SFA Preps for First Scrimmage
April 12, 2013
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - With the first football scrimmage less than 24 hours away, Stephen F. Austin football fans will get their first look at the 2013 version of the Lumberjacks. One thing fans may notice is there will be a lot of new faces at receiver. The 2013 campaign will be unique for SFA because it will be the first time in several years that the 'Jacks will not return an All-American at receiver.
Over the course of the past several seasons, SFA fans have been used to seeing names like Dominique Edison, Duane Brooks, Aaron Rhea, Contrevious Parks, Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson rewrite the record books. But just because this list of standouts has exhausted its eligibility, it doesn't mean the cupboard is bare.
"We will definitely be younger at receiver this season," said senior quarterback Brady Attaway. "But it would be a mistake to look past the guys we have coming back. We still have some talented veterans on this team, and even though it is early in the spring, we already have some young guys who are stepping up."
While the Lumberjacks have taken some heavy hits in the receiving corps due to attrition, SFA still has returning players who put up big numbers last season in addition to some younger players who been waiting for their time to shine.
Senior Mike Brooks and junior D.J. Ward headline the list of returners who should lead the Lumberjacks receivers in 2013. The two combined for 12 starts last season while Ward leads all SFA returners with 62 catches for 762 yards and four touchdowns. Brooks hauled in 51 passes for 492 yards and two scores. Both finished the season ranked among the league leaders in receptions last season.
SFA also has several receivers looking to make names for themselves in 2013. Juniors Braxton Bearden, Tyler Boyd and Marquis Mosley have all seen playing time but they've had to patiently wait behind more veteran players.
"I think our young guys are really stepping up," said Attaway. "We've been moving guys around to where they fit best into the offense and they are making plays, and pushing for those starting spots. One of the best things about our receivers is, despite their youth, there really hasn't been any mental errors. They are just going out and making plays."
The 2013 receivers will have a huge advantage that previous groups have not been able to enjoy, and that is an established, strong running game. A first-team All-Southland Conference selection, Gus Johnson really came into his own last season punishing would-be-tacklers to the tune of 954 yards on 154 carries, and 14 touchdowns. Johnson's presence, along with the return of Fred Ford, will take a lot of the pressure off the SFA passing game.
"Having a great running back helps out a lot," said Attaway. "When you have two great running backs it is really big. Both Gus and Fred are having great springs and just their presence on the field will open up the passing game. But even when defenses stack eight or nine in the box, those guys still have the ability to make plays."
Another huge advantage the Lumberjack receivers have coming into the new season is the leadership of a senior quarterback. Attaway enters his final season as one of the school's all-time leaders in every career statistical category, and received some attention for the Walter Payton Award last season.
"To be honest, I feel like we look better this year than we have in years past. I've never been on a team that was this close. I think that really helps out a lot. We are all ready for this first scrimmage so we can show what we're capable of in game-like situations."
The 'Jacks first scrimmage of the spring will be Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. from Homer Bryce Stadium.