HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana University may be gearing up for its annual Green and Gold scrimmage to close out spring football practice, but Lions coach Ron Roberts isn’t approaching the festivities as just any spring game.
“Really, we’re looking to be consistent,” Roberts said. “I think we’re at a stage where we want to be is, if this is a game, are we ready? Are we ready to go play four quarters of consistent football, (and be) physical on both sides of the football? I don’t expect us to be in spring mode. ... I want to be better than we were last fall when we play this game on Saturday.”
The game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium. Instead of dividing the team into two separate squads, the Lions will go with an offense versus defense scrimmage featuring a modified scoring system which will award the offense six points for a touchdown, a point for each explosive play (run of plus-12 yards or pass of plus-16 yards) and a point for each first down. The defense will earn a point for each stop and two points for forcing a three-and-out or turnover.
And Roberts said he’s pleased with the team’s practices this spring.
“They hit the ground running, and our tempo and the way we practice, I think we are night and day better from where we finished in the fall to where we are mentality-wise to get things done,” Roberts said.
The Lions are looking to fill spots at several positions, including quarterback, where Oregon transfer Bryan Bennett and returnees Jordan Barnett and Brian Ensminger are competing for the starting job.
“Bryan Bennett has played the best the last two weeks,” Roberts said. “I thought he played real well Saturday in our scrimmage, so he’s the guy who’s been consistent. Jordan Barnett has looked really good at times, and sometimes his inexperience has showed up, and (he’s) made some bad decisions with the ball. And Ensminger, the same thing.
“Bryan Bennett’s our starter right now,” Roberts said.
On the offensive line, Roberts said returnees Marshall Paris and Gasten Gabriel, along with newcomer Laurence Ramsey at guard have put together solid springs.
“We’ve got a lot more depth,” Roberts said of the offensive line. “The competition has really allowed us to be a little more physical.
“We’ve got right about eight or nine guys that are playing at a high enough level to play for us right now up front.”
Roberts also said receivers Chris Malot and Marquise Fruge have turned in good spring efforts.
Defensively, Roberts said Jacob Newman has earned a starting spot on the line, while returning linebackers Cqulin Hubert and Ponchatoula’s Kaleb Muse have had good spring practices. In the secondary, Roberts said Kevin Harmon (strong safety) and Denzel Thompson (cornerback) have earned starting nods. Roberts also praised the spring effort of Kentwood’s Harlan Miller.
“He’s had a great spring, and he’s battling for a job,” Roberts said. “He’s right in there with them battling for a starting position at corner.”
And while Roberts and his staff have settled on some starters, the spring game will provide another time for player evaluation.
“That’s always the challenge is, how many guys can you get in the ‘can do’ category? We’ve got a lot of question-mark players, and we’ve got to figure out which ones can get in that ‘can do’ category and get it done on Saturday,” Roberts said.
Roberts said running back Xavier Roberson (sprained foot) will miss the spring game, and offensive lineman Cory Boothe (shoulder) will be limited. With Roberson out, Rasheed Harrell, Wyoming transfer Kody Sutton and Louisiana Tech transfer and former Edna Karr standout Jonathan Hill will handle running back duties. ...Roberts said receiver Dean Johnson (foot) will “get a couple of snaps” Saturday, while former Catholic standout Blane Arnold (ACL) hasn’t received medical clearance to practice. Johnson and Arnold missed last season with their injuries.