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Green-White game showcases squad

April 26, 2004
Freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves rushes the ball during the Green and White game Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Reaves started at quarterback but alternated each series with junior quarterback Damon Dowdell.

The MSU football team concluded spring practice Saturday with the Green-White Spring Scrimmage at Spartan Stadium in front of about 16,000 fans.

The two-hour, 115-play scrimmage was a game of two stories for the offense and the defense. At the outset of the game, it looked as though only the defense came to perform at a high level, as the offense took time to ignite. But in the game's second half, the momentum changed hands, while the defense sputtered and the offense seemed more crisp.

For head coach John L. Smith, the answer for the lack of consistency during the game lies in the Spartans' sense of urgency, which Smith said his team lacks.

"The sense of urgency concerns me more than anything, because I don't think we showed that in the first half," Smith said. "And that comes down to leadership, somebody down there grabbing the other guy on the face mask and shaking it. We need a little bit of that fire out there, so that's a concern, no doubt."

Saturday served as the first time for Spartans fans to be introduced to some new faces, along with some position changes. Redshirt freshman Stephen Reaves and senior Damon Dowdell alternated duties at quarterback throughout the scrimmage. Reaves completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two interceptions, while Dowdell went 10-of-22 for 69 yards and an interception. At running back, redshirt freshman Jehuu Caulcrick and senior DeAndra Cobb split time. The Spartans' backfield was totally reconstructed after junior Jaren Hayes and senior Tyrell Dortch were moved to defense earlier this spring. Last season, Cobb spent some time at running back, but this will be his first go as a full-timer alongside Caulcrick.

"We started out slow, but once we got in there, we started to pick it up a little bit and got some urgency," Caulcrick said of the offense. "That's what the coaches emphasized, getting urgency, and once we got that, we started moving the ball."

Caulcrick and Cobb bring contrasting styles of size and speed to the Spartans' backfield. The newest of the two, Caulcrick, is a runner who uses his size to bruise opponents. But if he can bounce off the tackles, his speed is respectable. He finished the game with 108 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Cobb had nine carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.

"Jehuu (Caulcrick), he's still young, but he has the potential to be a great back," junior linebacker Seth Mitchell said. "He's 6 feet, 235 (pounds) and he's not scared to run the ball. Not only does he have the size, but the speed. He runs a legit 4.5 in the 40, so he's going to be a pretty good back."

During the scrimmage, the defense was held back because they were barred from blitzing. Despite the lack of a full-forced rush, Mitchell was able to lead the defense with two interceptions. Defensive newcomers Hayes (cornerback) and Dortch (bandit) played solidly in their new positions, and continued to gain respect from their defensive teammates.

"I think they're doing pretty good for them getting moved from offense and playing running back," Mitchell said. "Both of them are going to help the team out a lot. As of now, they are progressing very well."

The Spartans' kicking game, led by senior Dave Rayner, remained strong. Smith said if Saturday was the start of the season, Rayner would be the starter.

Junior college transfer junior John Goss competed with Rayner and sophomore punter Brandon Fields as he attempts to cement himself in one of the positions. With depth at the kicking positions, Smith said once the starters emerge, he will redshirt one of the kickers to use down the road.

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