Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SPORTS>>Panthers try to line it up

Leader sports editor

Cabot is pretty sure who its quarterback is going to be.

The concern is who is going to block for him.

Coach Mike Malham said after practice Monday that Zach Craig, who has been working with Bryson Morris and Zach Brown at the position, would likely be the quarterback when Cabot opens the season against Jacksonville at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31.

Craig, who transferred from Monticello as a freshman and is blessed with the strongest arm, has improved his grasp of Cabot’s Dead-T offense and in running the option. It has helped Craig’s chances that Morris and Brown are needed in the secondary.

“He has a better arm and he’s getting better,” Malham said of Craig. “He’s running the option better. He’s a big kid, 6-2, about 195-pounder and he runs hard. He’s not as fast as I’d like him to be; he’s about a 4.85 somewhere in there.

“But he does things right and right now he’s got the edge because Bryson Morris and Zack Brown will probablybe starting in the secondary for us.”

Of equal concern to Malham is the offensive line. Among the 13 starters lost from last year’s team that reached the 7A state semifinals, three played up front.

Malham is looking at senior Tyler Tarrant to fill the vacant right guard spot while juniors David Boatright and Hayden Studdard are in the hunt to start at left and right tackle, respectively.

Tarrant, 5-11, 225 pounds, had a solid spring, Malham said.

“He’s got a chance to be pretty good, he’s come a long way,” Malham said.

Boatright, at 6-2, 270 pounds, is one of Cabot’s biggest available linemen.

“I don’t think he knows how good he can be yet,” Malham said. “He’s still feeling his way but he’s got good feet and we think he’s going to be a good one.”

Studdard is on the small side at 5-8, 203 pounds, but Malham said he liked his strength and quickness.

“He’s still not as aggressive as we want,” Malham said. “He’s a little hesitant and is feeling his way a little.”

Cabot is set at center, with senior David Young back, and at left guard with senior Nathan Cash. Tight ends Rod Quinn, last year’s leading receiver with 11 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown, and senior Jesse Roberts round out the line.

What concerns Malham is the offensive line’s depth. Behind the starters there just isn’t much to work with, he said.

“Right now, if something happened to one of our starters what we have to put in behind them isn’t what we’re accustomed to right now,” Malham said. “We’re not very deep.”

Malham acknowledged that it’s a little late to develop depth, something the Panthers tried to do in the spring.

“We worked on it last spring with the varsity and none of the others stepped up, which hurts you a little bit when there’s not hard competition for your starting spots,” Malham said.

“So now we’re looking at some sophomores, maybe one or two of those can step up but I really don’t see that right now. It’s thin.

“And it’s really, on both sides of the ball, it’s pretty thin.”

Cabot is a preseason middle-of-the- pack selection in the new 7A/6A-Central. The Panthers were 9-1 with their only loss to the Bryant Hornets on the way to winning the No. 1 seed from the 7A-Central last year.

“We’re just trying to get a lot of reps,” Malham said. “We’ve got a lot of holes on defense. Offensively, our line, we’re trying to get three new guys ready to play on the offensive line. New quarterback. We’ve got a lot of reps on just fundamentals, doing the little things right.

“Just rep, rep, rep. Keep it simple, don’t try to overdo it. Learn something and then if we learn something well we can move on maybe to something else.”

The Panthers will have their picture/media day on Aug. 19 and will scrimmage Lake Hamilton on Aug. 23.

The Red/White game is scheduled for Aug. 27.

The season opener with Jacksonville is a non-conference game. Cabot opens its home schedule Sept. 17 against Springdale Har-Ber, which knocked the Panthers out of last year’s playoffs.