Running back Derek Milton prepares to fend off defensive back Derek Allen during McNeese State's annual spring game Saturday. Milton ran eight times for 23 yards. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 11:38 AMMatt Viator learned a lot about his football team this spring — other than the small matter of who will be leading its offense this fall.
The question of who will start at quarterback remains a mystery even after McNeese’s final spring scrimmage on Saturday. Fortunately for the Cowboys, there are solid enough pieces on both sides of the ball to keep Viator from breaking the glass and pushing the panic button just yet.
“I think we have a little speed,” Viator said. “And we have some guys who like to play. That’s important, to have a football team that has the competitive spirit you need to win a championship. And I think this team does. They’re very serious about competing.”
Exhibit A in the “serious about competing” department: during one possession, defensive lineman Sean Brown goaded the offense with shouts of “I told y’all you weren’t getting in the end zone” until an offensive lineman finally shot back, “Shut up, Sean.”
It’s also clear the Cowboys should be able to run the ball no matter who is carrying it.
Kelvin Bennett broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown on the longest play of the scrimmage, while Nate Holmes juked his way for a 12-yard score and also gained 25 yards on a perfectly executed screen pass that was aided by a downfield block from offensive lineman Thor Miller.
“When you put a different person in, everybody brings something different to the table,” Bennett said of the running backs. “It’s a different view from everybody. So I get excited watching everybody do something a little different.”
Even the quarterbacks can run the ball.
Tyler Bolfing legitimately fooled the defense on a zone-read that he kept for a 26-yard scamper with the offense lined up in the shadow of its own goal line.
“If you’re playing against a man defense and they’re going to line up nine in the box, the zone-read’s a great play,” Viator said. “They have to account for the quarterback, which makes it even numbers-wise. That’s the thing about quarterbacks running.”
Multiple players shined when placed in different roles than they filled last season.
Brent Spikes, who has shifted to weak safety this spring, finished with six tackles, 3.5 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. That total included a tackle with Jay Washington that resulted in a safety.
“It’s a different transition, because I went from playing more of a run defense to playing more of a pass,” Spikes said. “But with help from coaches and other players, I’ve made the transition.”
Cornerback Shea Nutt was used sparingly in the secondary sas a freshman, but broke up three passes on Saturday.
And with many of his brethren sidelined this spring, wide receiver Deltoine Scott was the star of the passing game, catching four balls for two touchdowns and 69 yards. He blocked two kicks as a special-teamer last year, but caught one pass.
“I had to make my presence known with a lot of good guys out,” Scott said. “Today was the day.”
While McNeese’s receiving corps will be more bountiful in August with the return of Wes Briscoe and Ernest Celestie as well as the addition of freshman Kent Shelby, there will be an open competition to determine who will be throwing them the ball.
It was safe to say no one took the reins in the final spring go-round.
Will Briscoe was 4 of 8 for 32 yards, but 25 of yards those came on the screen to Holmes.
Bolfing rifled a 20-touchdown pass to Scott, but it was his lone completion in nine attempts.
Freshman Grant Ashcraft showed glimpses of being a future starter for the Cowboys throughout the spring, though at times his rawness was also evident. He was 5 of 9 for 24 yards on Saturday.
Statistically, Joe Lissard had the best day by going 8 of 10 for 85 yards and a touchdown, but those numbers were largely compiled against second- and third-string defenders.
Needless to say, all eyes in Cowboy Country will be fixed behind center when August training camp rolls around.
“We’re going to have to be able to have some consistency throwing it,” Viator said. “So when we get our guys back, we’ll see if we can get that. I’m not going to lie, we have to have a guy at quarterback. But I think we did make some progress this spring.”