NEWBERRY, S.C. - Through all the basketball championships and the start of spring sports, Newberry College’s football team somehow snuck in spring practice workouts.
The Indians, which started practices Feb. 15 and ended with the annual spring game March 4, had a solid three weeks. According to head coach Zak Willis, the Indians practiced early this year so his players could concentrate more on their academics.
“That’s what it is all about,” said Willis on Wednesday. “It was a little hard on the staff, but we wanted the kids to have more time to spend on their academics.”
With spring practice out of the way, players can now focus on their workouts and their studies without the added pressure.
The biggest move coming out of camp was second-leading rusher Mike Brown’s move to the defensive secondary. Last year, Brown led all running backs with 358 yards. The 6-foot, 189-pound rising junior also caught 18 passes for 118 yards out of the backfield. Brown had a solid couple of weeks while working at right corner.
“He did a good job back there, and it appears to be a good move,” said Willis.
With Brown in the secondary, the Indians’ offensive coaches got a good look at junior college transfer Gerard Jackson. The junior college All-American ran for nearly 3,000 yards at Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kan. the last two seasons.
“He ran hard and looked good,” Willis said. “He reminded me at lot of [former Heisman Trophy winner, Wisconsin's] Ron Dayne. He is that big type of back who can run you over, but can run away from you as well.”
Willis said there was much improvement along both the defensive and offensive fronts. Newberry made a point during the recruiting season to shore up these areas by signing 14 interior linemen.
During the spring, defensive tackles Emil Gibson of Spartanburg and David Harris stood out the most. Irvin Brisker also had a good spring on the defensive front, while Ralph Sanders and Kevin Towe shined on the offensive line.
“They made progress,” said Willis. “The offensive line improved and the defensive line got better. No one unit dominated during the spring, it was just good competition.”
There was also good competition at the wide receiver positions. With multi-purpose star Tymere Zimmerman limited in practice due to basketball, guys like Charles Brandon, Michael Williams and Antoine Surratt were able to shine.
“They all did very well, but I was really pleased with what I saw from Williams and Surratt,” Willis said.
Quarterback Mazi Drummond was, Willis said “out of this world.” “He had a solid spring practice and did some out-of-this-world stuff. He did exactly what we expected out of him.”
The Indians will begin fall practice in August and will start the 2004 season Aug. 28 at Webber International University.