Valdosta Daily Times

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June 4, 2014

Pigskin Preview

Football programs from around Georgia come together

Macon — The annual “Pigskin Preview” took place Tuesday at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, featuring 18 college football programs from the state of Georgia. University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Valdosta State were a few of the schools in attendance. The event featured the head coaches of each college, along with a couple of players from each school as well.

Valdosta State head coach David Dean represented the Blazers, along with junior running back Cedric O’Neal.

A little more than a month removed from spring practices, both Dean and O’Neal shared a few things that stuck out to them about spring practices.

“I think the thing that we can take from spring practice is our physical nature; I think we had very physical practices and scrimmages. Our work ethic was also different and I hope that carries over to fall,” said Dean.  

O’Neal felt like the offensive line was very impressive during spring traning.

“The offensive line feels like the underdog and they have a chip on their shoulder to play hard. All spring they played aggressive and we didn’t have that last season,” said O’Neal.

As far as the pool of players that have moved on from the Blazers, Dean feels confident in his defensive depth. The Blazers will be without quarterback Cayden Cochran, receivers Regginald Lewis and Seatavious Jones and defensive end Lawrence Virgil to name a few, with the later two joining the ranks of the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.

“I think our secondary is going to be a lot better than last year because we have more depth. Our linebackers run very well and are good tacklers. We like to build our defense around speed and they have that,” said Dean.

However, with the loss of Virgil, a void has been created on the defensive line.

“An area we need more depth at though is defensive line. We just don’t have a lot of depth there and we’re going to have to have some freshman playing a lot, and it’s scary having freshman on the defensive line,” added Dean.

As far as the nucleus of the Blazer offense is concerned, look no further than junior running back duo Austin Scott and O’Neal.

“Cedric O’ Neal and Austin Scott are going to have to carry a big role this year, both carrying the ball and as leaders,” said Dean.

Other notable players that Dean and his staff will rely on to be on field leaders include receiver Quin Roberson, safety Isaiah Gresham, linebacker Kenny Murphy and defensive end Tevin Davis.

“Roberson is back from being academically ineligible and I know from a leadership standpoint, he will step up for us,” said Dean. “On the defensive side,  Gresham at the safety position and Kenny Murphy at the linebacker position will be pivotal for our defense. Also, Davis is a great pass rusher who has good speed.”  

At quarterback, the Blazer are seeming to be putting their faith in Kaleb Nobles, however the battle is still ongoing according to Dean.

“Nobles is going to be the starter going into summer practice. He and Jake Medlock are in a tremendously heated battle. Nobles started out well in spring, then Jake improved, and Nobles improved to finish camp. They really coach each other up and help each other so I think it’s going to be a great competition,” said Dean.

Nobles lead the Blazers to a handful of victories last season when starter Cochran went down, but Dean wants the past to be separate from the now.

“Nobles did a lot for us last year, but we’re looking at now. We are going to figure out who is best for our team right now and we hope to decide that soon,” said Dean.

As far as O’Neal goes, he looks forward to accepting his new role as a upperclassmen leader for the Blazers.

“I’m going to work out a lot in the offseason and make sure I don’t miss a beat on the offense. I feel like this year, its up to me to be a great back. A lot of players look up to me and so I’m going to do my best to give them something to look up to,” said O’Neal. “I’ve been working on ball control. I really don’t look at it like I have a fumble problem; I just keep focusing on the next play.”

As a team, O’Neal thinks it’s time for the current Blazers to step up to the plate.

“As a team, we have to work on staying healthy and focus. We’re known for taking off plays but our team has to grow up from that,” said O’Neal.

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