The Times West Virginian

Sports

April 24, 2014

Falcons set for spring game

FAIRMONT — Football is back … well, kind of.

Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.

1. Quarterback development

As a freshman last season, Cooper Hibbs passed for more than 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns. The figures show potential, but he also showed his inexperience by tossing 10 interceptions while guiding the Falcons to a 3-7 overall record (2-7 in the Mountain East Conference).

Unlike the team down the road in Morgantown, coach Jason Woodman was consistent and started Hibbs for all 10 games, so really there isn’t a major quarterback battle … at least not yet.  Sophomore Tyler Pate will be Hibbs’ stiffest competition out of the returning quarterbacks. He passed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in parts of four games last year.

The Falcons did, however, sign Jeff Iweh, a 6-foot-4 quarterback out of Baltimore, Md. Woodman has already shown he has no problem starting a true freshman. Look to see if Hibbs has shown improvement. If not, there may be a QB battle brewing by the time summer workouts roll around.

2. Painted faces and root beer bellies

Before the game, the Fairmont State Alumni Association will be hosting a root beer float station, face painting and a jump house beginning at 6 p.m. Try to spot the youngsters with colorful faces, sore legs and root beer bellies.

 3. Tackling, dummy

After last season the Falcons lost their top three leading tacklers in linebackers Gerrett Davis and Ryan Watts and defensive end Jake Kelly. Together, the trio combined for 209 tackles, with Davis racking up 104 of them.

Who will step up to fill this void?

Freshman T.C. Chestnut was fourth on the team with 44 tackles over his eight starts. He will likely be another top contributor this season. But still, there are plenty of question marks on that side of the ball.

 4. Who’s back in the backfield?

When Woodman announced that Hibbs would be the Falcons’ starting quarterback last season, the natural next step would be to assume that he would lean heavily on the running game, especially Daniel Monroe, a junior who earned preseason USA Football All-America honorable mention honors.

Instead, Monroe injured his knee during a preseason scrimmage and was limited to just two starts in six games. The backfield was further depleted after Shad Alexander tore his ACL in the second series of the first game.

Woodman took major strides toward fortifying the backfield by signing a number of backs, most notably Kennedy Award winner Chazzy Thomas out of Morgantown High School.

Going forward, it will be interesting to watch how Woodman chooses to mix in his weapons. But for now, look to see if Monroe has regained any of the burst he was missing last season when he limped to just 392 yards and five touchdowns.

 5. Where is your ride to Westchester Village?

After the game, the Alumni Association is hosting an alumni social at Westchester Village beginning at 9 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes food and drinks. Woodman and his coaching staff will be on hand to discuss the 2014 season.

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

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