Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

SPORTS>>Panthers are eager but young this spring

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The first couple of spring football practices have been a pleasant surprise so far for the Cabot Panthers. There will be a lot of new faces in the skill positions for Cabot in the upcoming season, but many of those new faces have looked good in the spring.

Never before has more than a handful of sophomores-to-be come over for spring practice, but this year a dozen current freshmen have donned the pads for hot-weather ball, and looked good in doing so.
A few of them have a chance to earn starting spots while head Panther Mike Malham says he believes all of them will push for playing time.

“They looked pretty good on the first day,” Malham said. “They were aggressive. Sometimes your freshmen coming over are a little timid and you worry about that, but these kids weren’t. They got after it and they’re a pretty athletic group.”

The Panthers lost all but one of the offensive backs from a year ago, but the Cabot coaching staff feels good about their replacements. Returning is senior Casey Carlisle, who has played halfback the last two years. The positions aren’t yet determined, but freshman Michael James has been effective carrying the ball, as well as junior Jake Davis.
Sophomore Seth Bloomberg and junior Nathan Burns are competing for the quarterback spot.
It will be a youthful front line for the Panthers on both sides of the ball too. Leading the way will be senior LJ Tarrant, who Malham believes is outstanding.

“He’s one of the best blockers we’ve had around here in a long time,” Malham said. “He’s going to be playing somewhere in college that’s almost certain. If he was 6-foot-3 or 6-4, he could name his schools, but he’s a six-footer. Some smaller schools is probably going to snatch him up and have heck of a lineman.”

Tarrant will be the only senior on the offensive line, working with a crop of juniors and maybe even a sophomore or two.
The Bryant twins, sophomores Powell and Joseph, are competing for playing time at safety, while sophomore ?? Nuemann has been impressive at linebacker.

“They’ve all got pretty good speed,” Malham said. “They’re not blazing fast, but they’re all in the 4.6, 4.7 range, which is better than we’ve had in a while.”

Nuemann is also working at running back and doing a good job, but his play at linebacker is what is catching the eyes of the coaching staff in the early going.

Daniel Hillenburg returns as a starting defensive end and has continued to solidify his spot atop the depth chart.
There were only 60 players out for the first day of spring practice. While it will be a small and young group, it’s not totally lacking in experience, and it’s one of the more athletic groups assembled for a spring practice in a while.

“Overall the talent level seems to be up,” Malham said. “The sophomores last year were a good group as a whole and this one is a good group. That’s what you need to get good is a couple of three good groups in a row. I think we’re sitting better right now than we have been the past few years at this time.”