The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team's first scrimmage of the spring was designed to let the young, inexperienced players answer questions about how close they are to being ready to contribute.
A good portion of Friday evening's 94-play scrimmage at Finley Stadium was set up to find out which of the two redshirt freshman quarterbacks battling for the backup job can become comfortable in stressful situations.
Starter Jacob Huesman took limited snaps, completing 7 of 11 passes for 59 yards before turning the offense over to his understudies. With a talented defensive line applying plenty of pressure and coaches continually urging them to speed up the pace, Alejandro Bennifield looked to take a step ahead of Tyler Roberson.
"Alejandro has got a little more poise, a better handle on what's happening, and he certainly has the stronger arm of the two," offensive coordinator Jeff Durden said. "Tyler has a little bit of an edge as far as running the ball because he's faster, but we've got to really work on our decision making. I saw him today get happy feet. He was not comfortable back there, but I'm not sure anybody would be when our defense gets after it.
"What I wanted to see today was no turnovers, and they both had one. And then the other thing I wanted to see was who could operate in this up-tempo, no-huddle type system without losing their cool and missing their reads, and 'Dro got him today. He had a couple of busts, but he really took off and looked more comfortable running it."
The freshman quarterbacks threw two touchdowns each, with Bennifield tossing a couple of nice fade-route scores late in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman receiver Alphonso Stewart had a pair of scoring receptions, including a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a fade route, and fellow freshman James Stovall also had a TD.
Running backs Marquis Green and Derrick Craine also got the brunt of carries, and senior-to-be Green proved why his shifty change-of-pace style is expected to be a nice complement to the physical style of Craine and starter Keon Williams. Green finished with 116 yards on just nine carries, including an electric 60-yard scoring run early on. He also turned a short pass into an 11-yard gain.
"That's what he does," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said of Green. "You may run him, run him and nothing happens, and then all of a sudden he can pop one. That's what he did last year. We have to get the ball to him on the perimeter as many times as we can. He was the one who definitely looked like he could pop it and do some things for us.
"Overall I thought we were pretty sloppy. We've got to get better. The ball was on the ground too much and there were some ill-advised throws. But the young quarterbacks will learn. They had to see this, they had to be out here and they both got quite a few snaps. Next time they come out they have to get better at it."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...