NEWBERRY, S.C. – Day five of practice is in the books for the Newberry College football team, and head coach Zak Willis is optimistic about his team’s prospects for 2005. Tuesday marked the first two-a-day for the squad.
“They’re looking pretty good, things are going well, and there are no major injuries,” Willis reported. “We’re thankful every day that we’ve been able to stay healthy. As a coach, I know how catastrophic it can be to your psyche and the mentality of the team to lose somebody.”
Despite all the rain in the forecast, the practice schedule has gone virtually unaltered. Willis reported that the squad had to sit out only once, about 30 minutes during one practice, due to the weather.
Players were in full contact mode today, where they spent a great deal of time on the passing game. Antwan Surratt (Spartanburg, S.C.), Charles Brandon (Union, S.C.), Mazzie Drummond (Greer, S.C.), and preseason Don Hansen Football Gazette All-American Tymere Zimmerman (Bennettsville, S.C.) are four strong at receiver.
Of Zimmerman’s selection to the All-America squad earlier in the week, Willis said, “I can’t think of anyone in our conference that deserves it more. He’s worked very hard to come into the season in the best shape of his life, and we think that he can live up to that billing. He certainly has the potential to be the best offensive player in the SAC. On top of that, he’s a great human being, and the kind of guy you’d really like to see do well.”
Joe Don Reames, a Seneca native and former Clemson Tiger, is right behind the first group and is expected to pay off big for the Indians.
“Joe Don is a little banged up, but he had a couple of touchdown catches in the scrimmage today,” Willis noted. “We think he’ll be a big contributor and I think you’ll see him help Antwan [Surratt] with return duties.” Reames was ranked 24th in NCAA Division I in punt returns as a sophomore.
Corey Seawell and Cory Cato drew praise from the coach as well. Willis commented that Newberry is “truly two deep at receiver for the first time since I’ve been [at Newberry].”
At the center of the passing game is starting junior quarterback Josh Stepp (Pelion, S.C.), but freshmen Brent Copeland (Anderson, S.C.) and Jare Gault (Jonesville, S.C.) are becoming adept in the Indian offense themselves.
“Both guys are getting quite a few reps back there,” Willis said. “We’re really lucky to have them.”
In the backfield, Alex Haynes (Summerville, S.C.) and Deshon Rodell (Allendale, S.C.) continue to stand out as the one-two punch. Haynes, the inside running threat, would be listed as the starter, but Rodell will see as many or more plays as he did last year. Rodell, now a senior, rushed 80 times last year and caught 15 passes in 2004.
Newberry’s offensive line is intact from the previous season, but Willis is high on Marchant Faustin (Summerville, S.C.) and Trey Wells (Abbeville, S.C.). The pair redshirted last year and are expected to be the top two newcomers to the O-line.
Antoine Morgan (Bennettsville, S.C), the defensive end transfer from Vanderbilt, is having a good camp. Coaches are happy with his progress and call him a very intelligent player who is learning the system quickly.
Willis spoke highly of his seniors, a group which includes first team All-SAC linebacker Terrance Leverett (Ware Shoals, S.C.), who has a chance at becoming the school’s first SAC Defensive Player of the Year. “We have better senior leadership this year than anywhere I’ve been since I left Furman. They’re taking the lead and the rest of the kids are responding to it.”
The team will alternate two-a-days and single practice days throughout camp. Check back in at www.newberryindians.com tomorrow for photos and another practice recap.