Leader Blues

Friday, May 22, 2009

SPORTS >> Fresh faces greet Bost in first spring

Leader sportswriter

New Lonoke head coach Doug Bost came into his first spring practice armed only with moderate numbers but many new faces. Close to 45 players reported for spring drills, a little down from what the new head Jackrabbit hoped to see.

“I was hoping we would be up in the 50s, but right now, we don’t have that,” said Bost. “There are kids who have other things on their mind right now besides football. Any coach would like to have more numbers, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

“We’ve had some kids show some interest, but they just don’t have it in their schedule right now, so we’ll see if they start showing up during summer workouts.”

Two-year starting quarterback Rollins Elam left the biggest vacancy on the offense, though it won’t be any easier trying to find replacements for fleet wideouts Michael Howard and Clarence Harris.

The battle to replace Elam has been taken up by incoming senior Michael Nelson and junior-to-be Logan Dewhitt. Neither player has starting experience on Friday night, but both have looked good during the spring, according to Bost.

“Logan’s almost 6-3 with a strong arm, and you’ve got Michael Nelson who can run and make plays, so we’re still looking at both of them,” said Bost. “It’s probably going to be throughout the summer before we decide which direction we want to go there.”

The offensive backfield has the most starting experience returning, with All-State tailback Brandon Smith and All-State fullback Morgan Linton back. Both will also be key ingredients on defense, with Smith at defensive end and Linton at linebacker.

“Those guys have started for three years now,” said Bost. “They know this offense inside and out, and they know the level of competition they’ll be going up against. They’re the strength of our team, no doubt about that.”

Defensive guard Tyler Breashears is the only returning starter on the line, while Todd Hobson will lead the two returning safeties.

Many of the returning players with game-night experience will most likely be called on for both sides of the ball.

“At this level, guys have to go both ways,” Bost said. “Our kids know that, and they’ll do a good job this summer of getting themselves in shape and get ready to play both ways.”

The bulk of the spring sessions have been focused on individual drills. Along with the addition of Bost, Daniel Fipps will take over as defensive coordinator, and will also serve as running back/linebackers coach. Former defensive coordinator Tim Scarborough moved over to junior high head coach to fill the vacancy left by Bost.

Randy Phillips, formerly of Hughes, has also joined the staff. Phillips will be coach for the receivers and defensive backs, while Larry Smith remains in place as offensive and defensive line coach.

“It’s been hectic right now,” said Bost. “We had to hire two coaches here, and we hired another at the junior high. That was a process that took a while to go through to find the right fit. And it was my first spring practice, so there are changes going on.

“But we’re going to have the weight room open in the summer and 7 on 7, which we’ve been doing around here, so that’s not going to be anything different. We’re just excited to get after it and know the kids, and I’m excited about the upcoming season.”

It has also been a difficult time around the school with the passing of coach Hal Steelman, who had been a part of the football program at Lonoke for 18 years. Steelman, who died last Friday of complications from diabetes, was Lonoke head coach for two years.

“All the players wore their jerseys in honor of Coach (at his funeral); that was real nice,” said Bost. “The kids all loved him and all respected him. He had a great attitude. I’m sure the players will all learn from him to never give up. And as tough as they may think things are in the future, he went through a lot tougher, and he never complained.

“That was one thing about Coach, he never complained. I think those kids have remembered him, and they’ll fight through whatever they need to get through and be okay.”