Vikings starting over with 21 seniors, but three returning starters

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

VIDALIA, La. &045; Armed with 16 seniors a year ago, Vidalia football head coach Dee Faircloth called just two days of spring training a &uot;tuneup&uot; for the 2003 season.

Now he’s got 21, and they’re working hard every day.

The number of seniors are up along with the overall numbers, but the Vikings of 2004 lack significant experience after losing those seniors from a season ago. Sure, the Vikings will have five more seniors than a season ago, but most of them were either juniors on the JV squad or playing second string on the varsity.

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Spring practice will continue this week for the Vikings before culminating May 18 with a scrimmage at Buckeye.

&uot;They have a lot of enthusiasm,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;This is the worst time to have spring training with school fixing to let out. We’ve got basically 75 kids out. A lot of inexperience. I’ve got several young kids that have looked pretty good this spring. These seniors don’t have a lot of experience. But the last two years our JV has lost two games &045; one to Riverside and one to West St. John.&uot;

The offense has just one starter back in lineman Patrick Golden, while the defense has two in Brett Hinson at linebacker and Ken Johnson in the secondary. The Vikings lost some size last season in linemen Matt Hinson and Louis McNulty, Tony Turner at offensive tackle and Rodney Washington at split end.

But there’s some good size this spring with freshman-to-be Josh Upchurch, an imposing figure at 6-4, 230 pounds who will likely get the starting nod at defensive tackle. The Vikings also have out 6-3 Stephen Bryant and Landon Lindsey along with good-sized Lance Moore.

&uot;We’ve got some big ol’ kids,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;It’ll take them a few ball games to get everything together. In that third or fourth week, they’ll be hitting on all cylinders. The improvement is going to be there. I’m proud of the eighth-graders. They look like a good group. Size is not bad &045; of course, we’ve never been very big.&uot;

One of the goals of the spring so far has been filling the skill position slots vacated by some quality seniors from a season ago. At quarterback Hinson will likely get the nod as the starter to replace three-year starter Tony Hawkins, and Graham Roberts will be the No. 2 guy.

Roberts played some last year as the No. 2 back, but Hinson has the arm and the build to be a good player in the pocket.

Then there’s also Brandon Hawkins, Tony’s younger brother who is out as an eighth-grader wearing his older brother’s number.

&uot;Brett has quarterbacked my JV,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;It’s going to be tough to replace Hawkins. He was all-everything for us. I told him the other day he spoiled me. His little brother is going to be a good one. He’s taller than Tony was, but he’s green as grass.

&uot;Both (Roberts and Hinson) throw well. Hinson is an above-average quarterback, and Graham has gotten a lot better.&uot;

The backfield position could be a strength with Johnson moving back there as the main weapon after the team lost steady backs Michael Randall, Chris Williams and Chase Clayton from a year ago.

Faircloth likes the speed of Johnson, the standout on the basketball court who at 5-9 could jump through the roof. He also runs a 4.5 in the 40.

&uot;Johnson is a legitimate Division I prospect,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;He’s a B-plus student and a great kid, and he’s made a 20-something on his ACT. He’s a legitimate prospect. This year he’s going to be running the ball a lot. We had backs out of our ears last year.&uot;

The line has some size to it, but there may not be that solid book end that Turner was a 6-0, 285. The tackles will go 235 and 200.

Cody Leake is also out this spring, and at 6-2 he may get the job at receiver.

On defense Johnson will likely retain his spot in the secondary after leading the team in picks last year. Faircloth likes newcomer Courtland Johnson at defensive back, and Upchuch could blossom into a real threat with his size and ability.

&uot;We’re counting on some of the eighth-graders on playing,&uot; Faircloth said. &uot;They’ll have to get their feet wet real quick. We’ve got some guys who are going to have to play both ways, but we’ve always been like that.&uot;