Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Devils have good problem

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville football practice has continued to go well since the first day early last week. The Red Devils are in a modified version of last year’s spread offense with which it finished the season, after starting the year running a pistol formation.

Two quarterbacks have separated themselves from the pack since summer ball when several players tried out at the position. Seniors Kevin Richardson and Aaron Smith have both excelled running the offense. Richardson is faster and more explosive running the ball. Smith has thrown the better ball so far. Both, according to Red Devil head coach Rick Russell, are doing a good job on their reads.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Russell said. “We feel like we can go with either one of them right now and be very comfortable. Each of them has their strengths, but what one is better at, the other one isn’t bad either. So we really feel like we have two very capable quarterbacks.”

Both players are also good receivers, but Richardson recently caught the attention of at least one major university. Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino contacted Richardson last week after Richardson took part in the University of Arkansas players’ camp. No scholarship was offered in the conversation, but there was a promise to keep a Fayetteville-based eye on Jacksonville this season.

“He said he liked what he saw from me at the camp,” Richardson told the Leader on Saturday.

“He said he liked how I got off the line of scrimmage, got off the press. I gave them a highlight film too and he said he liked my breakaway speed on the highlight film. So they’re going to be keeping an eye on me this year.”

The offensive line returns several starters and has looked good so far, though one starter missed the bulk of preseason practice. Tackle Carter Grandison sat out more than a week of practice with an injured toe after an off-the-field accident involving an unfortunately timed slammed door.

Russell bragged on the off-season work Grandison put in and expects him to pick right up where he left off once he returns to practice.

“He’s our strongest football player but he did a lot of work over the summer with a personal trainer to become more mobile,” Russell said. “He’s was one of our best linemen last year, but he’s even better now. He’s gotten faster. His footwork is better. We’re expecting good things from him.”

There is a depth issue on the interior but Russell hopes there won’t be many players spending time on both sides of the ball.

“We can’t get anybody hurt,” Russell said. “Depth is a concern. We feel like we have enough good players to fill 22 positions, but we don’t have the backups. We may have to spell some starters on one side with starters on the other every now and then, but that should be it if we can stay healthy.”

Jacksonville will play its annual Red-White scrimmage game on Saturday. The eighth-grade team will take the field at 6 p.m. Freshmen will follow with the varsity team closing the evening. The Red Devils have no benefit scrimmage scheduled this year. They will open the season on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at War Memorial Stadium against Cabot.