Blakeney and staff greet newcomers, freshmen

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Sports Editor

Remnants of Tropical Storm Barry and a soggy practice field forced the Troy State coaching staff to hold the first freshmen and newcomers practice inside the TSU Natatorium on Tuesday morning.

"It was just too wet for us to stay outside," said TSU head coach Larry Blakeney. "We only have one and one-thirds of a field to practice on, so we wanted to keep as much traffic off of it before the rest of the team gets here."

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Returning Trojans reported on Tuesday, but the first full-squad scrimmage is set for Thursday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.

Until then, Blakeney and his staff will evaluate the 33 newcomers that they have.

Blakeney said, as a group, this freshmen class could be the "most healthy" since he’s been at Troy State. Physicals were administered upon arrival on Sunday with all players receiving a clean bill of health.

"This is a well-conditioned and athletic class," said Blakeney. "They’re real lean and there were none that suffered from health-related problems like high blood pressure."

Eric Felton (WR) and Ryan Hurley (OL), both junior college transfers, are expected to step in and contend for starting jobs. Walk-ons Matt Ward, Ben Glasgow and JC transfer Brian Bowen are expected to battle it out, along with junior Derek Bynum, to replace Matt Allen at as the Trojans’ punter.

"All three of the new guys look good to me and they’re all college kickers," said Blakeney. "We took them out this morning and had them punt against the wind and they all did a good job. Matt (Ward) is probably the quickest at getting the ball off of his foot, but we feel he’s a little too quick. We’re going to try and get him to slow it down some."

Blakeney said having Bynum, Troy State’s third-string quarterback, dropping back on fourth down to punt for the Trojans presents the head coach with some interesting possibilities.

"Derek’s a good punter," he said. "Plus having a guy back there that can also throw the football means you can work out of different shifts and keep the defense offbalance."

But Blakeney also admits that having a punter the caliber of Matt Allen for four years made his decision an easy one when it came to fourth down.

"I’ve always been the type of coach that wants to punt it out of there," he said.

Blakeney and his staff spent much of the Tuesday morning session meeting with the players and holding a walkthrough for both the offense and defense.

"Right now it’s all mental for them," Blakeney said. "Learning, learning, learning. That’s what’s important right now."