Friday, May 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe trying to replace big line

Leader sports editor

A key focus for the Beebe Badgers’ spring football practice that wrapped this week was replacing nearly everyone on the offensive line from last year’s state semifinal team. Logan Yarbrough returns at center, and just about everyone on either side of him will be a newcomer.

Reece Anders started a lot last year on defense, and has rotated at tight end this spring with Shannon Anderson.

“I feel like we got better with each scrimmage during spring drills,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “Obviously we’re not nearly where we need to be. We’re not nearly as big on the offensive line as last year, but I feel like we’re a little more athletic. There’s not much experience there. We got one full-time starter back and a couple more that got some playing time. So we’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’re going to be alright.”

The Badgers had 55 players out for spring practice, a number down from a year ago, but still fairly typical, according to the Badgers’ head coach.

“Last year we had 70 go through spring, and by the time the season started we were down to 55,” Shannon said. “That’s been about our number most years so we’re right where we usually are. You’d like a little more but this is what we’re used to working with.”

While the offensive line is entirely new, the backfield is loaded with experience. Both of Beebe’s 1,000-yard rushers return from last season. Fullback Trip Smith and halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick are back and both were impressive this spring.

“With Trip you know what you get,” Shannon said. “He’s our workhorse. He’s around 3,000 yards or more for his career.

“Jo has had the best spring of any kid I’ve seen in a long time. We just got him last year so this starts his second full year in the system and you can see he’s miles ahead of where he was. He’s looked outstanding.”

The other halfback position will likely be a rotation of players, but Quentin Scherer is likely to get a lot of the work. He started at halfback some last year before suffering a knee injury.

One key position that will need to be replaced is quarterback. Aaron Nunez was a three-year starter, though he missed most of his junior year with a knee injury. The job of replacing him will go to junior Justin Burleson.

“We opened it up at the beginning, but Justin pulled ahead of the others there at the end,” Shannon said. “He’s been starting on defense, but he’s our quarterback and he’s going to stay there unless something changes over the summer.”

The defense has some big shoes to fill as well as some key returners. The strongest unit in spring was the secondary, with four returning starters, anchored by Nathan Clifton and Connor Patrom on the corners. Tyler Woodall is back at safety, and Wyrick will also be in the defensive backfield next season.

Hunter Newman returns to anchor the front line at nose guard. Bo Smith, the team’s leading tackler, returns at inside linebacker. His fellow ILB, Anders, is also back, but has moved to defensive tackle. Scherer will likely line up alongside Bo Smith.

“Reece is a big, strong kid who moves pretty well, and we think he’s looked good lining up with his hand on the ground,” Shannon said.