Protection improves in first fall scrimmage

Coming out of Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall, Jim McElwain was quick to point out he felt the team was really effective in the passing game, adding protection was good.

It was supposed to be. In the spring, a lack of depth due to the absence of Joe Caprioglio, Jared Biard and even A.J. Frieler led to a rough estimate of a gazillion sacks in the three spring scrimmages. It may have been rougher on Ty Sambrailo, one of the few tackles left standing, as McElwain said he played 112 snaps in one particular 125-play scrimmage.

But the trio of injured were back, and it made a difference. There were four sacks by the defense Saturday, a far more excusable number. Three of them were posted by the first-team defense (according to the depth chart) — Aaron Davis, John Froland and Zach Tiedgen. The other came from Nolan Peralta.

“I was really happy with the protection, the quarterback’s patience shuffling in the pocket and getting the ball off,” McElwain said. “Those are all good things.”

The Anointed  One — McElwain said part of the fun of the first week in camp is the coaches get a look at the incoming freshman and generally get excited about one of them — The Anointed One — as he called him.

Saturday, he was asked to declare who that player had become, so he did — in his dry-wit way.

“The anointed one,” he started. “I was really excited; I tell you what. I thought the Hansley kid (Joe), he did a great job in flex today. Unbelievable. I mean, he was on every stretch. I was really excited. Got to his spot. He was sharp.”

Hansley was also the only true freshman to catch a pass in the game, three in fact, for 33 yards. The day before, Garrett Grayson said he’s been impressed with the Highlands Ranch product, so maybe he really is the one.

Never welcome — McElwain said there were a “few balls on the ground”, which didn’t make him happy. From the stats that the sports information department released, there were four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble.

“We had a couple of turnovers. Ball security … we had the ball on the ground twice,” McElwain said. “We got them back, but that’s unacceptable. It is unacceptable to put the ball on the ground, and we will learn from that.”

Backup quarterback Conner Smith threw two picks, Craig Leonard one. McElwain said Smith played well early (7 of 13, 114 yards), but needs to learn keeping the ball is key.

“I thought Conner Smith, he really started the scrimmage really well, yet he’s got to understand taking care of the football,” McElwain said. “There were a couple of interceptions you’ll see — good plays by the defense — but understand the key to playing great quarterback is taking care of the football, and if you can’t do that, you’re going to struggle.”

On the flip side — Turnovers mean the defense did a few things correctly, which McElwain acknowledged.

“I was happy with the way they were stripping, and really got after the ball,” he said. “I thought they gang-tackled pretty well. They ran to the ball.”

Marcus Shaw, Immanuel Mitchell and C.J. Glenn grabbed the interceptions; Mitchell, Curtis Wilson and Shaq Bell forced fumbles, with Aaron Davis recovering one.

Teamwork — One of McElwain’s main pushes is to bring the roster together as one, and on more than one occasion this fall, he’s said he’s seen more displays of team outreach. It extended to Saturday’s scrimmage.

“It’s interesting when you’re out on the field,” McElwain said. “You hear the interaction in the different huddles, and I really heard some positive things. When something not real good happened, it wasn’t a negative. It was, ‘hey, get your head up, let’s go, let’s move forward.’ Overcoming adversity, I think this team needs to understand.”

Surprise — After the scrimmage, McElwain surprised the team with a trip to the movies according to their Tweets.

From @CHRISkingD (Davon Riddick): “Thought we was about to get chewed out and coach surprised us with a movie”

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