Weber State football works on depth in scrimmage, set for camping getaway
OGDEN — The Weber State football team hit the field at Stewart Stadium for a morning scrimmage Thursday ahead of a weekend getaway.
Some of the day’s top offensive plays were made in red-zone series with the line of scrimmage at the defense’s 22-yard line.
Both were explosive-type plays that made offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mickey Mental happy. The first was a 22-yard Kylan Weisser slant to Jacob Sharp that he caught near the 12, made a couple defenders miss and dashed to the end zone.
The second was a Kevin Smith Jr. rush, one he bounced to the left and outraced a couple defenders coming from the strong side for a 22-yard TD run.
“We didn’t execute there in the first scrimmage, and I thought there was an attention to detail in the red zone this week and we were efficient, scored two touchdowns, that’s what you like to see,” Mental said.
Players in the No. 1 rotations on both sides of the ball took few reps after the opening sequences of the scrimmage, allowing for more action among players looking to earn playing time, learn schemes or both.
“We want to get a lot of reps for a lot of players, put guys in a primetime light and expose them a little bit, and see who’s going to step up and shine,” co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Grant Duff said.
Scrimmages are fun for the defense, especially.
“It’s one of the few times we get to live tackle, which is the No. 1 attribute of any defensive player. So we love to be able to actually evaluate how good of tacklers we are,” Duff said.
Mental didn’t like his offense’s slow start but didn’t mind it, either, after the offense has enjoyed relative success in recent practices.
“What I liked today is we hit some adversity, as far as we didn’t start off fast but we got better as the scrimmage went on, and stayed the course,” Mental said. “Adversity during camp is awesome, you see what your side of the ball is really made of.”
Outside of the touchdowns, one of the liveliest moments Thursday came on a 33-yard Kyle Thompson field goal attempt in an end-of-game simulation in which the defense iced him with two timeouts, then both sidelines crept onto the field and closed in around him. Thompson put through the final, real attempt with no problem, and the offense and defense both celebrated.
Another came late in the scrimmage when sophomore Abraham Williams, back to playing cornerback, high-pointed a Brian Harper pass up the sideline for an interception.
Duff got more looks at his defensive ends, a position group that went from deep and experienced to one looking for playmakers after George Tarlas and Logan Lutui transferred out.
“That doesn’t scare me, it’s just an opportunity for somebody special to step up,” he said.
Snow College transfer Shad Pulsipher and redshirt freshman Brayden Wilson of Farmington are battling to start at the strong-side end position — though, due to track record of playing deep on the D-line and out of a potential need this season, it’s possible No. 1s and 2s see plenty of playing time at the position.
On the weak side, Duff said redshirt freshman Nuu Sellesin of Woods Cross, junior Jordan Strate of Davis High, and true freshman Cameren Cope are vying for the role.
Sellesin was banged up and was out of Thursday’s action. Junior Okiki Olorunfunmi did not participate Thursday and may be out for an extended time.
Strate is entering his fifth season in the program with scant playing time to his record.
“A young man who has overcome quite a bit. The injury bug has not been his friend, some pretty major injuries he’s had to overcome,” Duff said. “So I’m proud of him for grinding through it, because a lot of weak-minded people would have given up going through what he’s gone through. Football is a fantastic sport when you get to play a lot and really sucks when you don’t. There’s no middle ground.”
Duff says Cope’s athleticism jumps out most days, so it’s up to coaches to teach up the technique and nuances of the position.
Pulsipher and Strate are older, though inexperienced on the field at the Division I level.
“In a lot of ways, just the way we practice sometimes makes it so the games are easier,” Duff said. “So there will be some simplification when we get to games that will help these guys. But playing football gives you that spark, it’s just different when the lights go on. I’m excited to see it.”
HEADING OUT OF TOWN
As Weber State has done in other fall camps, the Wildcats are headed for a cabin camping trip in Wasatch County that will feature team-building activities, an escape from the monotony of camp, and a couple days of practice at Wasatch High School.
“First time ever,” Mental said about the camping trip. “I’m a city boy from Cleveland, so this is going to be a new experience for me.
“It will be good for the guys to be around each other, become tighter as a family and also have the two work days to work on things. So we’ll go from one spectrum, where it’s about having fun and being loose, to now we’ve got to flip the switch and get the work in on the field.”