5 things we learned from Falcons’ rookie minicamp

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Combined ShapeCaption

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ rookies checked out of the dormitories Sunday after completing their orientation to the team.

“It’s been good,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We’re going to build these guys up. I view it more as a rookie orientation. I have to make sure that these guys are ready to go … just get them going and build them up over the rest of the spring so that we will be rolling by the end of July.”

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The Falcons hoped to give the rookies a good sense of what the mandatory minicamp in mid-June will be like and then the start of training camp in late July.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Smith wasn’t ready to make any grand assessments after a few days of camp.

“We’re bringing them along,” Smith said. “We’re not in pads. We’re not tackling. We’re not doing one-on-ones. So, it’s just building.”

In addition to the drafted and undrafted players, several were on hand for tryouts.

“A lot of it was going to be more mental,” Smith said “They wouldn’t be out here if we didn’t think they had a physical skill set. We wouldn’t have brought them out here.”

Even though the practices are not real football, there were things worth evaluating.

“But you do get to evaluate how they can take things that we’re teaching and bring it to life on the field,” Smith said. “But it’s not full, real football until we get into late July and August. So, it’s part of the orientation process.”

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Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder participates in a drill Saturday in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder participates in a drill Saturday in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder participates in a drill Saturday in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Here are five things we learned from rookie orientation/minicamp:

Desmond Ridder is loud: Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder could be heard yelling instructions to the rookie class.

He also wakes up early, around 6 a.m., to try to be the first player in the building. Undrafted rookie Tyler Vrabel beat him into the building Saturday.

“He’s fine,” Smith said of Ridder. “He’s good.”

Smith didn’t want to make a big deal that Ridder and wide receiver Drake London, the team’s first-round pick, were roommates.

Tryout rookies: Former Georgia Tech lineman Ryan Johnson was among the tryout players.

“He’s a guy from Nashville, played at Georgia Tech,” Smith said. “Like a lot of these guys, he’s trying to get adjusted to what we’re asking them to do. (We’re) evaluating their movement skills and individually how they pick up stuff out here on the field.”

Lacrosse guy: Former Ferris State quarterback Jared Bernhardt, one of the Falcons’ undrafted rookie free agents, is getting a look at wide receiver.

He played lacrosse at Maryland before transferring to Ferris State and leading the team to the Division II football title. Smith watched his lacrosse tape.

“I liked the way he attacked the crease,” Smith said. “He’s good. Jared is guy that we’re excited to see what he can do. He was an option quarterback, got recruited (by) Navy out of high school, went to play lacrosse at Maryland.”

Smith went to high school at Georgetown Prep, which is a big lacrosse school.

“I got a bunch of my buddies and they have been telling me about him,” Smith said. “I watched him. The guy has won wherever he’s been. Won the Tewaaraton, the Heisman for lacrosse. Won a national title there at Maryland and goes to Ferris State, plays quarterback, wins the national title in D-II.”

Smith said Bernhardt’s dad is a football coach who worked with Bill O’Brien.

“So, we’re excited to get him in here as an undrafted free agent and see what he can do,” Smith said.

The Falcons believe Bernhardt can make the transition.

“His skill set, spatial awareness,” Smith said. “We’ll see if it can translate. I mean, he hasn’t even played receiver. So, we’ll see if he can help us there, and if he can, maybe the role expands.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

John FitzPatrick’s short drive: Falcons rookie tight end John FitzPatrick, who played at Georgia and Marist School, had a 40-minute drive to rookie minicamp.

He’s focused on learning the playbook.

“My head was spinning the first day,” FitzPatrick said. “I’m getting better. (Saturday) was a lot better than the first day, which is always good. Just being able to take coaching and bringing that out to the field.”

FitzPatrick is hoping to carve a niche on the roster.

“I would say I’m a dominant run blocker, and I’m excited to showcase my game in the passing game as well,” FitzPatrick said. “I’m excited to contribute in any way that the coaches ask me to do on special-teams units.”

Tyler Allgeier’s workload: Former BYU running back Tyler Allgeier was a workhorse for the Cougars. He had 276 carries last season and was asked how he stayed ready to carry such a heavy load.

“Just understanding my body and making sure I get everything right, especially … just focusing on your body and making sure that the little (injuries) that you get are taken care of,” Allgeier said. “That’s what really separates you from other backs also.”

Allgeier acknowledged there are similarities between BYU’s rushing attack and the Falcons’ playbook.

“So, I think really just honing in all of those skills and learning the playbook because it’s a lot,” Allgeier said. “It’s a lot of stuff.”

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