NAPLES -- Things didn’t exactly go as planned for Anthony Chickillo or Rashawn Scott last season.
So far this spring they’re showing signs their sophomore struggles could be behind them.
Chickillo had three sacks and batted two passes at the line of scrimmage, and Scott hauled in nine passes for 128 yards and a touchdown as the Hurricanes wrapped up their second scrimmage of the spring in front of about 3,000 people at Naples High on Friday night.
“I thought we were crisp," said UM coach Al Golden, who estimated his first-team units got about 60 reps and his second-team units about 55. “We completed some throws, did some good things on both sides of the ball, kicked the ball fairly well. It was much better [than the first scrimmage two weeks ago]. We had a good tempo. I thought the guys were in better condition, not as many mental errors, and I thought we got a lot done.”
The Hurricanes, who produced just 13 sacks last season, tallied seven sacks and three interceptions Friday. Chickillo picked up the first two sacks before senior Kelvin Cain (two sacks and an interception), redshirt freshman Dwayne Hoilett (one), sophomore Tyriq McCord (one sack) started getting pressure on the quarterbacks, too.
“I think we are doing better," Chickillo said of UM’s defense, which set all kinds of records last season for futility. “We’re playing the run better. Guys are staying in their gaps and a lot of the sacks come from good coverage. Guys aren’t blowing coverage assignments. We just have to keep working."
Scott, the team’s second-leading receiver a year ago before he was suspended for the final three games of the season for undisclosed reasons, made a handful of spectacular catches. He had a lunging 9-yard grab on third down to keep the offense’s first scoring drive alive and then added a 32-yard catch later by fighting off cornerback Tracy Howard as he fell.
Later in the scrimmage, Scott yanked in another 19-yard pass on third down to set up a Stephen Morris to Allen Hurns 8-yard touchdown pass two plays later. But Scott’s highlight of the night was catching a short pass in the flat from Ryan Williams and turning it up field for a touchdown that spanned 27 yards.
"I think this is a big step for him," Golden said. "He practiced well, didn’t have a great first scrimmage, but took care of business today. I’m pleased with what he’s doing."
Said quarterback Gray Crow of Scott: “It’s just a complete 180 with his attitude on and off the field. He’s willing to do anything. He’s coachable. I just feel like there’s a difference compared to last year.”
Crow, himself embattled with Williams for the backup quarterback position, finished 8-for-17 passing for 72 yards one touchdown and an interception. But he stood out by engineering a 12-play, 99-yard scoring drive by going 6-for-8 for 67 yards on the drive. Williams finished 6-for-12 for 93 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Morris went 20-for-33 for 133 yards and two scores.
"That’s a battle," Golden said of the backup quarterback job. "Gray led a nice drive from a backed up position and Ryan answered [with a field goal]. We’ll look at both of them, evaluate them more thoroughly. But there’s a good competition brewing with for the two-spot right now."
• The three touchdown passes to Scott, Hurns and Dallas Crawford (a 12-yarder from Crow) were the only scores for the offense during non red-zone work.
Kicker Matt Goudis made a 20-yard field goal but missed a 41-yarder later. He finished 3 of 5 later in field goal work (makes of 49, 41 and 45 and misses of 41 and 53).
Redshirt freshman cornerback Nate Dortch and walk-on Alex Irastorza had interceptions.