Offense shines in Spring Game

While Saturday’s Spring game declared the Lion’s offense as the winner in a 52-40 contest, not much more was revealed by head coach Ron Roberts in the post-game press conference.
The second-year head coach did however acknowledge the fact that junior transfer Bryan Bennett is in the lead for the starting job as quarterback.
“If we were playing next week, Bryan Bennett is our starting quarterback,” Roberts said. “How he does in fall camp and how he handles his business is up to him. Jordan Barnett will have his opportunity to go compete for that job, and everybody else will as well.”
Bennett, who lost his chance for the starting job twice at the University of Oregon, threw for more than 200 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. His counterpart, junior Jordan Barnett, threw for only 54 yards and was sacked four times.
“Jordan’s a great quarterback,” Bennett said. “We’re both getting better, and there are both things we need to work on. We make each other better. I’ve been through these quarterback competitions before. All the competition brings is the best out of people.”
While Bennett brings a new playing style to the team, Roberts is assured that his dual-threat ability will be utilized to its fullest potential.
“We’ve done it before, and we’ve always had it in the package,” Roberts said. “We didn’t do it so much last year, because it just didn’t fit with Nathan’s style. Nathan Stanley was more of a pocket, pro-style quarterback. We did some with Nathan. We just didn’t do much of it.”
Although Roberts has a pretty clear plan for the quarterbacks, the running back situation is still up in the air. Sophomores Xavier Roberson and Rasheed Harrell both performed admirably under intense pressure situations last year, but sophomore DI-transfer Kody Sutton looks to give them a run for their money.
“I feel like I could be an every down back,” Sutton said. “That’s what I bring to the table. As for Rasheed, he’s a faster back, and I believe he can be an every down back. So just with us in the mix and Xavier when he comes back, it’s going to be a nasty three-headed monster.”
Harrell ran the ball 14 times for 57 yards, while Sutton collected just eight touches for 11 yards. Junior Jonathan Hill, who is buried on the depth chart behind Sutton, Roberson and Harrell, quietly garnered four touches for 45 yards, including a 31-yard run. Last year, the Lions went through several running backs, as both seniors Michael Chaney and Sam Fairley went down with injuries, while senior Zeke Jones left the team. Roberts burned the redshirt from Harrell and converted Roberson from cornerback to running back, filling the gap left by the departed seniors. However, Roberson still breaks spring camp out of action, sidelined with a sprained foot.
“I think it’s a plus, not a negative thing,” Roberts said, on the depth of his running backs. “Backs have a tendency to get dinged up and banged up, and it goes without saying that you got to have some fresh legs as you go through the season. I think the depth we have will hopefully keep us fresh and have a strong running game.”
In the end, Roberts feels like his ground game could be the most potent in the conference this year. “Right now, we’ve got three good ones,” said Roberts, speaking of Sutton, Roberson and Harrell. “I think those three right there are as good as anybody in the conference.”
The Lions open the 2013 season in Strawberry Stadium on Aug. 29 against Southeast Missouri.