Spring game allows players to display skills to coaches, fans
Instead of wearing practice jerseys, they’ll suit up in game equipment. Instead of the Indoor Athletic Complex turf bay, they’ll be back inside Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
This is what makes the spring football scrimmage special, said freshman running back Romello Ross.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a really eventful day,” Ross said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
There are other spring scrimmages, but sophomore defensive back Amari Coleman said the final one — at 1 p.m. Saturday — is the most intense, serious and fun of the spring.
While it's not Head Coach John Bonamego’s first spring game, he said the nervous excitement will be the same as it was for his first in 2015.
“I get butterflies every day. I think when you stop getting butterflies, I think you need to reevaluate what you’re doing,” he said. “I get excited every day to get up and come to work and be around these kids and watch them grow on and off the field and get better.”
Bonamego had only been at CMU for two months before coaching the spring game last season. This year, he said the team is more comfortable in every way.
To determine the maroon and gold teams for the scrimmage, the coaches divided the seniors in half and had a draft Wednesday morning. Last year, Bonamego kept the first unit intact.
“When you mix it up in a situation like this, there isn’t quite the same continuity," Bonamego said. "We’ll probably water things down a little bit. I want to see guys compete. I want to see crisp execution. I want us to not have penalties."
The team has been practicing since classes resumed after spring break, including multiple scrimmages. After Saturday’s game, the team will not practice as a team again until the summer months.
Saturday provides an opportunity for players to prove their worth to coaches, as a few positions on the depth chart remain open. Bonamego said the safety position, left tackle spot and backup quarterback role are still undecided.
Despite the loss of redshirt freshman linebacker Malik Fountain — who was arrested on April 7 for aggravated assault and suspended indefinitely from the team — Bonamego said the linebacker position has great depth.
He mentioned junior Nathan Ricketts as the leader of the group while sophomore Jeff Perry, freshman Carlos Clark and freshman Michael Oliver have also shown strengths.
“I think that’s probably one of our deepest positions on the team,” Bonamego said. “I’m really happy with where our linebackers are right now and our depth at that position.”
In practices and scrimmages so far this spring, Bonamego has been encouraged by what he’s seen.
“The offense looked very good in spurts, the defense picked it up, looked really good. I think that’s a sign of a healthy, competitive team,” he said. “You’d be concerned if one side or the other just went out and really dominated and that didn’t happen.”
Bonamego also noted the discipline has improved. As judged by referees coming to practices and scrimmages, he said penalties this season are down compared to where the team was in 2015 in the spring.
Sophomore defensive end Joe Ostman, who injured his left ankle against Monmouth in September, is at full speed, Bonamego said. He added that the team’s biggest goal on Saturday is to avoid injury. On the last play of the 2015 spring game, freshman running back Jerrod Davis tore his ACL, ending his season before it started.
“We’re very, very healthy right now, which is another good thing — knock on wood,” Bonamego said.
Sophomore running back Devon Spalding has not practiced this spring, as he is still recovering from breaking his collarbone in October.
“Devon had a little bit of a setback, but we expect him to be ready by the time training camp starts,” Bonamego said. “Those things, although they’re unfortunate, that’s part of the game and it just provides opportunities for other players. Experience is one thing that you cannot manufacture. You have to go out and earn it.”