Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SPORTS >>Defense dominates in Devils' Red-White

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s offense dominated in most of the Red Devils’ preseason practice scrimmages. Just before Saturday’s Red-White game, the defense had its best day of practice to date. It carried that momentum into Saturday’s event, and stuffed the offense all game long.

The offense couldn’t score at all during regular scrimmaging, but finally got it into the end zone during a brief red-zone situational scrimmage at the end of the evening. Jacksonville didn’t try to run the ball very much, and the passing game was ineffective. Red Devil head coach Mark Whatley didn’t plan on running much, and it became apparent why midway through the contest when starting fullback Justin Sebourn left the game with a knee injury and is out indefinitely. “I didn’t want to run a lot. I didn’t want to create a bunch of piles and get people hurt,” Whatley said. “You found out why because we lost a pretty good football player for a while.”

Hubbard was pressured a few times, but the quarterbacks were protected with the green jerseys. Even when he wasn’t pressured, the passing game usually didn’t work. Passes were either off target or dropped most of the time, or receivers weren’t in the right place. Whatley still saw some good things. He blames the ineffectiveness on a lack of intensity.
“We didn’t do a heck of a lot very well, but we didn’t do anything with any intensity,” Whatley said. “We didn’t play with any fire in our belly and we didn’t do the little bitty things right that you have to do to make things work.”

One key positive that Whatley saw was the play of the offensive line, which usually gave the quarterbacks time to find an open receiver. “I feel like our line gave us time to throw the ball,” Whatley said. “We just didn’t execute.”
Whatley found other things to compliment, specifically the play of certain individuals. “I think Deverick Hall jumped in there and had himself a good scrimmage. Jeffrey Tillman is a sophomore that played very well. He ran it hard and he might find himself on the field somewhere. Norvel Gabriel played well on both sides of the ball.”

Tillman led everyone in rushing yards, most of which came during the junior varsity scrimmage. Senior defensive back Breon Cox provided the most exciting highlight when he streaked in front of a receiver at midfield, picked off a Hubbard pass and returned it down the left side to the 5-yard line. “We had some bright spots. That one doesn’t go in the column, so we’re not panicking. We’re going to back and look at what we did and try to get ready for North Little Rock.”