Friday, May 17, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville’s interior looking strong

Leader sports editor

The offensive line has stood out as a noticeable strength after seven spring football practices for the Jacksonville Red Devils.

Jacksonville has struggled in recent years with depth at that position, but if the Devils can steer clear of injuries, they’ll be close to being able to two-platoon on the lines this year. Cory Harrison anchors the offensive line at tackle. At 6-foot-3, 338 pounds and quick feet, Harrison is garnering attention from several large colleges.

Brandon Tooms recently received a scholarship offer from Missouri State as a defensive end, but will play a lot of offense for Jacksonville.

“He’s a project for a Division I school, but he fits the size and speed test,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “They think they can get him bulked up and he’ll be a player.”

Jordan Belew started some at center last year and has come on strong in the offseason to establish himself as a solid starter on the line. Keith Purvall has as well. Anthony Fields has been working at the tackle opposite Harrison. Fields is 6-1, 265 pounds with exceptional speed for someone his size.

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Russell said of Fields. “He played running back inninth grade, but he’s become such a physical force for us, and we’re so deep at the skill positions, he’s going to be a huge boost for us on the line.”

Tooms and Fields are also working with the defense, but neither is expected to play full time on both sides.

Skill players abound for the Red Devils. It’s one of the deepest groups of skill position players Russell can remember in his time at JHS.

Lamont Gause returns for his junior year after garnering All-Conference honors as a sophomore. Seniors Carlin Herd and Damon Thomas, a North Pulaski transfer, have a been very strong running backs as well. Terrell Moore has added considerable strength and speed to his 6-3 frame and Russell expects him to become an impact wide receiver in the Red Devils’ new spread offense.

“He’s just one example of several I can give you that have gotten so much stronger this offseason,” Russell said. “The work ethic of this group has been outstanding. It’s been a very demanding, physical offseason and they have been all in for the most part. I’m very encouraged with the strides they’ve made as athletes.”

Jacksonville has three spring sessions left on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The final practice will be an intra-squad scrimmage at approximately 3 p.m.

“We’re going to have a little Red-White type controlled scrimmage, and we’re going to let the student body come down to the field and watch,” Russell said. “Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd. These kids have worked hard.”