'Jacks Working Toward Friday Night Scrimmage
April 2, 2003
NACOGDOCHES, Texas -- Spring workouts continue Thursday for the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in preparation for the first major scrimmage of the spring, scheduled for Friday night at 7:00 p.m. in Homer Bryce Stadium.
The 'Jacks opened spring workouts on March 18, and held a brief 60-play scrimmage last week, but the first full scrimmage of the spring will be held this Friday in conjunction with the annual officials clinic held on the SFA campus. The clinic, conducted by collegiate and NFL officials, is for area high school officials.
SFA head coach Mike Santiago and his staff entered the 15 days of spring workouts looking to accomplish a few things, one of which being, to re-establish the SFA receiving corps. The 'Jacks lost two All-Southland Conference performers in Anthony Dingle and Courtnee Garcia to graduation last year, and are working several new receivers into place to take over.
In addition to returning receivers Paul Todd, Michael David and Miguel Toulon, the 'Jacks have been working Tony Tompkins at receiver this spring. Santiago said that they are also utilizing tight end Kevin Landry at wide receiver in some sets this spring. The addition of Tompkins and the utilization of Landry gives the 'Jacks a number of options offensively heading into 2003.
"I've been impressed with the way Tony Tompkins has picked up the wide receiver position. He has shown a great deal of football savvy in learning some of the new assignments. He's picked everything up as quickly as I'd hoped," said Santiago.
He went on to add that the 'Jacks are just now in the process of beginning to design some offensive packages around Tompkins at the receiver position. Santiago also added that Lumberjack fans should expect to see the 2002 SLC Freshman of the Year all over the field in 2003.
Zeke Dixon, Michael Williams and Royal Gill have all been working well so far this spring at quarterback and all three are vying for playing time at the position. Dixon and Williams both saw considerable playing time last season and give Santiago and the offensive staff two experienced quarterbacks entering 2003.
"At this time a year ago, Dixon had no collegiate experience and Williams had played one game in his college career. Both showed last season they can get the job done. We've put them in a lot of game management type situations during practice this spring. We've been working on controlling the game with them, controlling personnel in the huddle. After a year's experience, I've found it's much easier for us to communicate now. We can relate better as to what to expect and what we've seen in the past," said Santiago.
With only ten offensive linemen in camp, the 'Jacks are stretched up front this spring, but will be fine this fall. Jeremy Stolfa and Demetrius Hoyle, starters a year ago, are missing spring practice with injuries, but will return in the fall. Couple that with the loss of Greg Barnum, Joe Owens and Tim Hodges to graduation, and the 'Jacks are working a lot of new faces into the line on the offensive side of the ball.
One of the new faces is former defensive lineman Phillip Richard, of Diboll. The 'Jacks were able to move Richard to the other side of the ball this spring due to the fact they have an abundance of defensive linemen right now, plus Richard has shown he will fit right in on the offensive line. "Moving Phillip has been a good move for both the team and Phillip. It will give him an opportunity and make us better up front," said Santiago.
Santiago said that entering spring camp he wanted to see his defense making more plays, and so far he has not been disappointed. " I told Kim Dameron and the defensive staff I wanted to see the defense making more plays and they have been, all spring. They are getting pressures, sacks, making interceptions, they've done an outstanding job.
The 'Jacks will replace senior linebackers Aubrey Brisendine and Michael Adams from a group that includes Nick Trotter, Jeremy Davis, James Satchel and Howard Boye-Doe. Trotter and Davis both saw considerable playing time a year ago, and Satchel was a true freshman last year that possesses all the tools to make an impact. Boye-Doe joined the 'Jacks in January after transferring from the University of Wisconsin.
Satchel has been slowed somewhat so far this spring with a hamstring injury, but Davis, Trotter and Boye-Doe have been playing well. Along the defensive front, the 'Jacks return an experienced, talented unit that may be the best defensive front in years. Vernon Holman, Ed Henson, Kenneth Winters, LeAlfred Sanders and Ryan Smith all return from a year ago. Smith was a true freshman last year, and has impressed coaches so far this spring. Holman, Winters, Henson and Sanders are all experienced and talented.
SFA also returns a safety tandem in Brent Hafford and David Crocker that could be the best in the Southland Conference. Hafford led the team and was second in the SLC in total tackles a year ago, earning First Team All-SLC honors, while Crocker played in only five games after breaking a bone in his foot in the second week of the year. "Hafford and Crocker have picked up right where they left off last season. They are at the point this spring where we could begin to limit their reps in practice,"said Santiago.
At the corners, Dameron and the defensive staff are finding a replacement for All-SLC cornerback Braxton O'Banion from a group that includes Nick Houston, Carl Ivey, Jamaal Cato and Roderick Palmer. Cato started all 11 games a year ago opposite O'Banion. Daron Ballard also joins the mix after missing 2002 with an injury.
"Overall, I've been pleased with the work we've gotten accomplished to this point. Friday night we'll work a great deal on the kicking game during the scrimmage and place an emphasis on that. I hope to see plays being made on both sides of the ball Friday night, giving the staff some idea of the direction we are headed in terms of making decisions heading into the final week of spring workouts," said Santiago.