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Observations from Charlotte 49ers’ first spring football scrimmage

Observations from the Charlotte 49ers’ first spring football scrimmage, which was held Saturday morning at Richardson Stadium:

The scrimmage was played out in front of a few hundred fans, alumni, family members and recruits as part of new coach Will Healy’s open-door and all-access policy for the program. Spectators were allowed on the field, and Healy allowed them to hear his post-scrimmage talk to the team.

The three quarterbacks competing for the starting spot – senior Evan Shirreffs, sophomore Chris Reynolds and redshirt freshman Brady Pope – got the majority of the playing time. Redshirt freshmen Dylan Ratliff and Willie Green also took some snaps. A sixth quarterback, grad transfer Brett Kean (South Florida) joins the team in August.

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The quarterbacks ran Healy’s new spread-option offense, which starts (or at least it did Saturday) exclusively from the shotgun formation. Shirreffs, who replaced the injured Reynolds as the starter last season, started the scrimmage along with running back Aaron McAllister in the backfield. That possession ended when defensive back Nafees Lyon intercepted Shirreffs on a deep ball intended for Justin Jeffrey. Shirreffs recovered later in the scrimmage with a well-thrown 20-yard touchdown pass to Joe Thompson during a red-zone drill.

The 49ers defense had another turnover when linebacker Anthony Butler recovered a fumble by running back Ishod Finger, who did several pushups as punishment. Healy continues to stress ball security to the team. Defensively, though, the 49ers have an aluminum garbage container that the ball is thrown into after a turnover, dubbed the “dunk can.”

The kicking game looked sharp. Sophomore Jonathan Cruz, whose 56-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining gave the 49ers a victory against Florida Atlantic in the final game of the 2018 season, was 3-for-3 (41, 41 and 36 yards) Saturday. Jackson Vansickle also made a 34-yarder.

Benny LeMay, the 49ers’ leading rusher last season, didn’t play in the scrimmage. Healy said he knows what LeMay can do and wanted to get a good look at the team’s other running backs.

Several players were held out due to injuries, including receiver Rico Arnold, defensive end Alex Highsmith, offensive lineman Jalen Allen and defensive lineman Timmy Horne. Offensive lineman Cameron Clark is out for the spring with a hip injury. Healy said Arnold (ankle) also will miss the rest of spring practice.

The 49ers have received a commitment from grad transfer Christian Roberson, a tight end who played sparingly in two seasons at Mississippi State.

David Scott: @davidscott14
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