KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney football held its first spring scrimmage Saturday morning at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium.
The nearly two-hour session featured the Lopers competing in 11-on-11 situations with live contact for the quarterbacks. The Lopers also practiced field goals and attempted a handful of punts.
The first-team offense had a lot of success against the first-team defense early in the scrimmage. The competitiveness evened out once each side started using backups and inexperience underclassmen.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage:
QB Walters moves to receiver
Carson Walters, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, is switching positions. The third-year player opted to move from quarterback to slot receiver in hopes of gaining additional playing time.
He sparingly played for the Lopers last season, completing his lone pass attempt for 11 yards while rushing four times for 22 yards.
Lynn approached Walters about the change earlier in the week with the Lopers set at quarterback with starter Alex McGinnis and backup Cody Summers. Walters, who’s 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, has embraced the chance at playing receiver, despite no prior experience at the position.
“I like it a lot,” Walters said. “It’s been, obviously, a lot less stress with a lot less to worry about. Coming from quarterback, I know all the plays, which helps.”
The Lopers have a history of moving quarterbacks to receiver under third-year coach Josh Lynn.
Dylan Reifeis switched and played the position for two years before transferring to Colorado State University-Pueblo after last season. Mitch Carlson also converted from QB to receiver in Lynn’s first year in 2017 but has yet to catch a pass in a game.
Summers was going to move to receiver last year, but the unexpected departure of then-starting quarterback Steve Worthing altered those plans. He did briefly play receiver late last season in attempt to have his athleticism on the field.
In the scrimmage, the Lopers ran a trick play with Walters. He started at slot receiver before running to the backfield to receive a pitch. He caught the ball and fired a pass to receiver Sedarius Young for a 52-yard completion. Walters also caught a reception on a short-yardage route.
Lynn believes Walters will make an impact in the fall.
“We felt like we needed to get Carson on the field,” Lynn said. “He’s a good athlete (and) smart. What he gives us at the slot receiver positon is basically another running back, as well as a pretty good receiver.
“He’s probably one of our best football players pound for pound. We just need to get him on the field.”
Kicking battle (again)
The Lopers will have a battle for the starting place-kicker spot again this season.
Starting kicker Brian Covarrubias went 12-of-17 on field-goal attempts and 34 of 36 on extra points as a freshman last season. He decided to not play football anymore, leaving the position open.
Senior Kendall Raschein and redshirt junior Treygan Gowen are two options on the roster to fill the void. Redshirt freshman kicker Caleb Hoyt quit the team earlier in the week.
On Saturday, Lynn said they will explore adding another kicker before the start of preseason camp.
In the scrimmage, Gowen, who’s a Kearney native, made every field-goal attempt. During a designated time for the two kickers to try kicks of varying distances, Gowen made all seven attempts, including a 52-yarder. He also made two other field goals during the scrimmage.
Raschein was inconsistent on Saturday. He missed his first four attempts, ranging in distances from 32-41 yards. He made a 42-yard attempt and a 47-yarder before ending the seven-attempt period by pushing a 52-yarder wide right.
Raschein and Gowen also competed for the starting job last season.
“Treygan Gowen is doing a great job for us,” Lynn said. “If he continues to get better, he will be right there in the mix with that position.”
Offensive line depth
The Lopers will replace starting center David Squiers and left tackle Devin Hernandez in the fall. They also are without redshirt junior right tackle Corey Hoelck this spring due to injury.
They have 14 offensive linemen on the roster but seven of them are redshirt freshmen or redshirt sophomores. The inexperience in the backups showed in the scrimmage, as they consistently allowed the defense to pressure the quarterback.
Lynn likes the depth at offensive line. He raved about the talent and size at that position and believes with more repetitions, the backups will become more comfortable in their roles.
“We are starting to look like a normal sized MIAA offensive line,” Lynn said. “Our strength and size has gotten better. We are starting to look the part as well.”