|Coach Will Healy on 49ers football vibe: 'This place is unbelievable'|
|Spring drills taps into program's energy|
|Published Monday, April 15, 2019 1:26 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
Charlotte 49ers cornerback Marquill Osborne, left, a Hough High graduate, covers receiver Cameron Dollar during Saturday's Green-White game Saturday at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
Will Healy’s impression of his first spring as Charlotte 49ers football coach is one of enthusiasm – even if it means 5:30 a.m. practices.
“Your 15th spring practice and I still feel the exact same way I did the first time I came on this campus,” he said after Saturday’s Green-White game to close spring drills. “This place is unbelievable. I’m very proud of the way our players have handled the new staff and all the transitions that we’ve thrown at them. I can’t ever remember a spring ball going as well as ours has. Everything we asked, the players did.
“Our tempo at practice, the meetings, the execution, the preparation, the energy. All of the things that may sound cliché but are important to me, our players have done. For these guys to consistently have the energy they had at 5:30 in the morning is a big deal to me. They want to be great. Everything I know this place is going to become these guys want it just as bad as I do – and that’s why it can make for a deadly combination.”
The spring game’s final score – the Green won 28-21 – was less important than what was gained over the practice period. Although some key players like defensive lineman Alex Highsmith and running back Benny LeMay were held out due to offseason surgery or precautions, there was plenty to note. Among them are:
• Quarterback Chris Reynolds, who missed half of 2018 with a shoulder injury, looked healthy. He hit 8-of-11 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns for the White. Reynolds hit Justin Jeffery for a 19-yard score in the first quarter and Joe Thompson for a 43-yarder to give his side a 14-6 advantage.
Green quarterback Willie Green (4-of-5 87 yards) came off the bench to pass for a pair of third quarter touchdowns while Brady Pope went 7-of-11 for 54 yards. Overall, 49ers quarterbacks connected on 21-of-32 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
• Without LeMay in the lineup, running back Ishod Finger ran for 91 yards for the Green team and 12 for White.
• A special teams threat: Nafees Lyon, a Mallard Creek High graduate, scored on a 62-yard punt return to pull the Green to within 14-13 at the half. He also looked to have another return for a score when the whistle blew the play dead.
• The Gemmell brothers had a good outing. Senior linebacker Jeff Gemmell led Green with five tackles, including one for loss. His brother Zach caught a pair of passes for 14 yards, including a 6-yarder for a score that pushed TD Green ahead for good.
“I thought [the scrimmage] went exceptionally well,” Healy said. “It was a lot of fun for us to engage with our fans and supporters. I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to be the head football coach here. Obviously, there are things we need to clean up from an execution standpoint but I’m extremely proud of where we are and excited about where we’re going.”
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