Trojan Spread in solid shape

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

The Troy State football team capped its second day of full-squad workouts on Friday, working in the morning and late afternoon, as the Trojans continued preparations for their Aug. 31 season opener at ninth-ranked Nebraska.

Once again, the team’s offensive unit looked impressive as it worked in skeleton passing drills and on base offensive plays in a pair of two-hour workouts.

Offensive coordinator John Shannon said he is pleased with what he has seen so far, a stark contrast to where his unit was at this time a year ago while still learning his "Trojan Spread" scheme.

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"The experience level is so much better," Shannon said. "This time last year we were still learning it from the ground floor and trying to make sense of the new terminology. We had been through a spring practice but hadn’t fully grasped an understanding of what was expected. This year, everyone is more comfortable ­ the players and coaches. That makes a big difference."

One of the biggest question marks heading into the fall is at quarterback, where starter Hansell Bearden and junior college transfer Matt Ray are expected to wage a stiff battle to replace four-year starter Brock Nutter. Nutter finished as the school’s all-time leader in pass attempts, completions and total offense in starting a school-record 48 consecutive games.

Both Bearden and Ray have looked sharp at times during the first two days, Shannon said.

"The difference between this year and last year is that we had a known commodity in Brock," Shannon said. "But we didn’t have any experience behind him. This year, we are a little deeper at the position from an experience standpoint, because Hansell and Matt have both seen game action. So, we like where we are, but we are still looking for consistency."

Trojans head coach Larry Blakeney said the position is in Bearden’s hands, for now.

"Hansell is our starting quarterback," Blakeney said. "It is his position to lose. But we expect Matt Ray to come in and either make Hansell better or make our football team better under center. We’re going to let them battle it out and see what happens."

Bearden played in seven games in 2001, completing 16-of-28 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Ray, who started four games during his freshman year at UNLV in 1999, played the 2001 season at Butte Junior College in Oroville, Calif. He completed 168-of-281 passes for 1,990 yards and 15 touchdowns in leading Butte to an 8-3 record and Northern California Conference championship in his only season.

Ray, who did not enroll in school until June, said the learning curve has been a little slow to start but that he is adjusting quickly.

"The physical part is no problem," Ray said. "I’m just trying to learn the offense and get the system into my head right now."

In other notes: Senior center Trent Garmon did practice on Friday, but in a limited role. Garmon, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, tweaked the injury during Thursday’s workout

redshirt freshman linebacker Keith Staple missed Friday’s evening workout with a sprained ankle. He is expected to return by Sunday, when the Trojans practice for the first time in full pads

Troy State’s Fan Appreciation Day is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 25, at Memorial Stadium. Players, coaches, the school mascot (T-Roy) and the TSU cheerleaders will be available for autographs and pictures at 4 p.m.