NEWBERRY, S.C. – With only one more weekday practice to go in the spring season, the Newberry College football team is quietly putting the wraps on its preparation for a successful 2006 campaign. The public is invited to attend the annual spring game this Saturday, April 8, at noon at Setzler Field.
At the game, fans will get a first look at the fall 2006 schedule and have an opportunity to grab season ticket order forms. Practice rosters will be available at the gates, which will open at 11 a.m., for Saturday’s contest.
Head coach Zak Willis says the practices have been “very, very optimistic” and despite the absence of several key players, “the team has looked stronger in the spring than any that we’ve had while I’ve been [at Newberry]. We’re building a lot of quality depth. For a team who is missing probably five or six starters from spring practice, this is very encouraging.”
Josh Stepp (Pelion, S.C.) leads a contingent of 2005 contributors that will not be active in Saturday’s game due to physical conditions—most are recovering from off-season surgery or were banged up during spring ball. Heath Benedict and Trey Wells will not be present on the offensive line, and receivers Chuck Huger and Cale Homesley will not play. All ten running backs and five tight ends on the roster are ready to go. Quarterbacks Jare Gault, Justin Knox, Brent Copeland, and Andrew Horne will look to improve their stock Saturday.
Defensively, the Indians will be without linemen Jonta Sibert, Thomas Chambliss, and Jeremy Grogan, leaving a full complement to challenge the offense. Luke Meetze, John Newell, and newcomer Antonio Williams will sit out from the linebacking corps. The defensive backfield is mostly intact and ready for action.
Two players who have caught Willis’ attention are outside linebacker Devon Smalls and running back Hamilton Sims. Smalls “is a very pleasant surprise and has made some big plays”. Sims, who has shown ability as a runner and a pass-catcher, “is very impressive for a freshman; he’s got both speed and strength and is hard to bring down.”
Watch for big things from converted safety Carlnel Williams on Saturday. Now a wideout, Williams’ 6-3 frame and off-the-chart vertical leap will make him a viable threat in a variety of situations. However, according to receivers coach Ike Allred, Antwan Surratt has had the best spring of the entire group. “He’s the most explosive receiver we have,” Allred said, “and he’s beginning to show how good he can be.”
The Indians will need big performances from the receivers to scale back the defense on All-American Tymere Zimmerman to man-on-man coverage. If opponents continue to double Zimmerman, guys like Williams and Surratt will make them pay. Zimmerman has been unstoppable in seven-on-seven drills, and has only been less effective in full drills because of less-experienced quarterbacks that have had less time in the system than Stepp.
Pictured (top to bottom): Chris Robbs catches Justin Knox's pass in skelly drills. Brenton Walters grabs Brent Copeland's toss during today's practice. Carlnel Williams makes the high-traffic catch in full drills. Tymere Zimmerman gets isolation, then picks up the first down on the out route.