Vacated linemen leave big holes in Bulldogs&8217; OL

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Contrary to popular belief, there are good things about losing a couple 300-pounders from your offensive line.

For one, the shocks on the bus will thank you. So will the restaurants you visit after a road game.

And you know if the fieldhouse scale had arms, it would give you a big ol&8217; hug.

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Natchez High&8217;s offensive front will be smaller this fall. Gone are Tremaine Scott (6-4, 330) and Tyrone Baldwin (6-1, 310), as is Romardo Thomas (6-2, 268). This spring coaches have tried to find a way to keep the offense going behind a unit that&8217;s smaller and less experienced.

But they&8217;re quick. And ready to get to work.

&8220;They look up to me,&8221; said Broderick Morgan, who at 6-1, 320 pounds is the only returning starter up front and the biggest. &8220;I&8217;m trying to not let them down. You&8217;ve got to play every snap. Our back-ups from last year, they&8217;re still good. We&8217;re in-between.

&8220;We&8217;re getting that chemistry day by day. We&8217;re trying to get closer together. An offensive line is like a family.&8221;

It&8217;s a family that could start a civil war this fall if they can&8217;t do their jobs on a regular basis. The Bulldogs will have most of their skill people back from an offense that executed better down the stretch out of its four-wide, no-huddle sets.

Top receiver DeKeedrian Jackson and running back Brandon Lewis graduated, but everyone else will return. And that&8217;s why the offensive line has been a point of emphasis this spring.

Spring drills end Thursday when Natchez will conduct an intrasquad scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. at Tom F. Williams Stadium.

&8220;We lost some size from last year,&8221; said Natchez High head coach Lance Reed, who enters his third season. &8220;We lost a little size, but we have confidence in who we have coming back as far as some of their strengths. They&8217;re a little better as far as experience. This main thing is chemistry &8212; having people that know how to work together and execute the offense like it&8217;s supposed to be executed. That offensive line has to get the job done.&8221;

Size may not be its strength, but there is experience from younger players who supplanted the starters at times last year. Take Robert Day, who relieved starting tackle Taylor Hinson last year as a sophomore.

Day may play some center, but he&8217;ll likely be the favorite at tackle now. Hinson has transferred to Trinity.

&8220;I&8217;ve put on 30 pounds &8212; I&8217;m bigger than Hinson,&8221; said Day, now at 215 pounds after checking in at last spring at 185. &8220;(We&8217;ve got) a lot of speed. We&8217;ve got a lot of quickness, too, and we&8217;ve got a lot of game experience. My freshman year, I had to get out there. You&8217;ve got to know how to use your speed, and everything is the same.&8221;

Morgan will retain his interior lineman spot with Day at tackle, and the other positions may be up for grabs at this point. Players new to the program may step in and compete for a spot, including sophomore-to-be Keith Dees, and junior-to-be Johnny Griffin (5-10, 210) will compete for a spot up there as well.

Numbers are so high this spring, Reed said, that at one point there were 90 people dressed out.

&8220;New guys are coming out of the building,&8221; he said. &8220;They&8217;re working hard. We&8217;re confident with the guys we have up front, even with their size. We&8217;ve got a lot of people on the field. We started off with a good group of kids who wanted to come out for spring training, and I&8217;ve been pleased with a couple of new faces who have come out. I feel those guys will help us.&8221;

It&8217;s the guys returning that the Bulldogs will pin most of their hopes on with quarterback Jason Bruce, running back Latarus Frazier and receivers Edward Johnson and DeShawn Griggs.

Another point this spring has been finding consistency in the passing game, Reed said, and 7-on-7 camps will help in that regard.

But does it all start up front? Maybe not start, but it sure could end there.

&8220;Our line last year, we were a close-knit family,&8221; Day said. &8220;It was a lot of heart. We wanted a winning season, and if you want it that bad, you&8217;ll get it pretty much. We&8217;re still banking on the same people. You&8217;ve got to go full speed and full strength. There is no getting worse &8212; you&8217;ve got to get better.&8221;