NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The defending Southland Conference Co-Champion Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack football team takes to the field Friday to open spring practice. The Lumberjacks are coming off a season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA FCS Championships, and a share of their first conference title since the 1999 season.
Friday's workout will be the first of 15 scheduled practices. The spring schedule will conclude Saturday, April 24th with the annual spring game. The scrimmage is slated to begin at 6 p.m. from Homer Bryce Stadium.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the upcoming season as 2009 SLC Coach of the Year J.C. Harper returns a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, led by reigning league co-player of the year Jeremy Moses. Entering his senior season Moses is already one of the school's most prolific passer. After guiding SFA to one of the nation's biggest turnarounds, the 2009 All-American helped SFA become the nation's top passing team by completing 385 passes for 4,124 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Although the 'Jacks graduated several skill players from last year's squad, SFA is loaded with a ton of youthful talent at receiver. Led by sophomore Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson, the SFA receivers shouldn't miss a beat in the upcoming season. Crawford was one of the top rookies in the league last year finishing third on the team with 51 receptions for 785 yards and seven touchdowns. Roberson hauled in 20 passes for 380 yards (19.0 ypc) four scores. The 'Jacks also redshirted several talented receivers last year, along with another strong incoming class that could have an impact in 2010.
It is a similar story at running back. While SFA graduated Vincent Pervis and Tyrone Ross, SFA returns sophomore Romonté Hampton in the backfield who appears ready to take over the starting role. During his rookie season, Hampton averaged 4.6 yards per carry and recorded four touchdowns, and also proved to be a solid receiver out of the backfield.
Two years ago offensive line coach Chris Truax was handed the responsibility of taking several freshman, a handful of transfers and mix them with a few returnees to create a cohesive offensive line. His final product was one of the most dependable lines in the league for the past two seasons. With the loss of several seniors, Truax will once again have some work to do, but he has a solid foundation to build around. SFA returns three starters from last year (Geoge Bias, John Steel and Austin Wright), but Truax will look to fill the gap left by graduation at tackle and center.
Despite the loss of All-American Tim Knicky and first-team all-conference selection Cory Barlow, the SFA defense should be very strong again in 2010. The Lumberjacks return eight starters from a squad that finished second in the league in total, scoring and rush defense last season.
The defense will be led by two-time All-America selection Jabara Williams at linebacker. One of the top linebackers in the country, Williams enters his senior season with more than 300 career tackles, and nearly 20 tackles for losses.
While SFA graduated both defensive ends, the defensive front is not void of talent. Interior lineman Kenneth Charles and Sean Warren both return for their senior season, along with Jacob Fincher who could be one of the top ends in the conference this season.
The Lumberjacks' secondary returns almost completely intact, except for the loss of Barlow. Although a significant loss, the Lumberjacks trio of returning starters in the secondary recorded 38 starts between them and was arguably the most improved secondary in the conference. Add to that several talented freshmen that redshirted last season, and the secondary could be even better this season.