Lumberjacks Open Spring Practice
March 21, 2005
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and new head coach Robert McFarland hit the field Monday at 3:00 p.m. for the first of 15 planned spring practices which will conclude with the annual Spring Game Friday, April 15 and a final practice Monday, April 18.
The Lumberjacks will practice in shorts and helmets for the first two days before going into pads for the third workout of the spring. Normal weekday practices are scheduled to begin with meetings at 2:30 each afternoon with the team taking the field from 3:30-6:00 p.m.
Three of the scheduled workouts are planned scrimmages with the first scrimmage of the spring taking place Saturday, April 2 at 9:00 a.m. The 'Jacks will also scrimmage on the evening of Friday, April 8 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the annual football officials clinic held on the SFA campus. The annual Purple & White game is scheduled for Friday, April 15 beginning at 6:00 p.m. with one practice to follow on Monday, April 18.
Entering his first season as head coach of the Lumberjacks, McFarland says that classroom time will be a critical part of a successful spring for the Lumberjacks. "Meetings will be critical for us. We're implementing a new philosophy and new schemes and how well we do in the classroom setting will be a huge factor," said McFarland.
"I hope to be able to come out of these 15 spring workouts and have a good idea about a two-deep depth chart on offense, defense and special teams. We hope to put these guys into positions early in the spring and let them compete. After watching film from last season, we feel pretty good about a couple of spots along the offensive line and also one or two spots up front defensively. There are also a couple of positions in the secondary where we feel pretty confident heading into spring practice. Most positions are up for grabs as we head into this and we hope that after 12 practices and three scrimmages we can come out with a good idea of a two-deep heading into the fall," said McFarland.
Gone from the 2004 team offensively are Michael Williams at quarterback and Tony Tompkins at receiver. Senior Zeke Dixon and sophomore Danny Southall return as the two experienced candidates at quarterback, along with a trio of walk-on candidates. Dixon played in eight games last season as a junior, going 26-57-0 for 347 yards passing with two touchdowns. He passed for 1,486 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman in 11 games and threw for 1,257 yards and seven touchdowns in only seven games as a sophomore before an injury sidelined him midway through the 2003 campaign.
Southall, a gifted athlete from Hitchcock, played in four games last season and was 0-1 passing. He appeared in three games as a receiver late in the year and had two receptions for 26 yards.
Tompkins wrapped up his SFA career second on the all-time all-purpose yardage list, just behind former Lumberjack great Larry Centers. Tompkins finished with 4,511 yards of all-purpose yardage which combines rushing, receiving and return yardage. He led the team in receiving last season with 821 yards on a team high 56 catches. He also led the team with seven TD receptions and also added one rushing touchdown on the year. He was a second team All-SLC pick at both receiver and as a return specialist.
Also gone on the offensive side of the ball is offensive lineman Larron Singleton. Singleton started the first seven games of 2004 before being replaced in the line-up by Tobi Kaiyewu for the final four games of the season. Singleton was hampered by injuries throughout the season and missed the final four games of the season due to injury.
Defensively, the 'Jacks enter spring workouts looking to replace five starters from a year ago, including both starters at linebacker. Ryan Smith will return in 2005 as the lone first team All-SLC selection from a year ago at defensive end, but will not go through spring practice following off-season surgery. Martin Thompson, a sophomore defensive tackle in 2004, will also miss spring practice after an injury which cost him the final four games last season. Both he and Smith are expected to be ready when fall camp opens in August.
Defensive coordinator J.C. Harper will look to replace linebackers Eric Robinson and Jeremy Davis from a group of candidates which includes Erik Wilson, Charles Robinson, Chris Bocard and Robert Castillo among others. Only Castillo and Wilson have collegiate experience, but both Bocard and Robinson were highly touted signees a year ago.
The Lumberjacks return three starters in the secondary including cornerbacks Keldrick Holman Roderick Palmer along with safety James Shead and Rover Ryan Luedecke. Senior Braylon Lester wrapped up his career with 11 starts a year ago at free safety. Also returning in the secondary are Jack Criss, Johnny Thacker, Krys Williams and Bug Aymond. A.J. Domeaux, a freshman last season, spent 2004 on the demonstration units and will miss spring practice with an injury.
SFA also has big holes to fill on special teams with the graduation of kicker Ryan Rossner, punter Clay Gilbert and deep snapper Luke Goode. McFarland and his coaching staff signed a kicker from Texas City this spring in Michael Perren, but will go through spring practice looking through walk-on candidates for a punter and a deep snapper. Several kickers are also in camp and will challenge for the kicking job heading into fall camp in August.