There will certainly be sizable amount of things to change for Ruston football between now and August 2016, given upcoming position change experiments and the number of player that will miss spring practice playing baseball or another spring sport.
What the Bearcats do know is they should have strength in numbers.
“We’re going to have 37 seniors and 36 juniors, which is a lot. Last year, we had 24 seniors, year before that we had 25,” Ruston coach Brad Laird said. “If you look at it on paper, which we did, you’re sitting there with 37 seniors, 36 juniors and about 40, 45 freshman, I’m not very good at math, but you add that up and we might not have enough lockers.
“It can be good or bad. If they’re all in, it’s a good thing; no matter how good or how bad they are, I want them on this team.”
That overflowing locker room should have its fair share of talent, giving Ruston reason to have an optimistic outlook for the 2016 season.
“You have to see how these kids develop now that they’re the guy,” Laird said. “Sometimes it’s easier to be coming off the bench and not being the guy a lot. Now, they’re in the situation where it’s going to be them, so we’ll see.”
The returnees start on defense, where the Bearcats return three of 2015’s top six tacklers in Corey Mamon, Tahj Samuels and Courtney Mamon. The Bearcats will have to battle through concentrated losses at safety with the departure of Seth White, Melvin Parker and Keenan Hanley, White and Parker being two-year starters.
“That’ll be an interesting battle,” Laird said. “There will be some inexperienced kids coming up and we’ll probably have to shuffle around to get the right fit.”
One key returning piece for the Ruston secondary is Jamal Jackson, who played both cornerback and safety for the Bearcats in 2015 and led the team with two interceptions. Cornerbacks Prentis Gant and Malik Wright also return.
Offensively, the Bearcats will start with a battle between Jacob Phillips and C.J. Willis at quarterback to replace Cade Gibson, both of whom will be playing baseball in the spring. The Bearcats also lose their two leading ballcarriers, Qay’shon Thurman and Sontuc Mitchell, and have a similar start-from-scratch look to its wide receiver position as it did entering 2015: Ruston will retain the players responsible for just 74 of its 1,852 receiving yards from 2015.
“We have some quality young guys out there that will have to gain experience, so yeah, I guess we’re in a similar situation,” Laird said.
Laird has a similar outlook for his offensive line after losing three seniors: young talent is in the program, simply in need of offseason improvement to be ready for a 2016 varsity season.
“The spring is going to be big for them in the weight room to develop the strength they need. We’ve got some good young kids in the freshman group coming up that, again, it’s very important how they develop and move through the strength and conditioning program to gain some strength and gain some weight.”
Follow Brett on Twitter, @BHudsonTNS.