By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — With projected starter Michael Benton away for personal reasons, everybody else in the Eastern New Mexico University quarterback chain moved up a notch for Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at the ENMU practice field.
That meant redshirt freshman Brandon Dominguez got significant work with the No. 1 unit.
“I was a little nervous, but I’ve been playing with these guys (in practice),” said Dominguez, a 5-foot-11, 165-pounder from Anton, Texas. “I wanted to keep my head. I just didn’t want to go out and do more than I had to.”
While there were ups and downs as the Greyhounds attempt to implement a quicker, more wide-open style into their option game, Dominguez came away pleased.
“It was a good opportunity,” he said of the two-hour, 120-play scrimmage. “I found out yesterday I was going to be with the No. 1s, but I knew I’d be up to it. I knew as long as I got in my playbook, I had confidence in myself.
“We had more positives than negatives. We’re trying to spread people out and get the ball (to playmakers) on the perimeter.”
The Hounds ran what they call “Indy-speed” and “warp-speed” offense. Despite some penalties and an occasional high snap out of shotgun formation, first-year head coach Mark Ribaudo said things went well.
“I was very pleased with what I saw,” Ribaudo said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we ran a lot of plays. We’re really pushing this group to the limit.”
He said he expects things to come together more with time.
“Brandon Dominguez did a great job of controlling the clock, and (redshirt freshman) Rocky Hartline showed some good things, too,” Ribaudo said. “Overall, I liked the way our spread option went.
“I was really pleased with the way Brandon ‘field-generaled’ the offense. That’s not a concern with Michael; he’s a born leader.”
Ribaudo also gave the Hounds a passing grade on defense, noting: “I thought some of our secondary people played extremely well.”
Conditioning is a point of emphasis, he said, noting that the offensive line “held up at the end. That was a long scrimmage.”
Junior linebacker Jeremy Mullins believes preseason conditioning work will pay off down the line.
“Coach Ribaudo got us tired at the first,” said Mullins, who started the team’s final seven games last year and is one of the few players with significant experience on defense. “We still have things we need to work on. There’s always things you can catch on film that can get fixed.”
Still, he stressed that lack of experience shouldn’t be an excuse for poor play.
“This is the college level,” he said. “In high school you might have to rebuild, but everyone’s on scholarship here.
“We have guys who were ready to step in last year, and now they’ve got their chance.”
The team has another scrimmage on tap at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Blackwater Draw, weather permitting.
The opener is Aug. 25 against Central Arkansas at 53,727-seat War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.