Football | Notebook: Freshmen impress in intersquad scrimmage
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 08:09
The final score at Ellis Oval on Saturday was 125-109, but no, it was not the greatest shootout in football history, and no, it was not Anthony Fucillo (LA ’11) against Amherst circa 2010 (when he threw for a NESCAC record 503 yards in a 70-49 loss). Points were awarded somewhat arbitrarily at the Jumbos’ annual intersquad scrimmage in which Tufts’ offense, wearing white jerseys, triumphed over the blue-clad defense.
Less than two weeks away from their season opener at Wesleyan on Sept. 21, the Jumbos are not too concerned about arbitrary points — though the offense did win itself an 11 a.m. Sunday treatment time, while the defense had to report at 10 a.m. The true purpose of the scrimmage was to simulate game situations at game speed, on the same grass the team will roam four times during the regular season. It was also an opportunity to run new plays, solidify snap counts and fix mistakes. And, for fresh faces, it was a chance to make an impression.
Nik Dean, a recruit from central Florida who in January was featured in the Orlando Sentinel for his hard-nose style on the basketball court, was a popular target over the middle on Saturday. The tight end, who was also recruited as a linebacker, had several catches for big gains, and at one point caught three consecutive passes from sophomore Drew Burnett. Between Dean, sophomore Xavier Frey — who also had a big day Saturday — and fifth-year Nick Kenyon, the Jumbos could have three legitimate threats at tight end.
Ben Berey was a quarterback and defensive back at Glastonbury High in Connecticut, but on Saturday he was the Jumbos’ first-team slot receiver and looked comfortable in the role. Late in the scrimmage, junior quarterback Jack Doll, the front-runner for the job, scrambled left before floating the ball 15 yards along the sideline to connect with Berey.
“We’ve got tons of good new receivers,” Doll said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons. These guys have really learned the offense quick.”
A pair of local running back recruits, Chance Brady and Mike Rando, also made their presence felt. Brady, a star running back at Haverhill, returned kickoffs and took a few handoffs, showcasing his toughness and a powerful stiff arm. Rando, a two-way standout at Walpole, returned punts and had multiple carries of five-plus yards.
“They both caught on to the offense,” junior Zack Trause, the returning starter at tailback, said of his two freshmen teammates. “They’ve definitely stepped up and shown their talent.”
On defense, Mike Stearns, an Academic All-American in lacrosse at Framingham, broke up a pass and planted a couple of big hits on receivers. At quarterback, Liam O’Neil of Greenwich, Conn. displayed his composure in the pocket, while Alex Snyder of Colorado Springs, Colo. made the throw of the day, a 30-yard rainbow to junior Harrison Kidd for a touchdown.
While returning players will make it difficult for the aforementioned freshmen to earn starting roles, they will almost certainly — perhaps with the exception of O’Neil and Snyder, given Doll wins the job — make an immediate impact.
Doll 100 percent, physically and mentally
The 2012 season could not have gone much worse for Jack Doll. Making his first collegiate start in the Jumbos’ season opener against Wesleyan, Doll’s first pass was intercepted. Then he was sacked three times. And then, with 37 seconds left in the first quarter, he was crushed as he released his second interception and was forced to leave the game. He spent the rest of the day — and the season — on the sideline, wearing a sling on his arm.
“I didn’t think the injury was that bad at first,” Doll said on Saturday. “Turns out I tore my labrum and needed surgery and lost the season.”
At Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., Doll had been the backup to Matt Barkley, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as to Barkley’s successor at the University of Southern California, Max Wittek. To give him a chance to play, coach Bruce Rollinson turned Doll into a wide receiver.
“We always told him, ‘Son, you’re a talented quarterback, but what are we gonna do?’” Rollinson told the Daily last September.
It’s hard to imagine standing on the sideline, injured, after four years of waiting for a shot. But Doll possesses coolness and poise incomprehensible to anyone outside of California. No big deal. Time to move on.
“It was tough, but it’s in the past,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just happy to be back and fortunate that I was only a sophomore.”
Now, Doll is the lone upperclassman in a four-man QB battle with Burnett, O’Neil and Snyder. When the Jumbos take the field under the lights at Wesleyan next Saturday, he knows where he plans to be.
“That’s my goal: to be the starting quarterback,” he said.
Williams ready to give D-line a boost
Sophomore defensive end Patrick Williams entered last year’s Week 7 matchup against Colby with nine tackles and one sack all season. In a 21-14 overtime loss to the Mules, Williams had seven tackles and two sacks. His big chance arose after Curtis Yancy (LA ‘13) got injured in the first half.