Cards moving at fast pace in spring

Published 12:49 am Friday, March 31, 2017

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – When Lamar head football coach Mike Schultz sat down with his staff and put together the schedule for spring camp they had no clue how well put together that schedule was. The Cardinals were off Wednesday avoiding the thunderstorm that passed through the Golden Triangle. Save for a short delay that pushed Saturday’s workout back an hour, the LU football team has managed to avoid the small amount of poor weather that has hit the area during the first two weeks of camp.

As the Cardinals prepare to close out the second week of camp, one thing has been made abundantly clear. Things are moving at a quicker pace with a new sheriff in town. Schultz gained notoriety for orchestrating one of the nation’s top offenses during his time at TCU. Helping produce future NFL talents like LaDainian Tomlinson and Andy Dalton.

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“These kids are buying to what we are trying to do on the field,” said Schultz. “Have the kids done everything physically that we’ve asked them to do at this point? No, but that would be very difficult for anyone to do at this point. It has been very intense out here.”

Schultz helped turn the Horned Frogs into perennial top-25 program, and an offense that set records for points scored, touchdowns and led the nation in time of possession. Schultz will now try and install that same type work ethic in his very young Cardinals’ football team.

The Cardinals return just 13 starters between offense and defense from last year’s squad, seven of which were offensive. Among the starters, LU returns three of five on the offensive front to go along with a host of talented skill guys including sophomore Kendrick King and juniors DeWan Thompson, Martell Hawthorne and Zae Giles.

An area of potential concern heading into the offseason may have been corrected before the coaching staff finalized their spring practice times. Injuries decimated the Cardinals crop of running backs during the 2016 season, a position that took an even bigger hit when freshman, and starter for the final five games, Austin Krautz announced he would not be returning to the team. Schultz and company merely went out and replaced him with a Texas A&M transfer – James White – who has three years’ experience in the Southeastern Conference.

“The competition on the offensive side of the ball has been good,” said Schultz. “We are grading film every day and moving players up and down on the board as we progress. The great thing is you may be a starter one day but if you don’t grade out well the next day someone else could move into that spot. Competition can only make you better.”

The Cardinals have four quarterbacks participating in spring camp – sophomores-to-be Adam Morse and Case Robinson, junior Blake McKenzie and senior Andrew Allen. The most veteran of the group is McKenzie who is preparing for his third season with the Cardinals but his career in the Red and White can only be described as frustrating. Always on the verge of significant playing time, injuries have befallen the Corpus Christi native each season as he has worked his way up the depth chart.

It is a similar story for Allen, who transferred to LU after spending two seasons at New Mexico State. Allen battled former quarterback Carson Earp for the starting job last season, and appeared to have taken over the spot in the Cards’ setback at Houston last season, but injuries once again played havoc on the Cardinals’ quarterbacking situation. After Earp was re-inserted into the starting role following an injury to Allen, Earp appeared to be finding his rhythm we he was lost for the season with another injury. The Cardinals placed Allen back in the starting role only to see him injured for the season the following week.

The only two remaining healthy quarterbacks on the roster were both freshmen – Robinson and Morse – and both were being redshirted. The redshirt was removed from Robinson only to have the youngster injured in the very same game leaving only a healthy Morse on the roster.

All four quarterbacks are getting a look by the new staff, and just like every other position on the field, each one is starting with a fresh slate.

“It’s like I tell the team, we are taking steps in the right direction but right now those are very small steps,” said Schultz. “We understand that we have a very long way to go. We’re not close to where we want to be. Tuesday was the first day we came out in pads and I thought they responded well.”

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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