LUMBERTON — Filling roles left by graduated seniors and increasing depth are a couple of common tasks facing football coaches in Robeson County as they continue to hold summer workouts.
Many teams will have different looks on offense and defense this season, while others will add talented underclassmen to play alongside established skill players.
Each of of the six coaches in the county were asked to share the most pressing question facing their teams this summer. The following is what they came up with, as well as how they might go about addressing those questions.
Fairmont: Who is going to emerge as the starting quarterback?
Head coach Kevin Inman has three potential replacements for Derrick Arnette at quarterback. Jahkeem Moore, Jayvon Morris and Colby Thorndyke have been taking reps at the position throughout summer workouts.
“They’re going to keep splitting time until camp,” Inman said.
With Duke commit Jordan Waters entering his senior year as a receiver, the question of who will be starting under center is even more important for the Golden Tornadoes.
Unless he sees significant time at quarterback, Morris will also be a go-to receiver for Fairmont, especially with defenses paying extra attention to Waters.
Lumberton: How is the adjustment with the new coaching staff progressing?
While the Pirates are fighting to get a consistent number of players out to their workouts, the big question coming from the outside of the program is how is the transition between staffs going.
Todd Nicoll, an assistant for former coach Mike Setzer and now with new coach Kelly Williamson, said that at this point in the summer, the change goes without notice.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, it’s all the same when you come down to it,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of sweat and a bunch of work. There’s not much different.
“Our main goal this summer is to get into shape.”
Purnell Swett: Can the younger players step up?
Several roles need to be filled after the Rams lost 14 starters on offense and six starters on defense to graduation.
“We have talented kids, but we have guys that are essentially going to take roles that have never played full varsity time,” head coach Jon Sherman said. “Going through the summer, we’re going to see who’s going to step up and make those plays that are seniors that left made.
The Rams will have a new face at quarterback in the fall. Luke Oxendine filled that role last year as a senior, throwing for 2,207 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“We’ve got one that’s pretty good. He’s getting there,” Sherman said. “It’s going to be his first full year as a starter. We had some outside wide receivers like Cyran Dial, who made some great plays for us last year, Lakeydron Morrison made some great plays for us, who’s going to take their place?”
Red Springs: How do you replace the county Heisman winner?
Head coach Lawrence Ches said that his team is maintaining its “business as usual“ mentality, but replacing Jerome Bass will be a difficult task for the Red Devils this year.
A fullback and linebacker for Red Springs, the Robeson County Heisman recipient logged 402 rushing yards and eight touchdowns last season. Defensively he tallied 140 total tackles, including 16 tackles for loss.
“He meant a lot to us. He did a lot for us,” Ches said.
Although the Red Devils will miss Bass’ output on both sides of the ball, Ches said he’s confident that his players will continue to work hard and fill the void he left.
“We’ve got good kids and a solid program,” Ches said.
South Robeson: Do the Mustangs have enough depth?
Head coach Clay Jernigan said the biggest question facing his team relates to the depth of its roster, but that issue applies to more than the Mustangs’ varsity squad.
“We’re trying to have a junior varsity team, which we didn’t have last year,” Jernigan said.
Jernigan believes the program is on track to achieve that goal, and he also said the Mustangs are already making a positive impression on the coaching staff.
“We’ve got a lot of skill guys coming in,” Jernigan said. “The strength of this team is as strong as we’ve had in four years.”
St. Pauls: Can the new quarterback execute the offense?
Rising sophomore Hunter Bryant has big shoes to fill as quarterback for the Bulldogs. He’s taking over for Noah Wheeler, who led the team in passing and rushing yards as a senior.
“The biggest question is whether or not he can pick up on the offense and execute,” head coach Ernest King said. “He’s had a great summer, but being in a game is completely different.”
The Bulldogs finished 5-7 last season and will have a different look on offense this year with the departures of Wheeler and running back Caleb Inman.
King previously said that the Bulldogs would benefit from Bryant only being a sophomore because he would have time to mature and learn the team’s offensive philosophy.