The Owls played in their first scrimmage of the season at Chodoff Field this morning, as the team wrapped up its first full week of training camp.
Junior quarterback Connor Reilly and the rest of the offense reportedly struggled, while the defense performed strongly. Score was not kept at the scrimmage, but it was attended and officiated by referees.
“I was really pleased with the defense,” Rhule said. “The defensive line, we’re trying to get that back—it’s one of my themes with the team—I thought they brought pressure to stop the run. So the defense really made a huge step today. They pressured a lot more than the offense has seen.
“I thought the offense really struggled today,” Rhule added. “The offense has to pick it up, and the defense needs to continue.”
According to Rhule the defense is normally ahead at this point in training camp. Still, he says, the offense needs to step up.
“I would have hoped that the offense had played a lot better today,” Rhule said. “A lot of the things were self-inflicted: penalties, procedure, we threw a lot of interceptions today. So I’m pleased with the defense. I felt that they had the edge that we’ve played with when we’ve had great defense. I think the offense has to make a step for next week and the next scrimmage.”
Although Reilly was considered by many going into camp as the clear frontrunner for the starting quarterback position, Rhule says he will not make any decision on the matter until after the next scrimmage. Senior Clinton Granger has had an impressive camp thus far, and freshman P.J. Walker has been solid as well.
“I think [Reilly] is at a point where he’s just trying to do a little too much,” Rhule said. “We just have to get him to calm down and do what comes to him and he’ll be a lot better off.”
Reilly agreed with Rhule—the defense did “phenomenal.”
“We made a lot of mistakes, which is easily correctable when we get to the film room,” Reilly said. “We’ll fix it.”
Reilly says all three quarterbacks have gotten an equal amount of reps, and he remains in what he calls an “open competition.” Nobody, he says, is in first place.
“At times I feel like I’m playing well, at other times I feel like I’m making rookie mistakes,” he said.
Last year’s starting quarterback Chris Coyer, who has since moved to H-back, also noticed problems on offense today.
“We had some procedural issues on offense,” Coyer said. “We had a lot of guys playing hard. This is the first truly live situation we’ve had so far. It was good to get everyone out there to see what they can really do. We really just have to take a look at the film to see where we can go from here.”
On the defensive side, Rhule has been adamant through camp that one of his biggest goals is to have good pass rushing. According to him, that starts with senior defensive lineman Sean Daniels.
Daniels says he sees a big difference between the attitude of this year’s roster as opposed to last season.
“We’ve all been together for a while now,” Daniels said. “Throughout the years, some of us would be playing and some of us wouldn’t and we wouldn’t all really be together. But now that we’re all playing and we all know what the person across from us is doing, we need to rely on that person.”
“We’re putting more trust into that person, as opposed to last year when it was like, ‘I’m going to go out there and do my job and get mine,’” Daniels added. “Now it’s more like, ‘I’m going to do my job for him so he can get the sack or he can make the play or he doesn’t get double-teamed.
The Owls have an off day tomorrow, but will return to practice Monday morning as the season opener against Notre Dame is three weeks from today.
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.