Charlotte football's much anticipated Spring Game will be held this Saturday at 12 p.m. After COVID-19 caused havoc for the 49ers season last fall,, interest is high to see how the team is coming together in spring practice.
This year's spring game will present a new format as the team introduces a new format for the day's festivities. It will be an "Offense vs. Defense" game, instead of Green vs. White like in years past. The coaching staff will also insert scripted situations for the players and add in times for the players to have individual competition.
"We'll do it a little differently than what we've done in the past. We'll put offense vs. defense because there are so many different combinations of guys we'd like to see play with one another, and we'll work situations as much as anything," said Healy on the format.
"Because we only played six games last year, being able to work red-zone opportunities and two-minute and four-minute situations that come up in a game -- that's more important to me to get accomplished on Saturday. We'll get out and play as many reps as we possibly can."
Here a few things to keep an eye on during Saturday's action.
Depth at quarterback
The 49ers have a plethora of talent at the quarterback position. It all starts with redshirt senior Chris Reynolds, the two-year starter for Charlotte, and tallied 1,305 yards in the 2020 season. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions in the 49ers' abbreviated season. Head Coach Will Healy has put faith in the quarterback the last couple of years.
The 49ers brought in quarterback James Foster, a four-star transfer from Texas A&M. Foster, originally from Montgomery, Alabama, enters a quarterback room that was already deep but has instantly impacted spring practice. He has been getting many reps in practice, primarily with the second and third-string guys. Even so, he is passing the eye test and could be a great asset to the team.
"James Foster has been impressive and has had a very good spring. I think he makes Chris (Reynolds) better just like Chris makes James better," coach Healy said in his mid-week press conference.
Dom Shoffner returns for his redshirt senior season. Shoffner served as the backup last season and entered games almost exclusively as an additional running option. He will most likely play the same role as in years past but has the potential to cut it loose on the read option.
49er defense takes a sip from the fountain of youth
The defense will be young. 49er fans and coaches cannot expect perfection out of the gate. The team lost several key players from last season, including Ben Deluca, the all-time leading tackler at Charlotte.
So far, Healy likes what he is seeing from the guys. He understands how young his defensive core is but will not be one to make excuses either.
"Josh Bailey has been a welcomed addition, and we have enjoyed watching him," stated Healy.
Healy sees the progression that his defense is making in practice and hopes to build upon that as practice moves forward and into the spring game.
"Derrick Boykins has been a big surprise to the staff this spring, and we like what we are seeing out of him. He has a chance to be a great player, and I have been excited about his growth this spring," he said.
On the other hand, the offense is returning the majority of the players at the receiver position. Victor Tucker, a 5'11 177 pound receiver from Miami Gardens, Florida, was the go-to option for Reynolds last season and could play an even bigger role in the offense this season. Tucker surpassed 2,000 career receiving yards last season after a 111-yard game against Western Kentucky.
While Cameron Dollar does not necessarily jump off the stats sheet, what he provides to the team is probably the most valuable asset one could ask for, and that is leadership. Dollar had three touchdown catches in the 2020 season, averaging around 30 yards per game receiving. He made some big plays in big moments and got Reynolds out of some sticky situations at times. He will be a player to watch not only at this weekend's Spring Game but also during the season.
Spring Game outlook
These are a few of many things to watch for come the spring game. It will be an interesting dynamic between the quarterbacks and see how the defense is meshing together being so young. The game is set for Saturday, April 24 at 12 p.m. in front of 3,890 fans.