Spring Game: Patterson impressed by defensive line

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    The annual Spring Football Game took place at a half-constructed Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday morning. Signees, recruits, former players, media and about 5,000 fans were on hand to catch a quick glimpse of the 2011 Horned Frog football team.

    The offense ran 100 plays, and the game lasted slightly less than two hours. As has been the case all spring, young players got a majority of the reps on both offense and defense.

    The only offensive touchdown came on a one-yard run by senior tailback Jercell Fort. The only other score came from an interception return by true freshman linebacker Deryck Gilden, who played a number of snaps with the first team.

    “It’s always a plus and a minus. I was excited for the touchdown but not excited Matt Brown threw the interception,” said head football coach Gary Patterson. “Head coaches never get a chance to say, ‘hey this is a great day.’ My version of a perfect day would have been everybody do what they’re supposed to, and the only reason we got a big play is because someone made a big play, not because someone screwed something up.”

    Freshman running back Dwight Smith, considered by analysts as one of the best running back prospects from the state of Texas, took the vast majority of the snaps in the backfield. Junior Aundre Dean took the second most reps, and sophomore Waymon James and senior Matthew Tucker took the rest. Junior Ed Wesley did not play as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.

    Sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall did a good job of managing the game, showing why he deserves to replace former quarterback Andy Dalton. He showed good command of the offense, completing most of his passes down field. The 6-foot-4-inch Brownwood High graduate had ample time in the pocket and made smart decisions throughout the day. Pachall and freshman backup Matt Brown both ran the ball a number of times on designed quarterback sneaks, showing off their speed and agility. Stats were not kept for the game.

    Defensively, sophomore cornerback Travaras Battle made an acrobatic play when he broke up a deep ball intended for sophomore wide receiver Josh Boyce. Patterson took note of his young secondary.

    “You know the great thing about the defense today was that this was the first time in 14 years here that we didn’t have a safety who had ever played in a ball game,” Patterson said. “I was very excited about how they played and how they communicated.”

    If there is one position that Patterson still has questions about, it’s the offensive line, which lost Marcus Cannon and Jake Kirkpatrick to the upcoming NFL Draft, and tackles Zach Roth and Josh Vernon to graduation.

    “We have to grow up the offensive lineman,” Patterson said after the scrimmage. “I wasn’t happy with the way they played today. They have to start understanding the sense of urgency for what we’ve got to do.”

    He did say, however, the defensive line was influenced by the poor play of the offensive line.

    The defensive front, which lost seniors Kelly Griffin, Corey Grant and Wayne Daniels to graduation, will look to senior Braylon Broughton and junior D.J. Yendrey to line up next to 2011 Freshman All-American Second Team Stansly Maponga and make an impact.

    The defensive front may have been the position Patterson was most impressed with in the scrimmage.

    “To be honest, I think our defensive front is better than it was a year ago,” he said. “I think D.J. Yendrey is playing better than Corey Grant. I think that Braylon [Broughton] against the run, physically, is playing better than Wayne Daniels. And [Stansly] Maponga is Maponga. You’ve got to keep moving forward. It’s amazing what a little competition can do.”

    With two more practices left until summer workouts begin, Patterson said his team has come a long way this spring and is where it needs to be.

    “I’m more excited, all of our younger players are getting a lot more reps, we’re doing exactly what I wanted to do,” Patterson said. “It’s pretty amazing that we just played 100 plays and didn’t give up a touchdown.

    “Next week, we’ll really bang around again on Tuesday, and Thursday we’ll start working on Air Force and Baylor and get ready to play.”