Neville coach Mickey McCarty views the development of his offense like he and his staff are putting a puzzle together without a picture of the completed product for reference: the pieces are all here, what remains to be seen is how they best fit together.
The season opener against Ruston was a good start – although it didn’t contain a good start, as the unit’s first three possessions featured one first down and 36 yards, all three ending with punts – with the Tigers last two possessions ending with touchdowns.
“We weren’t very sharp early offensively, but at the same time Ruston was playing extremely hard and making some plays of their own and we didn’t execute some things well early,” McCarty said. “It took some time to get into the flow of the game, but once we got into the flow of the game we started making some plays.”
Ruston coach Brad Laird added, “I think in the last two drives they had 21 plays for right at 160 yards, and that’s about half the yardage they had all night.”
The actual play count for those final two drives was 20, an 11-play drive and a nine-play drive, but the point stands in tact: Neville’s offense made great strides in the final 14 minutes of the season opener heading into Saturday night’s game against Maumelle (Ark.)
“In our offensive scheme and playbook, we’re still trying to find the right identity for this group, what we execute well,” McCarty said. “I thought at times we did some really good things in every phase, but again in every phase we did some things that stunk up the place in specific plays.”
McCarty was especially pleased with the offense’s second-half performance given the absence of wide receiver Quintin Guice, who suffered a knee injury on the second play from scrimmage and will be out for a few weeks.
“The injury to Quintin was big for us. He goes down on the third play of the game and that was big for us, we had a lot of gameplan built around him for this game,” McCarty said. “Obviously, he’s a big playmaker for us.
“Bobby Newton comes in for him at his X receiver spot and he was thrown into the fire, his first year to play varsity football with us, his first year in our program. I was very proud of him, he stepped in and did an admirable job in a big moment for him, but it did take us some time to readjust the offense a little bit.”
While Neville toys with its bevy of offensive options, McCarty made it clear – both in the Ruston game and in discussing it after the fact – that he feels comfortable using both Chris Haynes and Jaiden Cole at quarterback.
“I thought throughout the night, in the second half in particular, Jaiden had some fantastic runs and our offensive line executed well in the second half of the game,” McCarty said. “Chris obviously had a big pass for us that set us up to score some points, which was huge.
“As long as both guys are being effective in their assets as quarterbacks, then absolutely. As the game played out the other night, what we thought we were able to attack with our offense against their defense, Jaiden had more snaps. We felt like we needed to ground the ball out and we felt like he gave us a better opportunity to run out of the quarterback position. He responded very well.”
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