Football wraps up spring drills

The Lions finished last season on the gridiron under .500 and last in the Southland Conference after bringing in the nations No 1. division two recruiting class in 2009.  With many of those young players in their second season, most of them will be called upon this season to fill empty voids for the Lions as they wrapped up spring drills on Friday, April 15.

“Last year, that recruiting class, we red shirted 19 of those 23 guys so it was important for those guys to have a solid spring under their belt and get a lot of contact because those guys will be taking a lot of snaps for us,” said Lions Head Coach Mike Lucas, entering his eighth season.

The Lions spring included 15 practices in a 34-day period, with 12 practices in full pads and eight with live tackling. The Lions chose to use all 15 practices to their advantage, forgoing this year’s spring game.

“I thought it was important to have 15 solid practices. When you have a spring game, that game counts as one of those practices, and I think we accomplished a lot doing it that way,” said Lucas.

The Lions came into the spring with many voids to fill on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Lions are breaking in a new starter at quarterback in B. J. Young.  They graduated three starters from the offensive line, but return leading rushers Zeke Jones, Sam Fairly, and All Conference receiver Simmie Yarbrough.

“B.J. has done well.  It’s important for us to keep continuity in what we’re doing, so its been good for him to be ready to step in and become the man instead of just the back up,” said Lucas. “There’s a lot of guys we told them, ‘hey the position battles are in the air and whoever steps out is going to be the starter,’ so I want to see how those guys are going to step up.”

Defensively, the Lions lost eight starters, including all time leading tackler at middle linebacker Mark Newbill and ball hawking safety Re’Keem Wilson, who led the Lions in interceptions.

“There’s some big shoes to fill, faces that all of our fans have seen for a long time. What we’ve done is we have eight transfers that came in January and those guys have stepped in and we have some young guys playing at linebacker. They played very well today in our final scrimmage so I’m pleased with the progression they’ve made for us,” said Lucas.

The Lions open up the 2011 season on the road, in New Orleans, as they play Tulane on September 3 and return to Strawberry Stadium on September 10 for the home opener, as they face Savanna State at 7 p.m.