A team’s run game is forever linked to not just the running back carrying the football, but also — and maybe more importantly — the offensive line blocking in front of him.
As far as Ruston is concerned, coach Brad Laird knows he has his players working. However, he isn’t sure yet how the revamped unit will respond in live game action with all five starters being new. He will get his first look at his new line, though, when the Bearcats travelto Shreveport on Thursday to scrimmage C.E. Byrd at 6 p.m.
Byrd was the LHSAA Division I runner-up last season after falling to Archbishop Rummel in the state finals, 23-22.
“We have a lot of inexperience and as they gain that experience we will know more,” Laird said. “Anytime you get live reps, whether it is in a scrimmage or a game or whatever, it helps your football team.”
Ruston returns senior quarterback Ben LeBlanc and running back Jawaun Wright. Wright rushed for 1,010 yards on 231 carries and 13 touchdowns, all while battling injuries throughout the year. The veterans have led the young line through camp to make sure everyone is in the right places.
“Those guys have been very good leaders,” Laird said. “They have been patient with the young guys we have up front, and it is not just in the starting offensive line. We also lost a couple of backups that are no longer with us, so we will be looking for some depth there and are very anxious as we get into (Thursday) and how it plays out.”
LeBlanc should also help the offense if his line buys him time. As a junior, the quarterback threw for 973 yards, completing 90-of-168 passes with eight interceptions and three touchdowns.
One thing Laird was clear about was that his team will be more concerned with itself Thursday, instead of its opponent.
“We will not worry about what Byrd is going to do. We will focus on our execution, and we want to see our guys compete and be physical,” Laird said.
On defense, Ruston returns only two starters in defensive linemen Isiah Buggs and Jakevin Carter. However, Laird is not as concerned with who can fill in, despite losing leading tackler Jaquel Owens (100 solo, 50 assists) to graduation.
“We are more set on defense,” said Laird, who is entering his second year at the helm of the program.
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