A Look at the Lumberjacks Secondary
Aug. 29, 2006
NACOGDOCHES - Over the course of the past three weeks Lumberjacks fans have grown accustomed to what seems to be a re-occurring them with the SFA football team, youth. The youth movement taking place within the SFA program cannot be overstated, but this is not one of those times. In fact, if fans were to take a close look at the Lumberjack secondary, quite the opposite would be the case.
The 'Jacks' secondary returns four starters from last year, including 2005 first-team All-American Keldrick Holman. In addition to Holman, the Lumberjacks have added an NCAA Division I-A transfer in Corey Campbell from Tennessee and a potential diamond in the rough in senior Carlus Anders.
"We have a lot of talent in the secondary," said secondary coach Matt Graves. "There are guys here who have really stepped up during camp. The bottom line is making plays. We've been telling these guys all camp long that when the lights go on and ball gets snapped you have to make plays.
"We also have a ton of experience in the secondary, which is great from a coach's perspective because that is something you can't teach," added Graves.
The success of the secondary starts with 2005 first-team All-America selection, and 2006 preseason All-American Keldrick Holman. An east Texas product from Hemphill, Holman was third in the Southland Conference with 82 tackles in 2005. He also led the league and finished fourth in the nation averaging 0.55 interceptions per contest on his way to second-team All-America honors by The Sports Network and first-team honors according to Don Hansen's Football Gazette.
"Everybody knows what Keldrick is capable of doing," said Graves. "Unfortunately, he's been a little banged up during fall camp, and he still isn't quite 100 percent, but when he gets on the field he is going to make plays."
Another senior safety that got caught in the shadow of Holman's All-America junior campaign, is 6-0, 200-pound Redondo Beach, Calif., native Freddie Parish. A 2005 transfer from Notre Dame, Parish has taken on more of a vocal role in the secondary entering his final year of collegiate eligibility.
"Freddie came in here last year and got some starts toward the end of the season," said Graves. "He has really stepped it up a notch during fall camp. He's the kind of guy who just loves to play the game and plays hard every down."
Parish finished the 2005 season with 46 tackles, including four for losses. He was also one of nine Lumberjacks to record an interception last season.
The aforementioned `diamond-in-the-rough,' Anders is another east Texas athlete that the Lumberjack coaching staff is really high on.
"Carlus came to us from just down Highway 59, in Lufkin," said Graves. "He has really handled his business this year and looks great on the field. He is having a phenomenal preseason camp. I'm really excited about Carlus, because I think he could have a big year."
The biggest surprise to Lumberjack fans may come in Tennessee-transfer Corey Campbell. A familiar name in Texas, Campbell was one of the top-ranked players in the nation coming out of high school before heading to Knoxville. Campbell made an immediate impact in the Southeastern Conference earning freshman all-conference honors as a rookie. Now Campbell has returned to his native Texas to play out his final year of eligibility.
"Corey has really set the standard high for our younger guys," said Graves. "He is doing everything the right way flying around to the football and practicing hard. He is really teaching our younger guys how things get done. He leaves an impression on them, and in return the younger guys have really begun to step up their play."
The Lumberjack corners are not quite as experienced as the safeties, but what they may lack in experience, they more than make up for in speed. Juniors Stephon Rhea and Johnny Thacker are also members of the Lumberjacks' track and field team.
Opponents shouldn't be fooled by the fact that the SFA corners have a little less experience than the safeties. Rhea started all 11 games at SFA last season, and Thacker worked his way into the starting lineup for the final four games of the 2005 season.
"The youngest position in our secondary is at corner," said Graves. "Even though they have responded well during camp, we are looking for more consistency from that position."
The veteran of the group is 6-1, 164-pound senior Krys Williams. Williams garnered some all-conference recognition last season earning honorable mention honors after recording 37 stops and finishing among the league leaders with 10 pass deflections. Williams is in a similar boat as Holman, having been slowed by injuries during preseason workouts.
"Krys is a returning starter, having played in all 11 games last season," said Graves. "But we've got to get him healthy because he has also been battling an injury, which means our younger guys have got to step up and fill the void."
Despite all the experience in the Lumberjack secondary, expect to see some of the 'Jacks' younger talent battle their way into the lineup as well. SFA returns 5-11, 172-pound Kaufman-product, Josh Henry, who saw action in nine games last season. The Lumberjacks also add the services of prospects Cory Barlow and Jonathan Botley who redshirted the 2005 season.
The importance of a strong recruiting class cannot be overlooked with any athletics program, and the secondary was another area where the coaching staff worked hard to bring in some top talent. Among the Lumberjacks' 29-member signing class this season, seven were in the secondary.
And let's not forget that this Lumberjack secondary has to face the fleet-foot Danny Southall and his group of talented receivers every day in practice. So there is very little that an opposing offensive coordinator can throw at the Lumberjack secondary, that it hasn't already seen in practice.