Wet out there? So what? Bulldogs make no fuss about conditions

Published 4:54 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NEDERLAND — Southeast Texas has been pelted with heavy rain all week, but it hasn’t shaken Nederland’s practice schedule.

“We’re getting outside,” first-year head coach Monte Barrow said. “It may not be the best weather. With what we’re doing not in pads, it’s kind of the extension of the spring. We’re refreshing on the basics of our stuff, and Friday is when the football starts.”

Barrow, who was named Larry Neumann’s successor on Feb. 27, has put his stamp on preseason camp, and the Bulldogs — who are coming off their first season missing the playoffs since 2007 — notice the changes.

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“It seems like we’re going a little bit faster with fewer breaks,” senior inside linebacker Brady Spell said. “We used to go half of the practice on defense and half of the practice on offense, so we used to screw around for half the practice, but now we’re switching it up to where we’re engaged the whole time.”

The Bulldogs have not appeared to slow down due to the wet conditions in Barrow’s eyes. That has given him time to identify his key players at every position, although they have yet to put on the pads in camp.

In the most notable position race on the team, junior Blaysin Fernandez has taken plenty of snaps with the first team. He and Marshall Lange, now a senior, shared starts with now-graduated Reid Garrett and battled through injuries in 2016.

“I don’t think you’re ever as deep as you want to be,” Barrow said. “For the first time probably since I’ve been here, our cornerback position is deeper than it has been. Other than that, it may be plugging in guys and moving a starter from a position to another.”

Nederland’s offensive line has lost key cogs like current Rice tackle Corbin Smith and center Burke Badon. The unit is young, but Barrow says the most growth on his team has taken place at that position.

“I think they had more room for growth,” Barrow said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to grow, but we have.”

The line will be counted on to help spring senior running back Devon Simmons, who was enjoying a breakout season until sustaining a low ankle sprain late in the season.

“I just want to do better than I did last year, do whatever I can do for my team,” Simmons said.

Senior defensive end Tiren Forney said the offensive and defensive lines are making each other better, although he no longer has the 6-foot-5 Smith to go against in practice anymore.

He’s certain of what Nederland has to do to avoid missing another playoff.
“This year, we’re definitely going to work harder,” Forney said. “Speed, technique and getting to the ball every time and being physical every time.”

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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