When evaluating his team’s performance following Friday’s scrimmage, coach David Elson admitted he was a little biased.
After a moment of hesitation, the former defensive coordinator said the defense played slightly better than the offense in the two-hour scrimmage.
“Defensively, we had some three-and-outs there early and they really set the tempo,” Elson said. “It was good to see the offense bounce back and make some plays later on in the scrimmage. So it probably evened out more so than anybody really dominated on either side.”
To open the scrimmage, the defense allowed only two yards and forced a punt.
The trio of sophomore linebacker Brandon Smith, junior linebacker Jami Deberry and freshman defensive back Nate Jenkins each recorded seven tackles to lead the first-team defense.
Jenkins, who added a sack and a pass break up, said the defense has a lot of pride it’s not shy about sharing with the offense.
“We came out today and started dominating,” Jenkins said. “The defense: we are always talking.”
The offense did move the ball after its stagnant start behind the efforts of freshman quarterback Justin Haddix.
Haddix threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-30 passing.
Elson said Haddix’s performance was impressive after starting slow.
“Justin, especially, was the one that stuck out to me,” Elson said. “He just finds a way to make things happen and make a play when our offense really needs a spark.”
On its best drive of the game, the offense moved 55 yards in six plays. Haddix completed his fourth pass in five attempts to sophomore receiver Earl Clayton as he scampered past the front left pylon in the endzone.
Clayton led the team in receiving yards with 48. After the game, Clayton said he was enthused about possibly filling the top receiver’s role vacated by seniors Casey Rooney and Shannon Hayes.
“I don’t care what the play is, look for me,” Clayton said. “Look for me because I’m trying to be a threat in the offense and bring Western back up on the map.”
When looking at the army of receivers vying for a starting position in the fall, Elson still isn’t sure who is going to be the leader.
“I still don’t think anybody has really totally separated themselves,” he said. “But Earl Clayton made some nice catches and Aaron Scott as well.”
Freshman running back G.J. Wooldridge was again the team’s leading rusher with 104 yards on 29 carries. Sophomore running back Lerron Moore, last season’s starting tailback, added 51 yards on 22 rushes.
Freshman kicker Chris James made all six field-goal attempts in the first scrimmage, but was not as accurate the second time around. James capped his 3-for-8 day with a 40-yard attempt with the entire team circled around to finish the day.
The final scrimmage of the spring campaign will come at 2 p.m. Saturday in the annual Red-White Game at Smith Stadium. It’s open to the public.
Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]