Hughes’ injury hands offense another blow

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2005

LORMAN &045; Coming off an ACL injury two seasons ago and converting to a new position, Alcorn’s Tabari Lott is being asked to do a number of things.

But helping fill the void left by Nate Hughes wasn’t one he expected to hear.

No one else anticipated the news, either, but that’s the situation Alcorn’s offense is in heading into a huge contest Saturday at Alabama State. When the standout receiver Hughes went down on the fifth play of the season with a dislocated shoulder, everyone took a deep breath and wondered what to do.

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For a team that had enough question marks coming into the season, another one was put on top of them.

&uot;We have to, but I hate it we lost him,&uot; said Lott, the 6-6, 225-pound who went from wide receiver to tight end. &uot;He’s a great contributor to our offense. He’s a great loss. Everybody has to step up another level and play hard.&uot;

How do you replace Hughes’ production? Who’s going to make up for his 48 catches for 781 yards and his ability to catch the short passes and make something out of it?

And who’s going to put enough scare into opposing teams to keep them from putting double coverage on explosive Charlie Spiller?

There’s Lott, junior Marcus McFarland and freshman Emmanuel Arceneaux.

And anybody else who can contribute.

&uot;To lose Nate, that’s a huge loss,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;You miss his leadership ability, and he also complements Spiller. It’s a huge blow to us, but we’ll have to move on. Somebody will have to step up in his place.

&uot;Lott is taking the leadership role a little bit more than in the past. Maybe that’s because we’re utilizing him more because Hughes is out. When people double-team Spiller, they have a tendency to go one-on-one with the tight end.&uot;

It’s a big blow to Spiller, but the Woodville native has kept it in stride. He’s offered comfort to Hughes, who is enrolled in Alcorn’s School of Nursing and resides in a dorm on the Natchez campus.

The passing game had taken a back seat through the first two weeks with the growing pains at quarterback, and Hughes’ injury is another blow.

&uot;He made really big plays, and he played a big part in the offense,&uot; Spiller said. &uot;It’s kind of hurting him right now, he’s overcoming it. Everything is going to work out fine for him. The other guys will have to step up and make plays. I’ll have to step up myself. It’s like Coach Thomas says &045; big-time players make big-time plays.&uot;

If you’re talking about players stepping up, the running backs have done so the biggest in the team’s first two games. Jeremy McCoy ran for 93 yards on 11 carries and is the top back in the SWAC.

It’s at least allowed the passing game an opportunity to flourish with its two quarterbacks, and Saturday it made progress. Tony Hobson played the entire second half and hit Lott for the team’s first touchdown pass of the season.

Behind Spiller’s four catches for 89 yards last week, Lott was right behind him with three catches for 64 yards. He caught only two passes all last year.

&uot;I had to make the transition from receiver to tight end,&uot; Lott said. &uot;I like it. It’s kind of a mismatch with the linebackers. It’s easy for me to get open, and I’ve got to take advantage of that.&uot;

Lott is in a position Johnny Washington held last year and one that didn’t feature too many balls thrown that way. Washington had only 18 catches the entire year as Spiller and Hughes were the main recipients of Donald’s Carrie’s throws with Robert Lester catching 23 in the flat.

McFarland caught one pass against Lagnston and two against Southeastern Louisiana. Arceneaux, a freshman out of Alexandria, La., caught three against SLU but none against Langston.

All of that, however, won’t mean much without consistency from the quarterback position. Thomas said Wednesday Oliver Bozeman will get the start again.

Yet the sophomore may line up some at receiver Saturday as he did during Wednesday’s practice.

&uot;(Hobson) is coming around,&uot; Spiller said. &uot;He threw for 110 yards. He’s making a big difference in the offense. They moved Bozeman to receiver, and that kind of settled it right there. I think that can help us out with two quarterbacks in the game.&uot;