Northeast Miss. Community College opens football practice

Northeast Mississippi Community College head football coach Ricky Smither welcomed over 70 players to campus for the beginning of 2009 fall football camp Tuesday, August 4.

New faces as well as returning players checked in at Anderson Hall in the afternoon hours on Tuesday. After several meetings and physical examinations, Smither directed his players to the practice field for some conditioning tests that continued into the late evening hours.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys out here, but unfortunately, some of them will have to go home and these conditioning tests will tell us a lot about most of these guys and help us make a decision,” Smither explained.

In order to comply with the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) and Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College (MACJC) regulations, Smither will need to cut his roster down to 55 players before the start of the 2009 season.

“It is going to be a tough task cutting down the roster, but we are looking for guys who have some speed and who want to compete,” explained Smither.

The Tigers will have some key sophomore players that are expected to lead the charge during camp and into the season opener, like head-hunter Bernard Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) a 6-3, 245-pound defensive end, along with Eric Knowlton (Horn Lake, Miss.) a 5-6, 170-pound H-back, and Jeremy Cannon (New Albany, Miss.) a 5-9, 185-pound running back who was able to tally up almost 300 yards rushing in a limited role in 2008. All three of these sophomore players were selected as MACJC Top Returning Players for 2009, according the latest release of the 2009 NJCAA Football Preview.

“These guys are going to be players we will need to step up to the forefront for us and show some hard work and leadership skills”, said Smither. “But we’ve also got some other guys who were overlooked some how in the 2009 outlook such as Patrick Grant (Columbia, Ga.), a hard hitting linebacker at 6-1, 245-pounds who can fly all over the place and was big time for us last year. We have some play makers on the offensive line in DeMarkus Underwood (Tuscumbia, Ala.) who is a monster at 6-8, 315-pounds along with Josh Thompson (Leighton, Ala.), who stands at 6-6 and weighs 300-pounds and played well for us last year. All these guys should be impact players for us the season and we are looking for them to step up during camp.”

At the quarterback spot, Northeast will start fresh and look for a few guys to step up and take charge during camp. “We have Coach John Darnell here as our offensive coordinator and he will be evaluating these guys and making sure they all get some looks,” said Smither. “This is a spot that we are going to have to get a play maker to fill so he can help us be successful.”

Smither will continue to reinforce his philosophy of fundamental teaching, motivation, and then evaluation, which he will look to do during the next several days of camp. “My coaching staff and I will have to make sure that our final 55 players understand that being receptive to the teaching we give them and being motivated to get better and be winners, are the key components on how we will make evaluations and move forward,” Smither said.

“We are excited to be here and we hope to have our entire roster spots filled by the end of this camp so we can start some game planning for the season opener against Hinds Community College on August 27, here in front of our home crowd,” said Smither.

NEMCC Media Relations