Non-contact jerseys allow quarterbacks time to focus



By Wes Anderson

In Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium, quarterbacks Juice Williams and Eddie McGee were each sacked five times over 14 offensive drives.

Don’t be surprised if those numbers are hard to believe.

The signal callers’ red “non-contact” jerseys, along with head coach Ron Zook’s desire to avoid injuries, meant referees were very liberal with the whistle, calling plays dead as defensive players closed in on the passer.

“I told the officials, ‘If you think it’s close, you call it,'” Zook said.

As a result, many sacks were called with just one hand on the quarterback, and running plays were stopped well short of where Williams or McGee would likely have been tackled in a regular-season game.

“The offensive coaches were complaining,” Zook said. “You know as well as I do, some of those plays would not have been sacks, not with those two quarterbacks.”

Williams said he didn’t like some of the calls, but felt the non-contact rule gave him more time to focus without the threat of a big hit.

“I always want to take off the red jersey, but it gives me a chance to sit back in the pocket and make throws,” Williams said. “It all works out for the better.”

The Best of the Spring

During halftime of Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, Zook and other coaches honored the best players of the spring with seven awards.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who did not participate in the spring game due to injury, was named the most improved offensive player, while Rodney Pittman and Clay Nurse shared the honor for the defense. Lineman Randall Hunt and defensive tackle David Lindquist won awards for “best effort.”

The Chancellor’s Award for the team’s highest GPA was presented to center Ryan McDonald, while linebacker Brit Miller won the Faculty Award for “exemplary leadership” on and off the field.

Miller accepted his honor with the greatest enthusiasm, jokingly celebrating and waving to the fans in the east bleachers.

“Hey, you’ve got to be excited,” said Miller, who added he was most proud of tight end Tom Sullivan and linebacker Conor Gillen, the winners of the most improved walk-on award.

“You’re coming out here and you’re not reaping every single benefit that the guys on scholarship do, and they did a great job and continue to every day. They’re the guys in practice you look forward to competing against,” Miller said.

A notable honor missing from the list was a spring MVP. When asked whom he would name for the award, Zook paused and lowered his head.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Zook said. “You could make it one of the defensive lineman … I think it’s a good thing that you don’t necessarily have one guy in particular, but, I don’t know. I’d have to think about that one for a while.”

No More Rugby Punts

Since Steve Weatherford’s departure in 2005, the position of punter has been a revolving door. In the last two seasons, four players have assumed the punting duties, including wide receiver DaJuan Warren, who punted “rugby-style” with lackluster results in 2006.

On Saturday, however, there was plenty to cheer about. Sophomore Jared Bosch arguably had the best punt of the day – a perfect spiral that sailed 54 yards before Chris Duvalt caught it on the fly.

“There was a pretty good rush coming, I was just trying to catch the ball and get it off,” Bosch said. “I know if I hit it solid every time, I should be able to have a good ball, but that one I kind of caught pretty well.”

The 12,000-plus fans in attendance cheered the performance of the Mahomet, Ill., native, who hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since 2006.

Anthony Santella, who appeared in all 13 games last season, also performed well in the scrimmage, averaging 49 yards on two punts. Third-stringer Kyle Yelton had his two punts average 40.5 yards.

Zook said he was impressed by the performances, but noted the competition for the starting job was “wide open” and that he wanted to see more consistency.

“That’s the thing. You all saw today what I have problems with. One day a guy kicks it 60, and the next he hits it 20,” Zook said.

While Santella is most likely to start at punter this fall, Bosch said he feels he can earn the top spot on the depth chart after redshirting last season.

“The punting job is open right now. It’s about consistency. Somebody’s got to step up and be consistent,” Bosch said.


photo DI multimedia



Offense outscores defense

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