‘Dores hope to find starters in spring practices
Lafayette’s Commodores turned a lot of heads during the last half of the 2013 football regular season and MHSAA Class 4A playoffs. The Commodores used a strong non-region schedule to their advantage late in the year, and after overcoming some early lumps in region play, they made a very impressive run to reach Jackson and play for a state title.
In order for the Commodores to win 10 or more games again, a bevy of departed starters from a very fast and productive defense need to be found. The first opportunity to do that is with 15 spring practices.
“Our main focus, if we had to do one area, would be defensively. We lost seven starters on that side of the ball,” LHS coach Eric Robertson said heading into this week’s spring drills. “We got our d-front pretty much back with Darren Toles, Eric Lowes and Keontre Toles. Our entire secondary is gone and three of our five linebackers are gone. We need to find some starters to step up and then hopefully find some depth as well.”
While Robertson does have to find some new linebackers, he has his most productive starter, Quin Jones, back for his junior season. Last year Jones led the Commodores with 190 total stops.
“He is our leading tackler and it’s always good to have somebody like him coming back. He has established himself as one of the leaders on that side of the ball,” Robertson said. “We’re excited to have him back and looking forward to seeing how much he progressed, from last fall in the weight room, getting stronger. It’s definitely helps having a person like him in the middle back.”
The defense will have a new coach calling plays. Out is Dusty Finley, who has moved over to become the offensive coordinator with Dennis Robbins retiring. In on defense is Robertson’s cousin, Stan, who was on staff last year as a linebackers coach.
“Stan was the defensive coordinator at Grenada. He had solid defenses down there before he came here last year. He’ll slide right in there and I feel very comfortable with that. We’re in the process of hiring another coach to take care of the secondary,” Robertson said. “With Coach Robbins retiring, we’re just shuffling people around. Coach Finley coached defensive backs for us, so we’ll get one new coach and we’re in the process of getting that done right now.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Commodores return four of five on the offensive line, as well as their quarterback, Devon Thomas, and 1,000-yard rusher in Tyrell Price.
“We have seven starters back on that side of the ball and one of the things we feel really good about is the offensive line. Four of those guys are back and have played together and that helps. Those guys have had to learn how to work with one another,” Robertson said. “Of course we won’t have (tackle) Eli Johnson this spring. He’s still recovering from his ACL surgery. We won’t have (center) Austin Arrington because he is in baseball. But we do feel good about that side of the ball and getting some young quarterbacks some reps with Devon Thomas in baseball.”
Even with Thomas out this spring, Robertson said some new plays would be added for the other quarterbacks to start to learn.
“There is some instillation. It is somewhat limited not having Dehvon out there. We won’t have our kickers, we won’t have our punter, quarterback or center. They’re all in baseball but there is still some installation because with Coach Robbins retiring, and Coach Finley moving over the offensive coordinator spot, he will want to put his wrinkle on some things,” Robertson said. “We’ll still be a zone-read team on offense but he will add some wrinkles. We will be limited, some, with not having Devon out there but got some young guys, Tyler Williams, Allan Mathis, some of those guys that are going to do fine for us this spring.”
Lafayette’s spring game is May 15 at William L. Buford Stadium. Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Lake Cormorant and North Panola will take part in the jamboree-style format.
“There will be a scrimmage going on at both ends of the field at the same time and all the teams will scrimmage against each other,” Robertson said.