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SLU Lions Set to Open Spring Practice
HAMMOND – The Southeastern Louisiana football team will open spring practice on Friday, working out at 3:30 p.m.
Friday’s practice will start a run of 15 workouts that will culminate with the Spring Game on April 24. The annual scrimmage that signals the end of spring practice is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions return 18 starters from last season’s squad, including four All-Southland Conference performers. Southeastern is coming off a 6-5 finish in 2009 and the Lions posted their first-ever winning season in league play, finishing 4-3 against Southland opposition.
With a veteran roster for 2010, Lion head coach Mike Lucas is excited to begin preparing for the upcoming season, which will see Southeastern open at Tulane on Sept. 4.
“We’re very fortunate to have the majority of our key performers back from last season,” Lucas commented. “We’re going to concentrate on the fundamentals and mental aspects during our workouts. We’re looking for one of our quarterbacks to step up and we expect to see Tyler (Beatty) and B.J. (Young) benefit from work with (new quarterbacks coach) Art Asselta.”
Beatty and Young will be looking to replace three-year starter Brian Babin, who completed his eligibility in 2009. Beatty saw action in nine games a season ago, completing 45 of 88 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns, while also finishing the year as the team’s third-leading rusher. In his most impressive outing, the senior from Pflugerville, Texas stepped in for an injured Babin and completed 23 of 35 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns. With an edge in experience, Beatty will head into spring practice with an inside track for the starting job.
“Tyler’s seen some playing time and had some success, so he’ll take the majority of the snaps initially with the starters,” Lucas said. “But, we consider the quarterback competition wide open. B.J. has matured immensely since he’s been here and we feel we have two young men going through spring drills that can lead our offense.”
Despite the loss of starting receivers Merrick Lanaux and Chris Wilson, Beatty and Young will still have plenty of experienced targets at their disposal. Simmie Yarborough, a second team All-Southland choice a season ago, returns after a breakout campaign that saw the Brookhaven, Miss. native lead the team with 57 catches for 803 yards and 12 touchdowns. Andre Cryer (30-373-2 TD) and Kory Theodore (29-398-3 TD) are two of the other top veteran pass catchers returning for the Lions.
New offensive coordinator Allen Rudolph is expected to commit to the running game as well. Zeke Jones is the lead candidate to replace All-Southland running back Jasper Ducksworth after a redshirt season that saw the Springfield product tie for the team lead with five touchdowns. Sam Fairley is expected to see increased action as well in 2010.
“It’s Zeke’s ball heading into the spring,” Lucas claimed. “He’s done a nice job in working towards getting closer to his desired playing weight. Sam has made some huge strides during the offseason and put some monster numbers in the weight room.”
On the offensive line, Southeastern will return four starters from last season’s group. All-Southland pick Kevin Hughes leads a group that also includes Josh Penton, Michael Stallworth, Paul Roppolo and Josh Bridges. Evan Niles is the lead candidate to replace second team All-Southland left guard David Ward, who will forego his final year of eligibility to concentrate on his graduate studies.
First team All-Southland selections Mark Newbill and Re’Keem Wilson return to highlight the Lion returners on the defensive side of the ball. Southeastern will also get a boost from the return of safety Tommy Connors, a consensus All-American in 2008 who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the 2009 campaign.
Newbill, who led the team with 110 tackles a season ago, and Ryan Godare (87 tackles) lead a deep group of linebackers. Avery Crooks and Kendrick Jackson will also be back at linebacker for the Lions.
On the defensive line, the continued maturity and improvement of defensive ends Devan Walker and Lindsey Leavoy should give the Lions an effective pass rushing pair. Junior college transfers Luther Chambers and C.J. Jenkins are expected to make an immediate impact on the defensive interior during the spring.
On the back end, Connors, Wilson and Curtis Strong give the Lions a trio of talented and experienced safeties. Robert Alford, Craig Duronslet and Michael Ducksworth will be a part of a spirited competition for playing time at the cornerback spot.
The Lions will work on Friday and Saturday during the opening week, before settling into a schedule that will see the team work on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through March 31, when the Lions will take a 10-day break for Spring Break. The Lions will return to the practice field on April 12 working up until the Spring Game.
The midweek practices will be held on the practice fields at 3:30 p.m. Should field conditions force the Lions to move onto the Strawberry Stadium turf, Southeastern will work under the lights at 8 p.m. In conjunction with Junior Day, Southeastern will scrimmage at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 27.
SLU Media Relations