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KINGSTON â Elijah Saintfleur has plenty of time to earn a starting spot on the Rhode Island offense, but he isnât wasting any of it.
The red-shirt freshman tight end from West Warwick was one of the stars of the off-season training program who also had a superb spring game. Saintfleur impressed coach Joe Trainer to the point that Saintfleur started Saturdayâs first scrimmage of camp playing with the first unit.
Saintfleur had two unproductive series with quarterback Bob Bentsen and the first-team offense, but he did perform well with the second team and appears headed toward a significant role for the team when it opens up the 2013 season on Aug. 29 on the road against Fordham.
âIâm just fighting for a starting spot,â Saintfleur said after the first of three scrimmages URI will have during camp. âWe had an 0-11 season last year and weâre all trying to get better. Whoever is the best Y (tight end) and whoever is the best quarterback or the best whatever is going to be out on the field.â
Saintfleurâs biggest challenge since coming to Rhode Island has been learning the teamâs zone-read attack. In high school, Saintfleur was a dominating defensive end who also dabbled at tight end, but because he entered college barely above 200 pounds, his future wasnât on the defensive side of the ball.
Saintfleur has gained at least 20 pounds in the last year and heâs starting to pick up the offense. He caught a number of passes in the spring game, but he didnât make a catch Saturday as the offense opted for a ground-and-pound strategy to move the ball against the URI defense.
âIâve had some pretty good weeks of practice. I just need to turn those weeks into good scrimmages,â Saintfleur said. âI donât think this was the greatest scrimmage for me. Weâre going to go back, look at film and try to push ahead.â
âHeâs still figuring the whole thing out,â Trainer said. âHeâs so young and so raw. Heâs done everything weâve asked him to do in the weight room. Heâs athletic and he still has to become more physical in the run game. He wants to become a good player and I think heâs going to be a star here.â
After Rhode Islandâs first-team offense couldnât muster a first down on the first two drives of the scrimmage, changes were made and one of the changes was at tight end where Tulane transfer Andrew Siden replaced Saintfleur. Siden wasnât a target for Bentsen either, but URI did score a few touchdowns.
Saintfleur and the second-team offense, which was quarterbacked by Kolt Peavey, also scored a few touchdowns as the offense dominated the defense in the second half of the scrimmage.
Saintfleur will have two more scrimmages to impress the offensive coaches and Trainer said the former Wizard should be a part of the teamâs offense this season.
âWeâre expecting him to be one of those one and a halves and weâre going to go look at the tape right now,â Trainer said. âIâd be disappointed if he wasnât making plays for this team.â