Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SPORTS >>Red Devil linemen stepping up effort

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

It’s the third week of football practice and Jacksonville is coming along nicely. Two-a-days are now gone, and the Red Devils are practicing just once per day.

The battle for the starting quarterback position is not yet settled, and may not be for several more weeks. Senior Cameron Hood and junior Thomas Blade have each impressed Coach Mark Whatley enough to stay in the running for the job.

“They’re running neck and neck, which is a good thing,” Whatley said. “They’re both doing things that you can win with. A lot of it is going to come down to who can take the offense, manufacture drives and put points on the board. We won’t know a lot about that until we play. We’ve got our scrimmage game and three non-conference games to find that out before we really feel like we have to make that decision and move forward to the ones that really count.”

The team has progressed in learning the offensive and defensive systems, but are still looking for more linemen to step in and added much-needed depth to the line core.

With few players other than starters impressing on the line, Jacksonville is looking at moving players from other positions. Some linebackers have shown some ability on the defensive line, and that position is deeper than the line already.

“We may move some linebackers down,” Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley said. “We have some kids we think might be able to step in at linebacker, and some linebackers that have looked pretty good on the line. That may be what we have to do.”

Defensively the team has seen a few people line up and look good on the interior. Whatley sang T.J. Moore’s praises Tuesday morning.

“T.J. Moore came on strong and looked really impressive on the defensive line last week,” Whatley said. “Of course he’s our starting offensive tackle. We’re finding some that can do it, but sometimes it’s just the wrong ones. There’s just so many to go around.”

While finding the numbers to have two completely different units on the offensive and defensive lines has proved troublesome, they have at least found enough players to rotate in and out. No one will have to play almost every down on both sides of the ball.

“I think we’ll be able to rotate all of them,” Whatley said. “Coach (Rick) Russell does a great job of getting them in and out defensively, finding spots to get kids some rest.”

The 100-plus degree heat hasn’t been a big problem for the Red Devils. Jacksonville has taken some extra precaution, but Whatley says his players have continued to work hard.

“They’ve been super as far as getting after and working through discomfort. They’re doing that. As a matter of fact, we went through 32 plays with our offense scrimmaging, and after practice (wide receiver) Terrell L’Hrisse came up and said we’ve got to have more scrimmage than that. They’re ready to play and want to work to get better.”