What a gorgeous day! Today’s BC Spring Game went off without a hitch. A lively affair, the team was finally able to take their home field with some fans (mostly their families) in the stands for the first time in Coach Jeff Halfey’s tenure. Glimpses of Titans coach and Tyler’s dad Matt Vrabel, future NFL star Hunter Long, and the McGillis family were great to see and provided a bit of what we can hope to expect come the fall. An exciting proposition, and in the immortal words of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait.”
Anyways onto the game, the first half was a traditional game format with players playing to the “thud,” as Mark Herzlich was fond of noting on the broadcast. The second half was a running clock and more of a situational setting, where we saw the young quarterbacks get some live-ish reps. Not too too much to glean from the day of course given the simplistic game plan, but here are some quick takeaways from the game.
Airing it out
As we got a healthy dose of last year, we’re going to be a pass happy offense. Despite starting off a little slow, Phil Jurkovec let the ball fly a lot (as did Dennis Grosel) finishing 14-20 for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Zay all day came down with two gorgeous about-30-yard touchdown passes in the last minute of the first half, one on each sideline.
Like come on. These two are at a whole different level.
Jaelen Gill looks as though he’ll be much bigger factor this season. He and Jurkovec connected on a number of quick passes, and he looked really smooth with the ball in his hands. He ended with four catches for 53 yards. We only got a glimpse of what he could do last year, but given a true offseason to build that rapport, I see him as one of the sneakier weapons on the team. The running backs should also figure to be even more involved in the passing game this season.
As mentioned, Grosel also had a solid day, especially to start the game going 7-7 and running in a touchdown. Hafley commented on how good of a leader he’s been and how strong of a command he had as Hafley hovered right behind him today.
Young Pass Catchers Shined
First off, behind the Gills and Flowers of the world, a number of the other receivers are quite large. Taji Johnson stood out with Grosel, coming down with big catches (7 catches, 63 yards) and showed great physicality. Bond, Lewis Bond had a ridiculous catch that was dubiously called out, but still had a couple of nice grabs. “He’s been reliable, and just finds a way to get open,” Hafley said after the game. He continued, saying his strength and big legs make him dangerous in the slot.
Defensive Line Improvement
Coach Hafley was singing the defensive line’s praises. He was a little stingy on crediting them with sacks, but he was impressed by how quickly they collapsed the pocket and how good of a job Coach Vin has done with them. “I think our D-line might be one of the most improved units and it has to be if we’re going to play good defense.” A pair of freshmen in defensive end Donovan Ezeiruaku and linebacker Bryce Steele both ran around well and made some plays. Hafley was impressed by how all the young players handled the opportunity.
Young DBs Competing
Freshman corner CJ Burton had a solid outing. He should have had an interception, but Hafley regretfully called the play a sack. It’s tough to gauge much of the defensive play in general since everything was so vanilla, but we’ll be calling his number a lot.
Nickel Denzel Blackwell had a number of great pass breakups. Hafley noted “He might be one of the most improved guys from the time he got here last year,” and he’s been really impressed by what he’s shown all spring. Expect him to make a real run at time come training camp.
Other News and Notes
Deon Jones didn’t play today but was awarded the Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship, given annually to a BC defensive back “who best exemplifies the personal qualities of team dedication and leadership by example, an extraordinary competitive spirit, and personal concern for family friends and teammates.”
Matt Applebaum tinkered around with the offensive line today to figure out where everyone fits best. Last season of course, saw the curious shift of Zion Johnson from guard to tackle. He took a little bit to really get comfortable, but today we saw him much more back at guard and Tyler Vrabel back to the tackle spot. We even saw freshman Drew Kendall at center!
The tight end spot has a big question mark with Hunter Long’s departure. Charlie Gordinier showed some nice athleticism today and finished with four catches and 56 yards. Brendan Smith also tacked on four catches of his own for 42 yards. Spencer Witter was out today.
While I was disappointed we didn’t see anything truly ridiculous, it was really just great to see the guys take the field again with some semblance of normalcy. After this, the guys will get some time off for finals and then head home to decompress. That will mark the dead period, but before you know it will be back and the summer offseason program will begin in earnest.