ABILENE – The ACU Wildcats will wrap up fall camp Saturday night with a scrimmage at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium that is free and open to the public. The scrimmage is set to start at 6:10 p.m.
ACU head coach Adam Dorrel said the plan for Saturday night’s dress rehearsal for the Sept. 1 season-opener at Baylor is for approximately three quarters of football with the first and second team units on one squad going against mostly ACU’s younger players on the other side. Dorrel said he set up the scrimmage in that manner in order to get some work done in regards to situational football.
“Transition is a big deal for this team,” Dorrel said. “We want to be moving quickly in everything we do (Saturday night). The teams are a bit lopsided, but I did that intentionally to be able to work on situations. We’ll change some things up as the scrimmage goes along, but this allows us to work on some situations we’ll see throughout the season.”
The players will treat Saturday as an actual game day rehearsal with a team meal at 1 p.m., following by position meetings, scout team walk-through and then the entire pre-game ritual on the turf before special teams takes over for 30 minutes at 5:30 p.m.
The format of the scrimmage will be 12-minute running quarters with 2 minute, 30 second breaks between the first and second and third and fourth quarters and a 10-minute halftime. The offense will run a 2-minute drill at the end of each half.
Following the scrimmage, the Wildcats will be on the field to meet and greet fans as part of “Meet The Wildcats” night. The Wildcats won’t practice Monday, but will be back on the field Tuesday as they continue preparations for next week’s game at Baylor.
NEW KICKOFF RULE
One of the most interesting rule changes coming to college football in 2018 is the new rule when fair catches are called for on kickoffs. The kickoff return continues to be the play with the highest risk of head injuries, and there have been a number of rule changes in recent years intended to provide incentives for a team not to return the kickoff. One such rule was made in 2013: after a touchback on the kickoff, the ball is brought out to the 25-yard line rather than the standard 20. In response, some kickers have perfected the art of the “pooch kick,” lofting the ball deep in the receiving team’s space in an attempt to pin them down with poor field position or effectively force a return.
To counter this trend, the committee this year created a new rule: if a kickoff receiver makes a fair catch inside his 20-yard line, his team will have the ball at the 25-yard line – just as if the ball had been caught and downed inside the end zone for a touchback. So for example, if a receiving team player makes a fair catch of a kickoff at his 5-yard or 10-yard line, his team will put the ball in play at the 25. The hope is that this change will encourage teams to take advantage of the better field position rather than return the kick.
“I’m excited to watch some college football this weekend to see what strategies other teams employ and what other coaching staffs have come up with in regards to the kickoff rule,” Dorrel said. “What you’re going to see from teams when they go up against a good kicker or a team with great coverage units is that most teams are likely to fair catch almost everything.”
Another rule of interest that will have far-reaching ramifications is that student-athletes can now play up to four games and still redshirt. The redshirting process used to give coaches an opportunity to keep freshmen under wraps for a season – practicing with the team but not playing — to let them mature before their eligibility clock starts.
Barring a medical exemption, merely stepping onto the field used to burn an entire year. Now, players can appear in as many as four games and still redshirt. Dorrel, like most coaches, hasn’t found anything about the rule that he doesn’t like.
“We’re planning on taking three busloads of guys to Baylor and we’re going to try and get every one of them into the game,” he said. “We’ll do the same thing the next week at home against Angelo State and then we’ll begin the evaluation process. But this will give us a great idea of who can do what if we have an injury later on in the year and we need a guy for a game or two.”
DEPTH CHART RELEASED
ACU fans won’t find many surprises on the depth chart that Dorrel released Thursday. Luke Anthony is the starter at quarterback with Tracy James in the backfield and receivers D.J. Fuller, Josh Fink and Chase Cokley listed as starters.
Up front, the Wildcats have three players in their top 10 players from Abilene: starting right guard Slayde Anderson (Abilene High School), starting right tackle Kade Parmelly (Abilene Wylie High School) and backup right tackle Jon Crisp (Abilene Christian High School). Andren Anderson appears to have won the starting job at left guard going into the season with Dakota Laws at left tackle and Bill Weber at center.
“We’ve improved a great deal over last year in terms of our depth across the board,” Dorrel said. “I think where that’s really evident is up front along the offensive line. We feel really good about where we are with that group.”
Aside from James, the Wildcats will use backups Billy McCrary, Tyrese White and Robert McKnight in the backfield, giving the squad what Dorrel believes is a much improved running back corps.
“We’ve got four running backs that we believe are high-calibre players who can play at a very high level in this league,” Dorrel said.