Goree, receiving corps shine in football spring game

Goree, receiving corps shine in football spring game

Goree, receiving corps shine in football spring game
April 23
18:10 2016

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

With Seth Littrell’s pass-heavy offense on full display for the first time at the 2016 Spring Game, the Mean Green football team entered Saturday afternoon searching for playmakers in the receiving corps to provide the system with the necessary pieces to succeed.

Sophomores Tee Goree and O’Keeron Rutherford, freshmen Derris Prater and freshman Kelvin Smith quickly ended that search, combining for 380 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

The game was played more like a scrimmage, as the Mean Green offense suited up in green while the defense was in white. The team then participated in about two hours of full-speed situational work, during which the offense scored seven total touchdowns.

“We’ve been getting better every week,” Goree said. “We’ve been working to come out and just start fast so that we could give our playmakers a chance to make plays. With this offense, we’ve been able to showcase our talent.”

Goree, who showed fans a flash of his potential last season with a highlight-reel touchdown reception against Western Kentucky University, has made vast improvements in his game during the spring and has emerged as one of the team’s top options at wide receiver.

“Tee is a guy that has probably been the most improved throughout the spring,” Littrell said. “He did a nice job as the spring went on to take coaching and actually try to do it out on the field, and that’s not easy. I’m really excited about his upside and his future.”

The strong play from Goree and the receivers was aided by good outings from team’s top two quarterbacks, senior Alec Morris and junior Quinn Shanbour. Morris, who seems to have gained an edge in the competition, finished the game 17-for-35 for 261 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

While Morris seems to have the advantage at this point in time, Shanbour had an impressive game – 20-for-33 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 24 yards and a touchdown on the ground. However, Littrell was not ready to name a starter moving forward into the summer.

“I don’t know,” Littrell said. “It’s all about competition and it’s all about competing. Guys pushing each other in turn allows both players to become better. Alec [Morris] has been rolling with the ones, but Quinn is not far off and I thought he had a heck of a scrimmage.”

While the quarterbacks found a rhythm with the receiving corps, the Mean Green shied away from running the ball extensively. Jeffrey Wilson, who rushed for 830 yards last season and looks to be a big part of the offense in the fall, had just three carries for seven yards.

Walk-on sophomore A.J. Ezzard carried the biggest load in the backfield, finishing with 54 yards on eight carries after showing a burst of both speed and power. As a whole, the team rushed 31 times for 107 yards.

Part of the team’s struggles running the ball stemmed from the dominating performance that the Mean Green defensive front had in the game. Led by freshman Joseph Ozougwu (4 tackles, 2 sacks), junior Sid Moore (7 tackles, 3 sacks), and senior Jareid Combs (3 tackles, 2 sacks), the defensive line made play after play in the backfield.

Ozougwu, who was a grayshirt signee last spring and joined the team in 2016, wasted no time making his presence felt.

“Everything is a learning adjustment for me,” Ozougwu said. “I’ve been working on my rush during that fall semester that I had off, and I’ve been working on a lot of technique trying to get better and better. It’s been a really good experience.”

In the secondary, the defense struggled with coverage in the middle of the field as they continue to adjust to the new defense that first year co-coordinators Mike Ekeler and Troy Reffett bring to the table. However, junior Kishawn McClain was still able to make an impact with two interceptions and a pass breakup on the outside as a cornerback.

The spring game marked the conclusion of spring football for the team, and the Mean Green will begin offseason conditioning on Monday. North Texas will be back on the field in August before kicking off the 2016 season Sept. 3 at home against Southern Methodist University.

“We’ve got a lot of improvement to make,” Littrell said. “It’s been 15 practices. You’re never going to be ready in that amount of time, but I’ve liked the start.”

Featured Image: Redshirt freshman Derris Prater (27) turns the corner after catching a ball and juking out a defender in the North Texas Spring Football Game. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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