KINGSTON — Aaron Parker wasn't wearing a number during the University of Rhode Island football team's first scrimmage of the summer on Sunday. But he was far from anonymous, choosing to instead let his play do the talking.
The preseason All-American wide receiver caught five passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, making an experienced group of Rhody corners look helpless nearly every time he was targeted.
“Aaron probably wants to have back two balls he could have had, I think,” URI coach Jim Fleming said, indicating just how high the bar is being set for Parker. “He's gonna draw a lot of attention, but then [opposing defenses are] going to have problems with other guys. That's other people's problems. We're just glad to have him.
“They've gotta make some choices," Fleming said of opposing defenses. "There are some other guys out there who can do some things. Our ability to run the football looks to be even better than it was last year. That's impressive.”
Ivory Frimprong also caught a pair of touchdown passes, while Prince Asiedu-Johnson led the rushing attack with 10 carries for 99 yards.
The Rams had 12 players catch at least one pass, and nine recorded a carry in the run game. As crowded as the receiving corps and backfield may seem, it pales in comparison to the quarterback battle being waged in camp.
Four signal-callers are getting reps in the preseason, and all four have a legitimate shot at seeing the field. With grad transfer Alin Edouard sitting out Sunday's scrimmage due to administrative reasons, the reps were shared by Vito Priore (13-18, 201 yards, three TDs), Darius Perrantes (11-20, 114 yards, two TDs), and Jahkari Grant (10-22, 82 yards).
“They played extremely well,” Fleming said. “Managed the ball, handled the volume of stuff we had in there very well. They're gonna make it an extremely hard decision for us to make. It's a great problem to have.
“It was just really good football all the way through. There wasn't a bunch of lulls from the 1s, 2s or 3s.”
“We're like brothers,” said Perrantes, a freshman. “We help out each other. We do whatever we can to help the team. Just take it day by day.”
Perrantes is a true freshman who joins URI all the way from Valley Village, Calif. He looked as sharp as his more experienced competitors on Sunday, and even showed poise on the run, making one superb pass at the line of scrimmage that went for a long gain.
“I'm pinching myself,” Fleming said. “You go out, and recruiting that position, it's a tribute to [offensive coordinator] Will [Fleming] and his evaluation — finding the kid out there. He has an tremendously advanced maturity. Good grasp of the game; he's picked up our offense extremely well. He's right in the mix.”
“First couple weeks, it was definitely a lot faster than high school,” Perrantes said of his adjustment. “At the end of the day, when you learn the system, it slows down for you. Just trying to do my thing for the team.
“[Rhode Island is] different. Kinda getting tired of the West Coast a little bit. It's nice out here. I love it out here.”
Perrantes was also the leading rusher of the three QBs, with four carries for 20 yards.
Priore is the incumbent under center, which perhaps gives him a slight edge over Perrantes and Grant, a redshirt sophomore. He passed for 781 yards a year ago in six games, including seven touchdowns against four interceptions.
Sunday's action was fast-moving. Fleming was quick to his whistle, shuffling players in and out, giving reps to players all the way down the depth chart. State participants included South Kingstown offensive lineman Montaner Fresilli, North Kingstown running back Gabe Sloat and Narragansett offensive lineman Jordan Riendeau.
“[Tight ends] coach [Mike] Flanagan went out — I told him we need to drive our numbers up — we're calling these guys Flanagan's Army,” Fleming said of the local depth. “He went and knocked on all the doors of the local high schools in the state. We give them an opportunity to play, might not all be scholarships, but we give them a chance to play here. A number of those guys did really good things.”
Sloat missed last year's playoff push for North Kingstown, injuring his leg on the first play of their opening-round win over SK. He looked fully healthy on Sunday, tallying nine carries for 37 yards.
Fresilli also got plenty of looks, even run-blocking for his former high school rival.
“Fresilli is one who's been impressive since Day 1 for us,” Fleming said. “He played a lot of football for us today, with the 3s and the 2s. He's jamming along, doing a nice job.”
The theme of the day for Fleming was evaluating the glut of new talent he's looking to massage into the fold.
“I thought guys jumped out,” he said. “[Johnny] Alvarado showed up, [a] freshman linebacker [who] stepped up and stroked somebody. The guys that are wearing the unusual numbers at positions, they've earned themselves numbers for sure. Sloat is a good-looking kid that bangs the ball up in there.
“Da'Meak Brandon came in and made a nice play. Jordan Jones [same thing]. There's still a lot of time to prepare, but it goes quickly. Big week coming up for us in terms of continuing forward.”
Brandon and Jones are a pair of transfer defensive backs who both figure to see plenty of action this season. Jones joins Rhody from Nassau Community College, a budding pipeline that has delivered Ahmere Dorsey, Naim Jones and Malik Wilder to Kingston.
The start to the Rams' week also included a Monday visit to the New England Patriots' training camp in Foxborough.
“It's most of their dreams to be on that type of field,” Fleming said. “The benefit is to see that even at that level, it's the same process we go through on a day-to-day basis.
“The thing I've always felt is most important, is that the NFL isn't much different. Lot of guys that can play there, but usually the best players are the hardest workers.”
The team will scrimmage again on Wednesday, Aug. 21.