Assembling a respectable unit is going to be a slow, methodical and highly involved process according to Golden Flashes rookie head coach Dean Pees, who watched his squad butt heads in the first intrasquad scrimmage of the spring season Saturday afternoon at Dix Stadium.
"We're pretty vanilla scheme-wise on defense right now," said Pees. "We're spending a lot of time just evaluating players, because we need to see who can make plays before we can do anything else. We need to find the best players and figure out ways to get them all on the field."
Pees is gradually phasing in a new defensive scheme this spring, although he's not overly concerned with how quickly his players are able to figure it out at this point.
"You've got to learn one thing before you can move on to the next in my mind," said Pees. "We're still working on things we added two days ago, so we haven't added much the last couple of days. But I'm not worried about that.
"My main is concern is improving our fundamentals. These guys have let big plays happen because of fundamental mistakes."
Mistakes _ namely penalties _ hindered both sides of the ball during Saturday's scrimmage.
"We shot ourselves in the foot both offensively and defensively," said Pees. "Offensively, we'd have a good drive going, then a penalty would stop it. And defensively, we'd have the offense stopped then give them a second chance with a penalty.
"Overall, we gave a good effort. But we're still nowhere near where we need to be in terms of conditioning and mental toughness and preparation."
A handful of players have managed to catch Pees' eye already.
Jose Davis and Eugene Baker turned in a typically stellar performance in Saturday's scrimmage. Davis completed 18-of-30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, while Baker caught six passes for 109 yards and a score.
"Even today Baker showed the ability to make big catches at big times, which I like," said Pees. "And Jose threw some nice passes. But I knew all about those guys when I came here."
Pees has been pleasantly surprised by the play of senior wide receiver William Young and linemen Dan Goodspeed (junior) and Jason Hupp (sophomore) on offense, and senior defensive back Wayne Shaw and linemen Lavell Ellis (senior) and Brad Hartman (junior) on defense.
"Those are the six guys right now that have showed me more than I thought they would," said Pees. "Goodspeed (a walk-on and converted tight end) has only been an offensive lineman for seven days and he's come a long way. Young has shown he's a real threat, but he needs to learn to control his emotions."
The play of the defensive line has also pleased Pees.
"Our defensive line as a whole has gotten a lot better," said Pees. "It's hard for them right now because our scheme is totally different, but they're playing hard and competing. Our defensive line was one of my major concerns going into the spring, and I feel a little better about it at this time."
Spring drills will continue this week, with the second intrasquad scrimmage scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.