Adam Shackleford found a lot of bright spots after his Tri-Cities Fever put together a 42-play scrimmage Saturday in the Toyota Center.
But perhaps there was no brighter spot than wide receiver Harry Peoples, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from Winona, Miss.
The 23-year-old Peoples ran sharp pass routes, outbattled the Fever’s experienced secondary for balls, including outdueling Rudell Crim in a scrimmage-ending long pass play from quarterback Andre Broadus that turned into a touchdown — a play that sparked a big reaction from both players and the few fans sitting in the arena watching.
“Harry had a great day,” said Shackleford. “He’s come on in camp, and he can also play running back. A light bulb came on for him in the last few days.”
Never miss a local story.
Indoor football is different territory for Peoples.
“I’m just trying to learn,” he said. “It’s all new to me. It’s a lot quicker (than outdoor football). Everything is happening quicker, like right now.”
It’s the smaller playing field, where angles are sharper because the field isn’t very wide and it has a wall.
“You don’t got that kind of room to work with,” Peoples admitted.
Peoples played college ball at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he caught 122 passes for 1,514 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons.
His playing eligibility ended at the end of the 2012 season, and Peoples spent some time with the Chicago Bears in spring mini camp.
But when nothing developed, Peoples stayed in Chicago and was teaching health at a local high school when the Fever opportunity came up.
Again, Shackleford used his network of vast resources to find Peoples.
“Jorge Munoz is a former player of mine,” said Shackleford. “He is also the receivers coach at Louisana-Lafayette.”
He recommended that Shackleford take a look at Peoples.
So far, it has worked out.
And Peoples is liking it too.
“It’s fun,” he said. “This is a team of just great guys. If I knew this (indoor football) had existed, I would have tried this a long time ago. Just to play the sport I love is great.”
Peoples wasn’t the only one who impressed Shackleford and assistant coach Cleveland Pratt on Saturday.
“I thought our offensive line did well,” said Shackleford. “I thought (defensive lineman) E.J. Nduka played well. I thought our defensive backs did a good job.”
Wide receiver Ed Berry wasn’t supposed to play because of a leg injury.
But he suited up to give the offensive unit an extra receiver.
And running back Keithon Flemming looked strong hitting the hole.
“We have as good a 25-man roster as we’ve had here because of the experience we have,” said Shackleford. “Today was very productive.”
The Fever offensive line held its own against the veteran defense too.
At one point, second-year offensive lineman Andrew Faaumu exclaimed “Reading that blitz was like reading a little children’s book!”
Easily it was the line of the day.
Faaumu is the lone veteran back from last season on the line, and he may be looked to for leadership.
“I appreciate that,” he said. “I’ve never played that role. Me and hard work know each other well.”
The former University of Hawaii lineman said there is a big difference playing indoor football compared to the outdoor game.
“Your margin of error on the line is different,” he said. “It’s a lot of one-on-one. You have no outside help, and you have no inside help. And you need to be extremely fast.”
Faaumu likes the fact the offensive unit gets to go up against the Fever defense every day in practice.
“As an offensive unit we are greatful,” he said. “We get to see the best defense in the league every day. But not only are they tough, they’re helpful.”
The defensive backs will relay tips to the offensive linemen if they can tell the big guys are making mistakes.
“Sometimes (defensive lineman) Brandon Wilson will tell me what I’m doing wrong if he can tell which way I’m going by what I’m tipping off,” said Faaumu. “It just helps set that core value of what this team is about.”