Down but not out: Injuries beset experienced LU defensive line early

Published 11:19 pm Monday, August 15, 2016

BEAUMONT — New Lamar defensive line coach Eric Roark is starting to see what kind of depth he is working with.

Saturday’s scrimmage gave him an early indication.

Senior Omar Tebo (concussion) and junior Manasseh Miles (ankle sprain) sat out the morning workout. All-Southland Conference performer Larance Hale was booted from the team before preseason camp commenced.

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So, that left senior Larry Carroll as the only returning starter on the line. And newcomers like true freshmen Daniel Crosley and James “Lucky” Jeffery have seen plenty of repetitions.

“If it hadn’t been for the players, you won’t be able to build the depth,” he said. “It’s not just building the depth, it’s building both the quantity and quality of depth.

“It’s not if they go down; it’s when they go down.”

Almost two weeks into camp, Roark is learning about his line under adversity.

“We’ve got a lot of people out, but I’m pleased with their progress,” he said. “But we still have a long way to go. Our goal and our objective is to put the right pieces together, and we’re slowly starting to do that and see who’s going to be on the bus and who’s not, and then get them in the right seats.”

Tebo, who started 10 games last season, drew attention across social media last month when a viral video showed him squatting a school-record 640 pounds. Miles pictured the benefits of the squat on the football field for a guy who did not collect a sack last year.

“That’s going to help with the run game,” he said. “Having him in there and being able to stop the run and hold the double team, knowing he has that strength, that girth to sit there and press something like that, it’s like, ‘OK. I can trust him right next to me to hold a double team and fulfill his role on defense.’”

Miles was injured late last week in practice and is expected to return well in time for the Sept. 3 season opener at Provost Umphrey Stadium against Coastal Carolina. He’s trying to bounce back from a torn ACL against Baylor that cost him the entire Southland slate.

“It’s going to be real crucial,” Miles said of the defensive line’s play this season. “Everyone’s going to have to buy in. Everyone’s going to have to step up and do what they have to do.”

For Roark, the situation seemingly couldn’t get more interesting.

The longtime UTSA assistant, who also has experience with the Tennessee and Southern California staffs, was hired toward the end of spring drills, weeks after former Oklahoma head coach John Blake left nearly a month after being hired to replace Carey Bailey, now the D-line coach at Chattanooga. So, he didn’t get to coach until preseason camp began Aug. 4.

For him, it was starting from scratch. But he likes what he sees so far from the future of the line.

“I really like our freshmen, Daniel Crosley and Lucky Jeffery,” Roark said. “They’re special kids. They’re real good football players.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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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