“It was your typical first overblown scrimmage,” Bunting said. “It was kind of sluggish, but overall, I was pleased.”
The practice was abruptly closed to the media, after the coaching staff deemed a published report concerning a fake field goal “too specific.”
However, select players and coaches were made available to the media immediately following the practice.
Bunting said he was most pleased with the performance of the running backs. True sophomore Ronnie McGill did practice, despite published reports that he would be held out today due to cramping. He ran the ball seven times for 36 yards. Jacque Lewis scored the only rushing touchdown on the day, to go with 16 yards on five carries.
“Ronnie McGill played and played well,” Bunting said. “All of the backs ran the ball well. Chad Scott looked good. Jacque Lewis looked extremely good.”
“All the backs ran well,” offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill said. “We’ve just got to hone down what we’re doing, figure out what our players can execute the best and go from there. But we plan on playing them all. McGill, to this point, has not been a 25-carry per game ball carrier, so we’ve got to spell him and get him out of the game.”
Daytona Beach freshman Vince Wilson impressed with a couple of runs as well.
“He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet; he sometimes goes the wrong way,” Tranquill said. “But, he’s got some talent. He’s quick and got some good acceleration and power.”
Bunting also acknowledged his approval of the performances put in by the defensive backs.
“I thought they were all over the place,” he said. “They were solid. Once again, Marvin [Sanders] has done an excellent job with them.”
Bunting said the secondary is reacting faster, and that their “eyes are on receivers first, and on the quarterback second. Their getting better breaks on the ball.”
He said what's most notable is that they’re surrounding the ball.
“We’re getting multiple hats to the receiver or the ball carrier, and that makes a big difference,” he said. “They know where their help is, that’s the most important thing.”
Senior quarterback Darian Durant completed 7-of-13 passes for 89 yards and no interceptions. There were no receiving touchdowns. Daunte Fields, Jacque Lewis, Wallace Wright, Lewis Burnham and Jon Hamlett, each caught two passes apiece.
“I think we played well,” Durant said. “The main thing Coach Tranquill has emphasized is starting out fast. We haven’t been starting fast in games, and we really started fast today. We went down and scored on the first drive, and that was a big plus for us.”
There were no fumbles, and two interceptions – one by Mahlon Carey and one by Trimane Goddard, who returned it for a touchdown. Carey intercepted a Matt Baker pass that was thrown late and over the middle.
“[Carey] was robbing the hole, and Matt threw his worst of the day,” Bunting said. “Mahlon sloughed off his man and made a great play. This is kind of a hard deal here. I want to see turnovers, but I don’t want to see turnovers. It was good overall in that respect.
“[Goddard] is going to play. It’s just a matter of when,” Bunting added.
But he stopped short of saying whether the Robersonville freshman would red-shirt or not. The coaches will have another personnel meeting before the end of training camp to decide his status for 2004.
True freshman Hilee Taylor, recently moved to defensive end from linebacker as a residual effect from Chase Page’s season ending injury, continues to wreak havoc. But Bunting stressed there is still work to be done up front defensively.
“Hilee Taylor is going to have a great career here,” Bunting said. “He’s very special and he works hard. He just can’t get enough of it. He just wants to work and he wants to please.
“He is very fast, but we’ve got a long ways to go with that front. We looked good stopping the run on the perimeter, which has been a concern for two years – that speed getting out there. We’ll keep working those four or five guys inside and see if we can get that squared away.”
Taylor recorded a sack, and Brian Rackley had “one, maybe two,” as well, Bunting said. “There was some pressure. I would like to have the big fast ends to rush the passer, with the emphasis on fast.”
There were not many penalties, which is a stark contrast from last season’s first training camp scrimmage. There were a couple of holds from veterans that Bunting said were disturbing. But other than that, the illegal procedures and the offside calls were limited. There was a facemask penalty called.
“[That] was disappointing in light of where the position was on the field – over by the sidelines…you should never get a penalty over there,” Bunting said.