For the first Georgia Southern spring football scrimmage in full pads, the stat that stood out the most was the lack of flags.
Working under first-year coach Willie Fritz and a new offense Saturday at Paulson Stadium, the Eagles were flagged only twice for procedure, and as the practice session progressed, the offense began seeing more and more success.
Fritz estimated that out of “about 150 plays,” including 12 with the kicking game, GSU ran about 60 percent of the time and got rushing touchdowns from Ken Thomas, Dennis Pritchard, Kenny Foster and Ian Days, though the run by Days, a 35-yard scamper, was called back with a penalty.
Thomas, a junior-college transfer from East Mississippi, the 2013 NJCAA national champion, scored the first rushing touchdown from 40 yards out.
“He comes from a national championship, and he’s obviously played in some meaningful games,” Fritz said about the 5-foot-10, 212-pound back. “He brings a lot of experience.”
“The line did a tremendous job,” Thomas added. “They came out and put me in a situation that made me look good. There were a couple of plays where I stumbled or should have gotten more, so we’re ready to get better.”
The passing game had its moments, too. Kentrellis Showers had four catches for 55 yards, and Kevin Ellison, the first-team quarterback, threw a long touchdown pass to a diving B.J. Johnson.
“He ran a vertical route and I just threw it up there to him,” Ellison said. “He made a great play on it.”
The defense made two stops on fourth-and-1 and had some big plays on its end, too. Safety Zander Yost recovered a fumble and picked off a pass from quarterback L.A. Ramsby.
“The nickel forced the receiver inside and he really had nowhere to go,” Yost said. “All I really had to do was lay out for it.”
There were several fumbles in the game, the first thing Fritz said that “needs to be cleaned up.”
All four quarterbacks —Ellison, Ramsby, second-team quarterback Favian Upshaw and Vegas Harley — ran some option and did a lot of scrambling, but they were ruled down by touch and avoided contact.
The instinct to run was clear, especially for Ellison, who split starts in 2013 with Jerick McKinnon. That’s not always a bad thing.
“Sometimes when it’s not there his best checkdown is to tuck it and run,” Fritz said about Ellison. “It’s sometimes hard to be sure when there’s no contact on the quarterbacks, but I thought there might have been some plays where the defense might have missed the tackle and it would have gone for a long run.”
The biggest surprise for Fritz on the day was the play of Harley, who played with the fourth team at the scrimmage.
“His stock went up today,” Fritz said.
Fritz said that the coaching staff would use the film from the scrimmage to put together a working two-deep, so the staff will have a better idea of who the starters and backups will be at each position for the annual Blue/White scrimmage, which will take place at noon Saturday at Paulson Stadium. Playing for the first time in the newly-renovated stadium was exciting for the team.
“The atmosphere in here without these extra stands and everything, it was already loud,” Yost said. “When we get a full student section in here, it’s going to be awesome.”