Wonder Boys Scrimmage Tonight

Arkansas Tech might not produce a Harlon Hill Trophy candidate this season like it did last year, and it would probably be unfair to expect the 2010 Wonder Boys to shatter school records for offensive production in the same way the 2009 Wonder Boys did. But Tech head coach Steve Mullins has a resource that every football coach would love to have — quality depth. Arkansas Tech will hold its final dress rehearsal for the 2010 football season tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 25) with a 7 p.m. intrasquad scrimmage at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.

Admission will be free and the public is encouraged to attend. A pre-scrimmage pep rally will begin at 6:30 p.m. Numbers are good for Arkansas Tech this fall. The Wonder Boys had 156 players at the beginning of fall camp, including 45 returning lettermen. The Wonder Boys’ depth is most evident on the defensive side of the ball, where six starters return from a unit that ranked fifth in the Gulf South Conference in scoring defense and sixth in the GSC in total defense in 2009. “We might not always be running the right direction, but we are running hard and playing hard defensively,” said Mullins. “We’ve got some depth as we sit here today. You always worry about injuries because that’s what every coach does. We have guys who can keep our first group fresh, and as we begin the second season with Coach (Jeff) Byrd as defensive coordinator the comfort level is so much higher than it was this time last year.” It would be easy to feel sorry for the Wonder Boys’ offense. Four All-Americans — wide receivers Frantz Simeon and Landon Turner, center Torrence Wright and quarterback Nick Graziano, who finished third in the NCAA Division II national player of the year voting — were lost to graduation. Senior Robert Sagerian, junior James Landry and redshirt freshman Rico Keller have all seen significant time at quarterback in preseason practice. Sagerian completed 11-of-18 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown as Graziano’s understudy in 2009. Landry is a transfer from Holmes Community College (Miss.), while Keller was redshirted at Tech last season. All three quarterbacks posted solid numbers in Arkansas Tech’s first preseason scrimmage last Saturday. Sagerian was 6-of-10 passing for 51 yards. Keller completed 7-of-14 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Landry was 6-of-8 for 34 yards through the air, but it was his work on the ground that might have been the most memorable aspect of the afternoon. Landry rushed 11 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns, one of which covered 59 yards. “I thought Sagerian probably did the best job of operating the offense,” said Mullins after the scrimmage. “Rico Keller had some bright spots and did some good leadership things, and then James Landry is a heck of an athlete. He did a lot of good things with his feet. We’re still sorting it out. We’ve got to do what we do best. It’s all a process to decide how we’re going to prepare the team for Lambuth and beyond.” When the Wonder Boys line up against Lambuth University for their season opener on Sept. 2, perhaps the least experienced Arkansas Tech unit will be the offensive line. “We do not have any seniors on the offensive line,” said Mullins. “We’re going to have a tremendous amount of experience in 2011, but we’ve got to grow a little bit in 2010. We had a ton of procedure penalties (in our first scrimmage). That’s a huge negative, but at the same time I believe we played 29 guys on the offensive line. Every one of these guys has been out there busting their tails, and they deserved to come out and play (in the scrimmage last Saturday).” Mullins said that the scrimmage on Wednesday night will be more about preparing specifically for the season opener. “We’ll go through a true game routine and knock our numbers way back,” said Mullins. “This will be a good evaluation point to say here’s first team, here’s second team, here’s third team. Here’s what this guy can do, here’s what he can’t do. It will allow us to create a smart game plan.” After the scrimmage on Wednesday night, the Wonder Boys will turn their full attention toward the Lambuth Eagles. Kickoff for the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 2, is set for 7 p.m. at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.