LOCAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL: New-look Lane expects to keep improving
Apr. 13, 2014 |
The alarm clock doesn’t bother Lane quarterback T.J. Ayers.
Lane’s football team used to practice at 3:45 p.m., after classes, but this spring interim coach Malik Hoskins started conducting practices at 5:30 a.m.
Hoskins sees a positive sign in his players’ reception of the change, and Ayers participates willingly as he thinks about pushing toward a conference title and getting the city of Jackson more involved with the team.
“Honestly we feel like everybody in the SIAC is not up at 5:30 a.m.,” Ayers said.
After a 6-4 season last year, Lane football closed its spring practices Saturday with a scrimmage at Lane Field. Approximately 100-150 supporters attended.
Ayers and Bradley Landrum took turns playing quarterback, but Hoskins seemed as pleased with his defense as anything.
That’s significant praise given Hoskins was responsible for offense under former head coach Derrick Burroughs, now defensive coordinator at Jackson (Miss.) State, and the Dragons have been a better offensive team the past couple years.
“Defensively I expected us to be a little lethargic, but we weren’t,” Hoskins said, crediting the defensive coaches for having the Dragons prepared. “They’re playing fast. They’re not thinking a whole lot, which means that they can go.
“Defensively I think we came out of spring a little better than we were offensively.”
Gabriel Mass sat out of spring practices recovering from an injury, but he should lead a line Hoskins thinks is the defense’s strongest unit.
Jack Howard, an NFL hopeful, will be missed in the secondary. Rising sophomore Jamal Kearney had a touchdown-saving tackle on Ayers in Saturday’s scrimmage, and Hoskins said Dewayne Brown can play either corner or safety and be the best defensive back in the conference.
Lane’s offense led the SIAC with 415 yards per game last year, but quarterback and SIAC Player of the Year Chris Rini is not the only significant part missing.
The Dragons must also replace wide receiver Greg Moore, who caught 59 passes for 910 yards last season and is hopeful for looks from NFL teams.
Hoskins said Ayers would play quarterback if the season started immediately, but some newcomers will join the team in the fall and get a chance.
“He’s a smart kid. He’s not the most athletic guy, but he’s smart,” Hoskins said of Ayers. “He knows the playbook. He can get everybody lined up, everybody in the right situation. That’s his best attribute right there.
Gerald Gaines returns at running back, among four who Hoskins said can start. (Artaves Gibson and Clarence Marshall are transfers from Memphis.)
Jamion Dunning, an all-conference wideout last year as a freshman, and rising senior Duke Coleman should ensure the new Lane quarterback will have good options when it’s time to pass, though Hoskins said he expected more from Dunning this spring.
“I think we’re good as far as that position is concerned, but again, we’re going to bring some guys in from the junior college ranks that will come in and compete with those guys for a spot,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he is still considered the interim head coach but is confident he will be named head coach July 1.