First Posted: 4/15/2011
PEMBROKE — Redshirt-sophomore Ben Decelle wasn’t mentioned in The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s projected starting rotation at wide receiver before Tuesday’s spring game.
After his notable six-catch performance, head coach Pete Shinnick — who has regained play-calling duties — said Decelle’s been in the mix all along.
“Ben is a really consistent player,” Shinnick said. “Seeing him make plays out there really wasn’t that surprising. He’s been at it all spring.”
Decelle was targeted six times, hauling in passes on an array of different routes.
He picked up a team-leading 57 yards and three of his receptions went for first downs.
A notable grab included a 12-yard snare on first down across the middle on a rifle pass from Luke Charles.
On the last play of the scrimmage, Decelle recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown after his quarterback was sandwiched between defenders at the goal line.
When asked if Decelle’s done enough this spring to play in UNCP’s opener Sept. 3, Shinnick gave a definitive answer.
“He’ll be playing a lot of snaps, there’s no doubt about it,” Shinnick said. “If you look down our roster, we have a lot of interchangeable receivers. Ben has really stepped up and he’s certainly one of the guys capable of producing.”
Decelle showed a knack for finding open spots in the zone Tuesday and made the most of his time with the first-team offense.
“Obviously, hearing that from coach (Shinnick) gives me a lot of confidence,” Decelle said after Thursday’s final practice. “I’ve tried to improve pretty much every day since I hurt my hamstring and missed two games last year. I think the coaches want to use me on shorter stuff, kind of be the possession-type guy.”
The team’s projected No. 1 receiver coming out of spring practice — sophomore Te’Vell Williams — didn’t have a reception in Tuesday’s game. The Braves are trying to fill the void left by last season’s top two wideouts, Josh Throckmorton and St. Anthony Lloyd.
Last season, Decelle saw action in seven games and made five catches.
The Rockwell native fits the mold of a Wes Welker-type slot receiver according to teammates, packing a punch at 5-10, 195 with above average hands.
The honors student and political science major is viewing summer workouts and fall practice as an opportunity to further impress the coaching staff after losing his position battle to Throckmorton before the opener in 2010.
“I feel pretty good with how I’ve played and I was pretty happy with the open looks I got in the spring game,” Decelle said. Right now, coaches are looking at who is going to be the guys to step up and prove themselves. That’s what spring has been about. Proving yourself.”
Kicking woes, return game
Senior placekicker Taylor Baskett — a three-year starter — was off the mark on two field goal tries, missing wide right from 46 and 32 yards out. He was true on all three PATs. In his career, Basket has found the net on 26-of-42 field goal attempts.
Bill Stanley proved to be the top player on special teams after booting five punts for an average of 44.4 yards. His first punt of the game was downed inside the 1-yard line.
In the return game, Donald Britt made a handful of nice runbacks including a 25-yard scamper around midfield in the second quarter during which he shook two would-be tacklers and hit the seam.
Backup QB shows off wheels
Teland Todd might be third on the depth chart under center, but Shinnick’s offensive playbook could be deeper this fall if a few calls are designed to take advantage of the Lexington native’s speed.
On multiple occassions Tuesday evening when the pocket collapsed, Todd sprang forward to evade pressure and picked up positive yards while moving the chains. He gained 33 yards on his first carry late in the second quarter, out-running a pair of linebackers inside the 40-yard line.
In all, his 93 yards of total offense was second only to Charles, the squad’s probable starting quarterback.
“That’s the most consistent Teland has played this spring,” Shinnick said. “I was happy to see that.”
Staff writer Brad Crawford can be reached at (910) 272-6119 or at [email protected]