, Port Arthur, Texas


August 15, 2013

Bulldogs get early test at WO-Stark

NEDERLAND — On Friday, the Nederland football team will finally get to strap on the pads and go against someone other than the Bulldogs. Two weeks of practicing against your teammates may get a little tedious, so this week’s scrimmage at West Orange-Stark should be refreshing.

Oh, and eye-opening. All week, the Nederland coaching staff has been talking about how things will be different on Friday night. Guys will be faster, stronger, better with technique than the JV looks Nederland has gotten in practice so far.

The two teams will be playing the scrimmage like a game, complete with quarters, substitutions and the rest. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Dan Hooks Stadium.

Keeping all that in mind, there are a few things fans can look for out of the Bulldogs in the scrimmage.

1) Preston White at quarterback

Until he does it, he’s a question mark. That’s sort of the attitude Nederland has about senior quarterback Preston White right now. White has looked the part in practice, showing a strong arm and decent mobility.

What he hasn’t seen, though, is a West Orange-Stark breaking on a curl route or a Dayton safety closing on a post route. How he adjusts to the tempo of the game and how he leads the offense in those situations will be much more telling to the coaching staff than practices have been.

“We’re wanting to evaluate everything, but there’s some spotlight on some areas,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “Our quarterback hasn’t had his hands on the throttle. I think he’s going to hit the open linebacker, maybe Friday night. Sometimes, you don’t see that guy breaking back on the curl. It’s how quick the learning curve is for him as to how productive he’ll be.”

2) Roster questions

White’s leadership isn’t the only thing being scrutinized on Friday. Nederland will also be looking at a few different positions where roster questions linger.

On offense, that includes the left, or “quick” tackle position, where sophomore Justin Carr is battling with Seth Parker for a spot. That competition has heated up in the past few days and a resolution could start to show based on how the two perform Friday.

“The spotlight on offense is on that tackle position,” Neumann said. “It’s also going to be, ‘Can we block anybody with anybody.’ But, I think there’s been some terrific competition at that tackle spot and Friday should go a long way in determining it.”

On defense, the two spots to watch are at cornerback and inside linebacker. Both Christian Contreras and Leon Mayfield look good inside, but they have not been in a game situation before, so the coaches need to see practice excellence carry over into the games.

At cornerback, there is a position battle at one spot, with Shane Benoit competing with Trey Richardson among others for the starting spot. Friday’s performances will be key to evaluating those areas.

3) How players respond to physicality

All week, the Nederland coaches have been talking about how much different Friday night will be than going up against the JV in practice. WO-S will be bigger, faster and more physical than the JV players in practice.

How Nederland responds to that increase in physicality will closely watched by the coaches.

“Even if you’re a proven player, we want to see them play positively,” Neumann said. “Part of it is to evaluate conditioning. I know this. We haven’t seen in practice the kind of physicality that we’ll see against West Orange-Stark. We can’t even simulate that in practice.”

That being said, Neumann isn’t ready to make too much out of this one scrimmage. As he noted on Tuesday, last year’s group did not have a good scrimmage against WO-S, either and both teams went deep into the playoffs.

“I watched last year’s scrimmage the other day,” Neumann said. “If you had told me that Nederland would have gone four deep, I would have said, ‘Coach…’ I’m going to reserve my opinions in the future on Friday night, because I would have been dead wrong last year.”

David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.

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