Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Allen battles injuries, but QB Alec Morris, team's depth impressive in spring game
ALLEN – It hasn’t been a typical spring practice for Allen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For once, Allen has a bunch of experience returning with seven starters back on offense and another seven on defense.
That wealth of experience, combined with a few injuries, allowed several younger and less-experienced players to shine during spring practice and especially in Wednesday’s final scrimmage at Eagle Stadium.
“Usually we play quite a few seniors, but for some reason last year, the way the classes fell, we played with a lot of young kids [last fall],” coach Tom Westerberg said. “We have a bunch of those guys back, so it’s pretty fun, really, at this time of year.”
One of those players who got an opportunity to shine was running back Jeff Harris who played with the first unit in place of Missouri commitment Jonathan Williams, who sat out the scrimmage. Harris showed some good burst and finished with 51 yards on six carries.
“Jeff came in and had a great spring and really had a great scrimmage tonight,” Westerberg said.
Among the younger players, sophomore-to-be Chad Adams stood out with a couple of interceptions. Sophomore punter Shane Tripucka showed a strong leg on a windy night – Allen practiced punts, placekicks and kickoffs.
But the veterans also shined, including quarterback Alec Morris who was 7-of-13 for 110 yards with one interceptions. Morris threw a 25-yard touchdown to Oliver Pierce on the first play of a mock overtime period.
Morris passed for 2,533 yards and 22 touchdowns last season as a junior. He said he has been working on his throwing mechanics and footwork since then.
“I’m definitely coming in with a little bit more confidence and knowledge of what’s going on in the program,” Morris said. “It’s been a great spring.”
Morris’ favorite target Wednesday was 6-3 receiver Cortland Tolbert, who had three catches for 69 yards.
He will be throwing behind an offensive line that features three returning starters in center Jake Trotter, guard Mark Massei and tackle Brad North.
Allen is already seeing the benefits of having so many returning starters.
“Just the leadership, the guys who have come back, they know what to do,” Morris said. “They know how Texas football works, they know the game speed, they just know the ins and outs of football.”
What Allen accomplished in spring:
With 14 starters returning, the focus was on building depth and getting a good look at some of the backup players who could end up being contributors.
“We’ve got a lot of kids banged up, but a lot of kids got some work,” Westerberg said. “The main thing we were looking for was some depth and some backup positions. A lot of those guys got a lot of work and I think we accomplished that.”
Most improved player(s) of spring practice:
Westerberg has been impressed with the growth of outside linebacker Thaddeus LaGrone, who will be a senior this fall.
“He’s really come on and played real well this spring and is showing some good leadership,” Westerberg said. “Just his weight room numbers from off-season through the spring have really gone through the roof because of the work he’s done in the weight room.”
Skill position battles:
Allen graduated a lot of experience in its defensive backfield. Westerberg said as many as 12 players are vying for spots.
“We’re kind of going back and forth with a bunch of different kids,” Westerberg said; “Kids off of our freshman teams and some kids that were backups are really coming on. It’s pretty open and it will battle all the way through summer and into the fall.”
From the sidelines: “His leadership, I think, is the main thing. He’s gotten a lot bigger and stronger from a full off-season. He played some basketball a couple of years ago but now he’s into a full off-season and his strength numbers have gone way up. But really his leadership has grown up a bunch.” - Head coach Tom Westerberg on the improvements quarterback Alec Morris has made since starting for the first time last season.
On the field: “It’s awesome [throwing to receiver Cortland Tolbert]. You put the ball up there, and he’s 6-5 or whatever with a great vertical, he goes up and gets it on some of those corners. It makes it a lot easier for you to do your job right.” – Quarterback Alec Morris.
Aug. 27: vs. Cedar Hill (at SMU) at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: vs. Justin Northwest at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9: at Longview at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Plano at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs. Lewisville at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7: at Plano East (Kimbrough) at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14: vs. Plano West at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21: at FM Marcus at 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: at Hebron at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4: vs. Flower Mound at 7:30 p.m.