By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The days of football lasting from August through November are long gone. Today football at all levels is a year-long commitment by coaches and players. Wednesday marked the beginning of spring football practice at Bluefield College.
The Rams were 0-11 in 2012, playing a competitive college schedule for the first year since 1941. However, that record does not discourage head coach Mike Gravier, who believes the program is headed in the right direction in what is now year three.
Gone are defensive coordinator Stacy Hairston and offensive line coach Mike Compton, but in their places are Will King and Joe Perri who will help Gravier with this year’s Rams.
“We’ve got about 40-45 guys working out, which is about double what we had last year, so we are pleased about that,” Gravier said. “We’re thin in some positions, so we’ve got to be a little bit creative in how we do things.”
One place where the Rams will be creative is the quarterback position. Returning QBs Cory Mabry and Austin Van Es have been moved to new positions, Mabry at wide receiver and Van Es at linebacker.
“What we are going to do is for the running game we’ve got a couple of receivers that we used kind of as Wildcat guys last year, so we are going to let them split time there with the running game,” Gravier said. “But when we do throw the ball I’ll just rotate Cory Mabry and Austin Van Es, who are the two quarterbacks that are playing other positions now.”
While quarterback is a position where the Rams lack depth, running back is a different story with at least three capable backs vying for time on the field.
“We’ve got some pretty talented kids there,” Gravier noted. “Marion Harris played last year. Two guys that didn’t play last year that I am really excited to see out on the field are Adrian Pope from the Virginia Beach area and Lamont Edwards from Graham. Lamont broke his ankle early in the season (last year). I’m really excited to see those two out on the field this spring.
“I think our depth is very good there and we’ve got some other guys that played some, but those are three of the guys we think can be pretty special back there.”
The receiving corps is also well-stocked for Bluefield this spring. In addition to Mabry moving from quarterback, there are several others Gravier will turn to on game day.
“We have a whole bunch coming back,” Gravier noted. “Rodrell Smith was the third leading receiver in the conference. Dylan Kidd, Joel Calfee from PikeView was a great contributor, Philip Collier played a lot last year, Jabe Meadows, a Montcalm kid, all of them are guys who had experience last year and got a chance to play. As far as putting stuff in, it’s going to be relatively easy this spring.”
Mike Compton, former Richlands and WVU player who played in the NFL with Detroit, New England and Jacksonville, coached the offensive line for the Rams since the program began. Compton has moved on to Fairmont State University and replacing him is Joe Perri, who played collegiately at Pittsburgh.
Gravier expects the O-line to be one of the strong points of the Rams this season as most of the group returns, and believes that the players will be able to make the switch from Compton’s style to Perri’s style of play.
“Joe, I think is a great coach,” Gravier said. “He’s a young coach and I think he is only going to get better. The difference is his techniques are a little bit different than Mike’s, so that will be a little bit of a learning curve for our guys coming back.
“Across the front line we really have all our starters back. They are all still here, all have done a great job in the weight room. We are just real thin there, so we’re going to bring in some guys who can build on that and hopefully that year of experience, even though we’re doing it a little bit differently, will pay off for those guys.”
Gravier said this spring will be more of a learning lab for the team.
“Our practices will be a lot of teaching just because we’ve got a new defensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, so it’s going to be a slower pace than normal, a lot more teaching than team-oriented, or group work this spring,” Gravier pointed out.
The Rams will not have a spring game this year.
“We are not going to have one because of the quarterback situation,” Gravier said. “We’ll have some scrimmages, controlled scrimmages and that type thing, but we’re not going to do a spring game so to speak, and we’re actually only going to do 13 scrimmages. Scheduling-wise it worked out better that way with classes and all that.”
— Contact Bob Redd