Some spring football observations

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Some observations after checking out some spring football in the past week:
West St. John lacks for numbers this year – the Rams are dressing just over 30 players this spring – but not talent from what I’ve seen. The offensive line is big. Quarterback Austin Howard has complete command of the offense as he prepares for his senior year, and senior tailback Jeremy Jackson looked dynamic as ever as he darted around in Saturday’s spring game.
The Rams won’t have the depth of a year ago, and that’ll hurt – players will have to play both ways more. That practice isn’t new to West St. John at all in Class 1A, but its something they didn’t have to do as much of last season.
Still, most 1A teams don’t boast a Howard or a Jackson, nor a 340 pound left tackle like Dontrell Smalls, nor the speed and athletic ability the Rams defense appears to again have.
St. Charles Catholic has to replace a lot of departed seniors after last year’s team secured the first back-to-back district championship since the early 90’s.
I’ve come to learn that it never seems to matter for the Comets, who in my time out here have pumped out double digit winning seasons regardless of how much turnover they’ve suffered.
This will be a new challenge for St. Charles. The last four years have brought a state championship, two state semifinal appearances and the most collegiate signees the school has ever sent to the next level – and, in turn, had to replace.
The cupboard’s not bare, by any means. Austin Weber is going to make plays regardless of where he lines up, be it at quarterback or running back. SCC has a deep stable of tailbacks. Jordan Favorite and Sean McGraw help anchor the secondary and defensive line respectively, and SCC coach Frank Monica is excited about his linebacking corps, led by Connor Smith and Sage Mulkey.
The new private/public school postseason split is still being worked out by the LHSAA. The current projected 3A/4A/5A championship private division didn’t sit too well with Monica, and for very good reason. But he’ll use it to motivate his players. Coach Monica uses everything as motivation for his players; he’s quite good at it, and obviously its yielded fantastic results.
Riverside’s offense should be absolutely deadly. We saw the success they had as a quarterfinalist last season, with a four headed monster of quarterback Deuce Wallace, running back Jonquial Sanders and receivers Von Julien and Herb McGee leading the way.
Sanders has moved on, but these others are young and, scarily, improving. Julien will be a junior, McGee and Wallace just sophomores. The Rebels are looking to implement the pistol and read option into their running game, and at times it looked very effective in Saturday’s spring game. Of course, when the offense needed to bear down and make a push, the aerial assault was still in their back pocket – Wallace finished with over 300 yards passing.
Before the hurricane hit last season, East St. John made one of the biggest impressions upon me last preseason. Particularly, the Wildcats’ defense: in a scrimmage against St. Augustine, the Wildcats were downright nasty … vicious hits, constant flow to the ball, disruptive big men up front. ESJ coach Phillip Banko is a defensive coach with experience in college and at the NFL level, and in just ESJ’s second year it seemed the team had his imprint. All-State St. Augustine tailback Leonard Fournette struggled to get anything going that day.
The Wildcats have a chance to hit the ground running this season as opposed to last. They haven’t yet played their spring game, but the practice I saw showed a team with a very, very talented defensive line and playmakers behind them. Linebacker Amani Martin practiced as if it were Friday night.