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Published: Tuesday, 9/18/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

UT defense leaning on Norrils

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cheatham Norrils (11) breaks up a pass intended for  Bowling Green receiver Je'Ron Stokes (16) during the third quarter. Cheatham Norrils (11) breaks up a pass intended for Bowling Green receiver Je'Ron Stokes (16) during the third quarter.
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His mind wandering on a day off from practice, Cheatham Norrils was thinking about speed.

Specifically on how the pace of a football game has intensified at every level he has played at — elementary to junior high, junior high to high school, high school to college.

"Everything is faster," Norrils said. "You have to adjust quick."

After a frenetic pace engulfed the University of Toledo secondary in the first two weeks of the season, a group headlined Saturday by Norrils experienced a measure of calmness in a win over Bowling Green. Norrils, a sophomore from St. John's Jesuit, produced the best game of his fledgling career, intercepting a pass and posting a personal-best seven tackles. He claimed Monday he could have played better — "there's always room to improve" — although no shortcomings of his were apparent in a 27-15 rivalry win. In a performance that brought him the honor of Mid-American Conference West division defensive player of the week, Norrils broke up a would-be first-down catch and made a stop on third down in the flat.

"He has the potential to be as good as he wants to be," coach Matt Campbell said. "The thing I really appreciate about what Cheatham's done is over the last nine months he has decided to become an extremely good football player."

Recruited as a cornerback, the 2010 Blade player of the year played his freshman season at safety. He is at cornerback this season. Although floating between positions might have blunted his development (Norrils practiced at both spots early in the preseason and in the spring) Norrils believes he has benefited from the fluctuation.

"Knowing what's going on behind you and also knowing what you're doing at corner helps you a lot," he said.

Seeing his friend Chris Dukes lose his starting spot at cornerback last week, Norrils said, was "motivation to all of us that you can't come out and expect to have a starting role." Dukes struggled the first two weeks when the Rockets gave up 387 and 339 passing yards to Arizona's Matt Scott and Wyoming's Brett Smith. After limiting yet another solid quarterback — Bowling Green's Matt Schilz — to 216 yards and zero touchdowns, Toledo draws a challenging assignment. Coastal Carolina's Aramis Hillary, who began his career at South Carolina, is completing 68 percent of his attempts and averaging 257 yards per game. Like Scott and Smith, Hillary is also liable to gash defenses with his feet. The Chanticleers fell to 2-1 in a 35-17 home loss to Eastern Kentucky.

"You can't worry so much on what the quarterback is doing," Norrils said. "You still have to play your responsibilities, and everything will fall into place."

INJURIES: Cornerback Byron Best, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury, is considered day-to-day. Defensive tackle Danny Farr (knee) is doubtful, but Campbell hopes to have him back by the end of the season.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: What was Campbell thinking when he called timeout with 17 seconds left in Saturday's game? "Let's put the nail in the coffin," he said, noting that by kneeling the ball Bowling Green could have used its final timeout on fourth down. Campbell conceded — sort of — that ordering a sweep on the next play for Terrance Owens was ill-advised as it put his quarterback in a vulnerable position at an anticlimactic point of the game.

"Maybe it wasn't the best call, but I was playing to win and trying to finish the football game," Campbell said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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