Head coach Clay Helton got his first chance to see the 2022 Eagles in a live scrimmage as the Eagles had an 80-play scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium.
The session saw the Eagles score seven touchdowns offensively and the defense came up with a few sacks and one interception.
With quarterbacks being down by contact none were able to really showcase anything with their legs, but a few looked pretty sharp with their arms. Conner Cigelske had two touchdown passes with one to Jjaye Mcafee and another to Jordan Bennett. Zak Rozsman also threw a touchdown pass to Mcafee, while Richie Lankford hit Eil Smith with a 14-yard score. Cam Ransom entered the scrimmage as the fourth quarterback in and while he did complete a couple passes primarily handed the ball off.
Buffalo transfer Kyle Vantrease led the way working with the first team offense. Vantrease did a great job moving the Eagles downfield on a few scoring drives but did not throw a touchdown pass. Vantrease had a couple impressive passes to University of Houston transfer Jerm Singleton as well as returning senior Khaleb Hood. Vantrease showed the most chemistry with senior Amare Jones who he connected with on eight passes in the scrimmage.
“Ever since Kyle has gotten here, he has worked hard with all of us at receiver,” said Jones. “The two of us have talked a lot since he got here and we have great chemistry.”
“I feel like we have gotten to be friends off the field and that makes things even easier on the field,” said Vantrease. “It’s not just Amare but I feel comfortable with all the guys out here as I understand each of them as far as where they like the ball and how they run. It’s great to get out here in a contact situation and throw to them. With reps comes more comfortability and thankfully we have the rest of spring and all of the off-season and I’m excited about the talent we have out here.”
Coach Helton praised Vantrease for his leadership and his work Saturday but was also quick to point out the progress from the other quarterbacks.
“He’s playing like a vet and you can see the years of experience he has,” said Helton. “I was pleased with the other quarterbacks as well. Conner came in there and had really great execution on a couple deep balls for touchdowns. Our young buck Zak got in and threw a touchdown, Richie threw won too and Cam’s doing a nice job.”
The Eagles ran strictly out of the spread formation with some single back and empty backfield sets. Jalen White started the game with the first unit and had a couple nice runs before being taken out. Gerald Green scored once and ran with the first unit while junior A.J. Brown split time between the first and second teams scoring twice.
“Jalen was dealing with a little bit of an ankle injury and we wanted to get him in a couple reps and he had five carries for 35 yards and looked really good,” said Helton. “Gerald got the majority of work with the first unit and we really challenged him in the red zone and he was able to finish the drive with a touchdown. A.J. has had a great camp and off season. I think this offense has really helped him shine.”
The Eagle offensive line performed well during the scrimmaging only allowing a couple sacks by contact while adjusting to a more pass heavy offense.
“The offensive line has really progressed and I am happy with their growth,” said Helton. “Coach Richard Owens has really done a great job with them, and credit to the kids too for the work they are putting in. That is an experienced group with four of the five starters being veterans who have played a lot of football. I think it really helped moving Brian Miller from tackle to guard and Rasheed Miller is really growing at tackle.”
As for the defense they only came up with one turnover in the scrimmage but Helton has been really impressed throughout the spring with their ability to cause turnovers.
“One thing from today’s scrimmage is the defense has to try and eliminate the big offensive plays we had today,” said Helton. “They only had one turnover today, but they’ve done a great job creating turnovers during camp so far. Defensively we are looking to create three turnovers per game so that is something we will continue to work on.”