By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
A mix of stability and newness surrounds the Missouri Southern Lions football program.
Daryl Daye enters his second spring as head coach after helping the Lions establish a run-oriented physical style of play and leading them to their first winning season since 2007.
However, Missouri Southern also copes with the graduation of 15 seniors and is going through spring drills with 11 mid-year transfers and four new assistant coaches.
The Lions practiced in shoulder pads and helmets Tuesday at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. The team opened spring drills on March 12 and practiced three days before taking last week off for spring break. Missouri Southern will conclude spring practices with the Green and Gold scrimmage on April 13 at Hughes Stadium.
“All 11 transfers should contribute,” Daye said. “You sign junior college players so they can contribute right away. We expect the guys to come in and contend for starting jobs.”
The Lions will need to replace several key starters on offense, including quarterback Kellen Cox, slotback Ne’Ronte Threatt and wide receiver Landon Zerkel. Defensively, the graduation of All-American defensive tackle and projected NFL draft pick Brandon Williams leaves a void.
“Williams isn’t a guy you replace,” Daye said. “He’s a special player who comes around once in a coaching career. But the war goes on. We have good players who will step in and compete.”
Missouri Southern signed defensive linemen Elbert Fulgham III (6-2, 305) and Xavier Graham (6-2, 280) to provide immediate help up front. Fulgham was a two-year starter and all-conference performer at Dodge City Community College, and Graham was a two-year starter and all-region standout at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.
Daye will have four new assistants in defensive coordinator Wally Ake, assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator H.T. Kinney, offensive line coach Derek Moore and a yet to be named defensive line coach.
The staff is still early in the evaluation process as the Lions will soon practice in full pads.
“We use the spring to evaluate players,” Daye said. “And the evaluation starts now. Everyone looks good dancing around in their shorts.”
Missouri finished 6-5 in 2012 and will try to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1996 and 1997.