By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The need to take a leadership role was a common thread among several returnees on the Concord University football team when spring practice convened earlier this week.
Jake Lilly, whose work ethic and natural ability combined to make him WVIAC defensive player of the year, talked about the need for his teammates to learn their positions, techniques and assignments.
“Whether they’re first team, second, third, anybody, I want to make sure that they know it,” the Bluefield High graduate said on Tuesday. “I want to make sure they’re putting 100 percent (effort) in, working hard, but having fun and enjoying it.”
“I’m ready to go out there and start hitting,” he said.
Riyahd Richardson, an all-conference defensive back, said, “We need to be leaders to everybody. We want everybody doing what they’re supposed to do, and moving fast.”
Davon Marion, a senior defensive back, said, “I want everybody to follow our lead. I want to show I’m serious about this football program, this school and this team.”
“As a whole team, and for myself, we felt like we left too many plays on the field last year. ... We feel like we’ve got unfinished business.”
Concord has logged consecutive 7-4 seasons and won the conference championship in 2011, making the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Last year, injuries on the offensive line and at quarterback hampered the offense. That unit averaged 306.5 yards per game in 2012, after racking up 498.2 yards per contest two years previously.
Lilly is optimistic about the offensive line that he faces daily in practice.
“They’re looking very good,” the linebacker said. “Last year was a building year for the offensive line.”
Head coach Garin Justice, who coaches the offensive line as well, said, “Some of our guys who were 250 pounds are now up around 275.”
The Mountain Lions lost a dozen all-conference performers with the end of the 2012 season. Lilly said, “There are some new starting positions open. People are going to be battling for them.”
Returnees have their personal goals, too.
Running back Calvinaugh Jones said that in spring ball, “I want to prove to myself that nothing can stop me.” His own to-do list includes, “improving on my zone read ... breaking tackles after contact (and) improve on my long runs as well.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” he said. “We put in all that time in the weight room, in speed and agility drills ... and in spring ball we’re going to be able to put that in play.”
Those months of lifting and working out during the off-season can be tedious, “but in the end, you know it’s going to pay off,” Jones said.
Marion said, “Whether it’s in the weight room, the drills or even sitting in the film room, I want my team to know that I take the off-season very seriously.”
He said this spring he wants to demonstrate “the will to step up and make the whole team in general better.”
“The coaches push us,” he said, “and make us want to get better in every way.”
Lilly, even with his multiple all-conference recognitions, said simply that he wants to use this spring “to just get better, to be fundamentally sound, and to get a step faster than I was in the fall.”
Lilly said, “I know it’s my last year — but I know it’ll be a good one.”
The annual Maroon and Gray Game at 7 p.m. on May 2 will conclude the spring practices, all of which are open to the public.
— Contact Tom Bone at