Roberts stepping into big footprints

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 5, 2000

METAIRIE – Northwestern State University head football coach Steve Roberts knows he is stepping in some big footprints left by former coach Sam Goodwin.

Goodwin retired in June to become the athletic director at his alma mater, Henderson State (Ark.). He leaves the Demons as the winningest footballcoach in the school’s and Southland Football League history, going 102-88-3 in 17 years as head coach. He won conference championships in 1984, ’88,’97 and ’98, and led the Demons to the Division I-AA playoffs three times, including a semifinal appearance in 1998.

Roberts, who went 35-24-1 in six seasons as head coach at Southern Arkansas, was hired to replace Goodwin in June. Since then, he has beenworking to make the transition go as smooth as possible.

“It’s gone extremely smooth,” Roberts said. “There were two goals as far asmaking the transition smooth. Number one dealt with the existing staff andthe new staff I have brought in and they have blended extremely well together. The second goal was to meet as many of the players as possible.We have 90 players coming into fall camp and I’ve met 81 of them. I’ve had achance to sort of develop a relationship with these guys prior to fall camp and I think that’s going to help us have a smoother transition.”Northwestern State is coming off a 4-7 season in 1999, one that included a 3-4 fourth place finish in the SFL. Roberts said the players have workedextremely hard this summer on turning that record around.

One of the major goals of fall camp is deciding on a starting quarterback Juniors Ben Beach and Aubrey Jones and sophomore Kevin Magee are in the hunt for the job.

“We’re going into a situation with an unproven quarterback,” Roberts said. “Ithink the quarterbacks we have the talent, the ability and the leadership to be successful. It’s just a matter of seeing which one can take control of thisteam.

“I think quarterback is going to be a blessed position because of our offensive line and caliber of our running backs. I think we have a ton of guyswho I feel they can take a lot of pressure of our quarterback.

“The quarterback has to be a very poised person but not the type of guy who has to come in and press and try to establish something of his own.”The running backs Roberts mentioned include junior tailback Tony Taylor.

Taylor set seven school records last season, including single-season records with 90 points, 16 touchdowns and 1,441 rushing yards. He will be runningbehind an offensive line that will be one of the team’s strongest points, especially if tackle Albert Taylor can return to his old form after suffering an injury last year.

T.J. Sutherland, an East St. John alum, is the projected starter at flanker.Sutherland is a preseason all-SFL second team selection after catching 11 passes for 199 yards last season. Junior Nathan Black is expected to get thestart at flanker.

“As the quarterbacks gain more confidence and some experience, I think that will be a definite key,” Roberts said. “But’s that something we want toestablish throughout the season. They are very capable of throwing thefootball and we have players very capable of catching it.

“We have tremendous receivers as well. We have a chance at having a verysolid offensive unit.”Defensively, the Demons will be strong on the defensive line with juniors Chris Jones and Tony Washington. The safety spot is inexperienced. Destrehanalum Germond Williams, the projected starter at weakside linebacker, has been moved to safety to provide experience. Williams had 10 tackles onspecial teams and as a linebacker last season. The Demons are switchingfrom a 4-3-4 scheme to a 4-2-5.

“Defensive side, we are going to be very solid up front,” Roberts said. “Wehave tremendous defensive linemen with a lot of experience, a lot of athletic ability. Our cornerbacks could be a definite strength of our football team.Our weaknesses could be at one of our linebacking spots where we don’t have a lot of experience and at our three safety spots. We have a lot of talentedyoung players but they are talented young players who don’t have a lot of experience. That is going to be one of the keys.”Northwestern State faces a tough start to the 2000 season with games at home against Southern and on the road at Central Florida and Louisiana- Lafayette.

The Demons are picked fourth in the preseason polls behind defending champions Troy State and Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State. And while the road might be tough, Roberts said the fans can expect the team to play hard every game.

“They can expect the team to take the field with a lot of passion,” Roberts said. “A team that is going to play extremely hard play in and play out. Onethat will be a fundamentally-sound team that takes realized risks in certain areas and that will maximize its chances to win in every ballgame.”

Return To Sports Stories

Copyright © #Thisyear# Wick Communications, Inc.Best viewed with 4.0 or higher