s a very good athlete and played some safety last year after he moved in from Magnolia. He was a little behind throughout the year but did show an ability to hit some folks. He’s learning. He’s trying to catch up.
“Also, Austin May, a sophomore, is getting some work on the weak side,” he mentioned.
“So, we’ve got a lot of different guys we’re looking at right now. We’re hoping by the end of the spring that, instead of penciling somebody in, we can have a couple of guys come to the front. Ideally, we’d have two guys at each position that were ready to play on Friday night. But, right now, we’re searching for one deep at each position. Hopefully, somebody will step up out of that group and take the jobs.”