Valdosta Daily Times

February 28, 2013

Blazer football notebook

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A day after being honored at the Georgia State Capitol, the Valdosta State football team returned to work Thursday afternoon. The Blazer Spring Game is next weekend, and the Blazers they will hold their second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday.

While the Blazers are preparing for the 2013 season, questions have began to swirl around head coach David Dean and the likely hood that he would take the job at Kennesaw State. Following Thursday's practice, Dean addressed those rumors.

"I have not interviewed. I have not done anything at Kennesaw State," Dean said. "It is all rumors. Anytime a job comes open there are always people that say this guy is going to get it or that guy. I can tell you this, I haven't been up there, I haven't been on campus, I haven't talked with the (athletic director).

"I am the coach at Valdosta State. The only thing I am focused on is finishing up spring practice in a positive way."

Kennesaw State was granted the approval to establish a football program, likely to start playing games in May 2015, at the Board of Regents meeting in mid-February. Since then, the school has been building a list of candidates and meeting with such candidates to become the school's first-ever head coach.

Dean and his wife have ties to the Atlanta area, and would be a step up in job status for the two-time Division II Coach of the Year.

Kennesaw State officials say a head coach will be named in early March.

Here are other various notes on the Blazers from throughout spring practice:

Coaches leaving, interviewing

Robby Brown was the first Blazer coach to leave for another school following the national championship victory last season, but he won't be the last. After interviewing for the defensive line coach position at Georgia Southern, Earl Chambers, the longest tenured assistant coach at VSU, is actively pursuing other coaching options. Until then, Chambers is remaining with the Blazers.

Graduate assistant offensive line coach Derrick Elder has accepted a position at New Mexico State, where he will finish his graduate assistantship.

Student assistant coach Sam Umberg, who graduates in May, has already accepted the wide receivers coach position at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, his high school alma mater.

Other coaches rumored to be looking for new jobs are Co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Seth Wallace, who interviewed for a position at Iowa, his home state. Andy Richman, the offensive line coach, is also reportedly taking interest in other coaching positions.

No replacement coaches have been hired by Dean, who said he is waiting until after spring practice.

Players on the rise

Like every spring, certain players are turning coaches' heads with their performances this spring.

Dean said redshirt freshman running back Juwan Johnson has ran the ball hard and is adding to an already deep backfield.

"He is having a good spring," Dean said. "We are blessed. We have four really good running backs."

Junior wide receiver Griffin Roelle is back with the team and Dean said he is pleased to see his progression back from his hamstring injury, something that limited him to just two games last season.

Other players to turn heads include: Reggie Lewis and Andrew Lauristen, both starters last season.

"That is good to see," Dean said. "We are still looking for some younger guys. We have some secondary guys making some plays, just not consistently. We have to have that."

Defense dominates first scrimmage

In the first scrimmage of the spring, the defense won.

Trying to assemble a new offensive line, replacing five seniors from last season, the Blazer offense struggled to move the ball down the field and sustain drives in the scrimmage.

"(The defense) played very well," Dean said.

The offense did show strengths in the red zone, but struggled on third down scenarios.

"We were very productive in the red zone, which is good to see," Dean said. "We did a lot of third down series. We did nine and our defense won eight of those nine. Obviously that is not good. I would like a little more balance in there."

One aspect of the offense that Dean was pleased with was the running game, while the pass protection struggled.

"We made some good plays out wide and we made some good throws when we had time to throw," Dean said. "Right now, our run game is ahead of the pass game, as far as the offensive line is concerned."


Cochran, Roberson gelling

After hauling in 33 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns, it is hard to imagine Quin Roberson needing more time to gel with quarterback Cayden Cochran. But, believe it or not, the two are actually coming closer together this spring. Just ask Cochran.

"Last year we weren't really on the same page as much as I'd liked," Cochran said. "We have been growing a ton this spring."

As for the entire receiving corps, Cochran said the mistakes have been minimal and the group is working well together this spring.

"We have a veteran group," he said. "They are making plays."

Schedule not finalized

While the opponents for Valdosta State's 2013 schedule won't  change, the dates might. The Gulf South Conference has yet to release its master conference schedule — which is expected to be released soon. That master schedule will contain all the games that have been chosen at the GSC-TV Games of the Week. Some notable games that might be selected: Oct. 12 at West Alabama, Oct. 26 vs. North Alabama and Nov. 2 at Delta State.

If chosen as the TV games, the games would be rescheduled for Thursday night.

I will have more on VSU spring practice on Friday, including why the guys say this has been a different but fun spring practice.

— Follow me on Twitter at @Ed_Hooper.