By David Borne | Staff Writer
This past Saturday, the Duquesne Dukes football team put their uniforms on for the annual spring game at Rooney Field.
“It’s another practice but we dress it up in uniforms for me,” head coach Jerry Schmitt said. “The kids get excited, their parents are here, it’s a great day and a great weekend.
“We had the banquet last night where we got our championship rings. It’s a good comparison because last night was championship night, and then we come out here and see what we have to work on.”
After winning at least a share of the Northeast Conference title in each of the past two seasons, the road will get tougher due to the loss of standout seniors Dillon Buechel and Christian Kuntz, who were the key players on their respective sides of the ball.
The day began with the team running through a number of drills and was followed by a short intrasquad scrimmage. Drills included 7-on-7, kickoff returns, third down situations, PAT/FG and goal line preparation.
Duquesne’s offense is left with several holes heading into the season. For the first time in several seasons, Buechel will not be under center for the Dukes. Redshirt sophomore Brett Brumbaugh and graduate transfer Tommy Stuart split the majority of first team quarterback reps.
Stuart, a Boise State transfer, led a 65-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Nehari Crawford in the scrimmage. He finished the event completing both of his passing attempts for a total of 14 yards. Stuart also had a 13-yard run during his only drive.
Stuart and Brumbaugh will both continue to work with the first team, and Coach Schmitt expects that to continue when the team begins training camp in August. The starting quarterback is far from determined.
As expected, freshman A.J. Hines took most of the first team reps during the scrimmage and picked up just where he left off last season. Hines saw little trouble bursting through the lines and breaking tackles for significant gains. Hines received the Jerry Rice award as the top freshman in the FCS. Sophomore Riley Redman also took snaps with the first team, but last season’s primary backup P.J. Fulmore did not participate in the spring game.
Wide receiver is another spot where some younger players are looking to see more playing time. Redshirt sophomore Jaison Young finished the day with several impressive catches, including a 42-yard touchdown reception from a Dylan Degroot pass. Coach Schmitt has been impressed with how his underclassmen have looked this spring and thinks a few of them are ready to be impact players this season.
“We’ve gotten a lot of reps in, that was our goal in the spring,” said Schmitt. “Some guys are starting to step up and are competing really hard to get on the field, and Jaison’s one of those guys. He’s been with us for a couple of years now, and it’s time for him to step up and make some plays.”
The defensive unit looked strong throughout the spring game. They forced punts on four of six drives and recorded one interception.
The players looking for increased snaps this season will continue to make an effort to leave an impression on their coaches in the last couple days of practice. Spring ball will come to a close on April 6, and then the team will take some time off until training camp opens up in August.