Although the Miami RedHawks showed significant improvement from a tentative performance last spring, nobodywas talking about a nearly finished product following Miamis first fall scrimmage Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Chris Givens had five catches in Saturday's scrimmage
Quarterbacks Daniel Raudabaugh and Zac Dysert each threw a touchdown pass, and the defense got a score of its own when linebacker Jerrell Wedge returned a fumble 88 yards for a touchdown.
Any appreciation head coach Mike Haywood had for Wedges effort wasnt immediately evident. What was evident was his distaste for a turnover deep in the red zone. Haywood has identified success in the red zone as a key goal for the offense in 2009.
Raudabaugh, a senior projected to start at QB, connected on 16 of 28 passes for 159 yards during his timeat the helm. His long touchdown pass went to junior receiver Jamal Rodgers. Dysert hit four-of-seven, including a TD toss to freshman tight end Steve Marck.
Junior Chris Givens was the top receiver for the offense, which was operating without a number of players nursing injuries. Givens caught five passes for 63 yards. Armand Robinson recorded four catches good for 43 yards.
Overall, its a very talented group, but what we have to do is concentrate on consistency, receivers coach Cedric Cormier said. I heard a guy speak this spring. He said accurate passing from the quarterback has to go along with consistent route running. A quarterback cant be accurate if a receiver is not running a consistent route.
Cormier also echoed another theme of the Haywood staff consistently excellent effort. You might only get one ball thrown to you the whole game, but that doesnt mean you dont go hard the (rest of the time).
According to Cormier, the current receiving corps has a key ingredient for improving its performance. That is what is so fun about this group. They want to do the right thing. They take coaching, he said.
Cormier noted Givens has looked particularly good during the early portion of fall camp. Through the first week, hes been our best receiver. He has all the potential to be a dominating receiver. He is a hard-working guy, and he takes coaching. Thats the thing you want, right there.
Givens said Saturdays scrimmage performance didnt reflect the quality of practices the team had leadingup to the game. Still, it was another step on the way to Miamis opener, as well as a chance to play in front of some people.
It was the first time we really had a game-type situation, but I think everybody just had the jitters. I know I did, Givens said. The practices we had leading up to this were great . The coaches are making us work really hard, and I am loving it.
Playing behind an offensive line that is relatively young, even when everybody is available, running backs gained just 43 yards on 36 attempts Saturday against a rejuvenated RedHawks defense. Senior defensive back Jeff Thompson and redshirt defensive lineman Will Diaz each had five tackles to lead a defense that was also missing players.
Offensively, we have to adjust to the various things they are giving us on defense, Haywood said. We cant turn the ball over. (We) especially have to make an emphasis not to turn the ball over in the red zone and definitely not inside the five-yard line.
He continued, Defensively , we have to understand that if we come out and stop them on the first series,we cant allow them to drive 69 yards on the next series. We have to be more consistent.
One Haywood area of focus for both offensive and defensive units is teamwork. I think theyve made some strides, he said. They are starting to play better as a unit instead of playing as individuals.
Haywood also noted that the first of two fall scrimmages was a chance to give younger and less experienced players some reps. Saturdays offensive line unit was a good example. Guys are getting a lot of reps. We have to develop a little bit more continuity because weve had so many guys out, he said.
Miami, which opens the season Sept. 5 against Kentucky at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, will hold another scrimmage Aug. 22. Haywood hopes to get some of the walking wounded back by that time. Most of the team (doesnt) really have serious injuries. They should be back in the next week, he said.