Hale: Blake ‘was a great asset’ to Cardinals

Published 8:29 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

BEAUMONT — Lamar defensive coordinator Trey Haverty understands the opportunity that John Blake took, even after just three spring practices.

Even after uncertainty as to when a new defensive line coach will come in.

“You’ve got to keep going,” Haverty said Tuesday. “Obviously, [for] coach Blake, it’s a great opportunity for him. We’re going to miss him and we love the guy, but we’re going to keep going along.”

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Haverty had only great things to say about Blake, who left last week to take the same position with the Buffalo Bills and reunite with one of his former assistants at Oklahoma, Rex Ryan. Lamar was off for spring break all last week, and Tuesday marked only the fifth day of spring drills.

Blake, though, never coached a game at Lamar. He was hired Feb. 16, replacing Carey Bailey.

The hire gave the former Sooners player and head coach a chance to mentor the son of one of his former players at Oklahoma. Defensive end Larance Hale’s father, Jamelle Holieway, succeeded an injured Troy Aikman as the starting quarterback on the 1985 national champion Sooners team.

“Coach Blake was a great asset to the team,” Hale said. “Came in here and taught us a lot with his time here. We just came together as a cohesive unit, but we’re up under coach [Ray] Woodard. Who better to be up under than the head coach?”

Haverty is a recent hire to the Lamar staff himself, but he said the defensive coaches and Woodard are on the same page despite Blake’s departure. He’s just looking for leadership from the defensive linemen to step forward in the meantime.

“Yesterday, obviously, on the D-line, we had some stuff we have to get better on, but I thought the D-line had a consistent day,” Haverty said. “We just keep grinding, and we’ll get it all worked out.

“I see some guys flying around good and bad. At some point, if you want to be great, you can’t have the bad because eventually the offense is going to find the seven points on defense. So, we’ve got stuff we have to get fixed fast. And that’s what you’re looking for. Don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Tuesday was just the second day for the Cardinals to work out in full pads, so the quarterbacks are starting to see some live action against the defense in the middle of their race for the starting position.

Quarterbacks coach Ramon Flanigan said the game seems to slow down more for Carson Earp, a senior-to-be who shared the starting role last season with graduate student Joe Minden.

“The thing about playing quarterback, the more that you do it, the more that you see different scenarios,” Flanigan said. “The more you do it, the better you get. … It looks like that’s what’s happening to Carson. He’s a kid that works harder than any other kid I’ve been around, and hopefully it will pay off for him next fall.”

While Earp is working with the first string in the spring, University of Miami transfer Clayton Turner “has showed he’s exactly what we recruited,” Flanigan said.

“He’s athletic, he can throw the ball,” Flanigan said. “The big thing with him is going to be how well he does with the learning curve. It’s an entire new offense, and we’re just three days in.”

Flanigan said the coaching staff is “being careful” with redshirt junior Blake McKenzie, who’s coming off the ACL tear that caused him to miss all of the 2015 season, and that Blake McKenzie is making strides going into his sophomore season.

“Brett seems to have matured a lot in his first year he’s been here and has been a credit to the other guys in the room,” Flanigan said. “You have older, more mature guys in the room, and they’ve helped bring him along. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from him.”


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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