CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Southern football team capped the opening week of fall camp by taking to Buccaneer Field for the first of three scrimmages on Friday morning. Highlighted by Matt Hardy’s safety, the defense enjoyed the upper hand over the offense for much of the day. Most of the play was confined to a set of downs at a time, with several sustained drives concluding the action.
“There was good and bad aspects, which you expect in your opening scrimmage,” CSU Head Coach Jay Mills said afterwards. “The good was the defensive performance. I was very pleased with that. They were ready to play, made plays and did it consistently from start to finish. It was good having some people back that had been gone for a little bit of time in spring practice and I was very pleased with the defense.”
In addition to Hardy’s safety – which accounted for the first score of the day – the Bucs forced constant pressure and also received sacks from returning defensive linemen James Smith, Will Hunt, and Isaac Lowrance, as well as solid penetration from freshman Tre Deloach, a local product out of Ashley Ridge High School.
When the defense was not able to get to the quarterback, plays were made in the back end as newcomers Charlie Morrison-Ford, Jr. and Elijah Lee came up with interceptions, as did redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Zac Johnston. CSU’s activity on defense also pleased first year defensive coordinator, Shaw Quinn.
“The biggest thing we talked about last night that we wanted to do on defense was to come out, play fast, get to the ball, and have a sense of confidence about us as we play and I thought today we did a good job of all that,” Quinn said. “Sometimes as a coach, you can get the cart ahead of the horse and get so worried about scheme that you don’t get good at the basics. I thought today the basics were better as far as breaking to the ball, running to the ball, and then communicating and executing the calls. We’ve got a long way to go but it was good to see some improvement.”
CSU’s special teams units kicked off the morning by running through multiple kickoffs, punts, and field goals. Redshirt junior Tyson Pryor was particularly impressive in the placekicking department, drilling a pair of field goals through the uprights from 42 and 47 yards away.
While the offense struggled at times, redshirt junior quarterback Derek Hatcher and several others contributed highlights. Hatcher found classmate Kirby Broome for a 21-yard gain early on in the action, and also displayed his elusiveness in the pocket as the scrimmage progressed. He first hit Larry Jones III for an 8-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone, and later escaped pressure and fired one to Chris Theodore for a 14-yard pickup.
Junior Malcolm Dixon also showed glimpses of his talent, particularly on a 27-yard touch pass to Jones III which he perfectly placed into tight coverage. Keelyan Bryant accounted for the CSU offense’s other touchdown with a short plunge over the goal line, while redshirt freshman Trey Dorsey showcased his quickness and scampered for runs of 17 and 8 yards. The offense was without junior wide receiver Nathan Perera, who sat out with an injury and is questionable for the Bucs’ September 1 opener at The Citadel.
“We did not make plays in the pass game or in the run game, and overall did not have the performance that I anticipated we would have at certain positions,” Mills said. “Our preparation for practice has been good, but our preparation for a game situation was not where it needed to be offensively.”
In general, though, Mills has taken many positives out of the opening eight practices of fall camp, and sees plenty of room for growth going forward.
“I’ve been pleased with our first week of practice in all three phases,” Mills said. “I feel like there’s been good work, a good attitude, and now we just have to apply it from practice to game situations. We’ve got to be more consistent. We threw a lot at them offensively and defensively and what our young guys found out is that it’s a little bit different in practice and then going to a game situation. It’s a starting point and as we told them – be confident about this – where we began is not where we’ll finish. We’re going to progress, learn from it, and get back to work whether we had a good day or a bad day.”