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August 22, 2013

Walton names Jones QB as camp ends

This probably wasn't the way that Joe Walton envisioned his final camp as the head coach at Robert Morris wrapping up, but sometimes there's no stopping Mother Nature.

A lightning storm ended Robert Morris' final scrimmage earlier than anticipated, but Walton was still pleased with the way his last camp went before he retires at the end of the season.

"What I liked was the effort that everybody put in," Walton said. "It was a real good camp that way. I saw a lot of improvement. We still have some young guys that we were hoping might help us that aren't sure what they're doing yet, so they have to get a little sharper in the playbook."

Walton named redshirt junior Paul Jones the starting quarterback, with sophomore Derik Abbott as the back-up. Jones arrived on campus in January after transferring from Penn State and impressed immediately with his arm strength. But Jones worked behind Abbott in the spring as he learned the playbook. The two split the reps throughout training camp, but Walton said Jones' physical abilities are tough to ignore.

"I think it's his arm strength and he's got pretty good savvy for a young guy," Walton said. "And he's been around in college a couple of years, so I think he's a pretty level-headed kid. I think more than anything, his command in the huddle has been pretty good. So that means the players are taking to him, which is also a good sign. He still has some things to learn, so we'll hopefully bring him along a little slower and see what happens."

With Jones set at quarterback, Robert Morris' final task is setting its Week 1 depth chart and the 60-man travel squad. Three areas could make an impact in those decisions: The secondary, the tight ends and the green depth at offensive line.

"I think there isn't any doubt that the defensive backfield is the best we've had in years," Walton said. "We've got excellent corners, and we've got some back-ups that at a lot of teams would be playing."

Seniors Mark Centofanti and Eric Lowry were among those who did not participate in the final scrimmage, and those injuries plus the ones on the line could play a factor into who dresses in Week 1. They also have Walton a little concerned with depth in a few spots.

"That's a concern, particularly among the young offensive linemen, who have missed a lot of time," Walton said. "They needed that work so we could count on them for back-ups. That's kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit. Some of them are coming back now and they're just going to have to play catch while we hope we don't get anyone hurt."

Robert Morris opens its 20th season on Thursday, August 29 at Eastern Kentucky.

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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