There weren’t many complaints from Southeastern coach Ron Roberts after the Lions wrapped up spring practice with the annual Spring Game on Saturday.
The offense won the scrimmage 44-9 mostly because of its 18 first downs, which counted as two points each in the event’s modified scoring system, and Roberts was generally pleased with what he saw on both sides of the ball during the team’s 60-minute full team scrimmage at Strawberry Stadium.
“We saw some kids make some plays,” Roberts said. “We saw some nice catches, which was nice to see. Our passing game probably looked the best it’s looked all spring. We were real physical on the inside running the football.
“I was pretty pleased across the board.”
One of the few problems Roberts had was with the slow start by the offense, which was plagued by timing and communication issues all day, taking the first half to develop any kind of consistent rhythm.
Roberts said he thought a lot of the timing issues were normal for this time in the offseason, but the Lions’ nine penalties, most of which were offside calls, were cause for at least some concern.
By the end of the first half, the only time the offense scored a traditional point was on a 26-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Harrison Heim.
“It’s normal at this point, but I don’t think I’m ever going to say it’s OK,” Roberts said. “It’s something we have to get better at. We have to manage it. We want to pride ourselves as a team that executes well and is very efficient.”
The second half was decidedly more favorable to the offense.
On the first drive of the third quarter, quarterback D’Shaie Landor led the green squad on a 75-yard drive, capped with a 7-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior running back Rasheed Harrell.
All 75 yards on the drive came on the ground, with first-year offensive coordinator Matt Barrett choosing to run the bulk of Saturday’s plays out of the read-option.
In what was arguably the best play of the day for either side, Landor found receiver Kaylan Richardson on a post route in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard score with about a minute left in the scrimmage.
Landor finished the game with 78 yards and a touchdown on 5-for-11 passing and another 44 yards on the ground. Harrell led the running backs with 39 yards on five carries.
“It was off sync at first, but then as the game went on, I feel like we got more in sync with each other,” Landor said. “It’s a new offense, so once everybody learns what their job is, then that’s when the timing and everything comes in, and we’re still working on that.”
With Roberts taking over defensive coordinator duties this season, he’s put a focus on returning the Lions to the more physical and high-pressure unit they’ve been known for in the Southland Conference over the past few years.
The Lions took a big step in that area on Saturday as the defense consistently wreaked havoc in the backfield to the tune of seven sacks and two tackles for loss.
“We started off strong,” senior linebacker Tre’ Bennett said. “We were playing technically sound, fundamentally sound, playing assignment football. But toward the end, we just kind of got a little relaxed in what we were doing.”
The Lions open camp in August before opening the season with a road trip to Oklahoma State on Sept. 3.