The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Missouri Southern Sports

April 13, 2013

Lions wrap up drills with spring game

As most coaches do, Missouri Southern Lions coach Daryl Daye wishes spring football could last a little longer.

The Lions, in particular, have needed the spring to adjust to four new assistant coaches and 11 mid-year transfers.

“We’re basically a new staff,” Daye said. “We have had 80 new guys in a year. It feels like a whole new team, a whole new set-up. It’s a lot of new.

“I kind of wish this was the start and not the finish because most of the improvement has come this past week.”

Missouri Southern’s spring session, which started March 12, concluded Saturday as the Gold defeated the Green 6-0 in the Lions’ spring game at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. The Gold consisted of the first-team players against the Green’s second and third units.

The new-look Lions were without many of their leaders from last year’s 6-5 team, including quarterback Kellen Cox and defensive tackle Brandon Williams.

“More than anything, it’s losing two quality leaders in Kellen Cox and Brandon Williams,” Daye said. “To replace that leadership is the toughest thing. Right now, we are pretty much leadership by committee. Our seniors are the leaders. They have to step up and be the bell cows. They have to be the voice. To me, that’s our biggest challenge right now. It’s not that we won’t have that big body on the field or Kellen on the field. It’s their leadership qualities that we will miss the most. We just got to keep getting everybody together and someone will emerge.”

Sophomore Jay McDowell (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) worked as the No. 1 quarterback and displayed some ability to run and pass out of the short-gun.

McDowell hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Will Cuffee down the left sideline for a 32-yard gain to the Green’s 6-yard-line in the third quarter. The next play, McDowell scored on a keeper.

McDowell said the team has made a lot of strides through spring ball, and he is starting to get in sync with the receivers.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “When we first came in to spring ball, everybody was everywhere. We made a lot of progress over the spring.

“As spring has gone by, we’re getting better and better timing.”

Redshirt freshman Ricky Nichols (6-2, 185), who prepped at Cassville, served as the primary quarterback for the Green. He had several good runs, helping the Green get to the Gold’s 10-yard-line in the second half. But a fumble on a pitch to Damion Willis ended the drive.

The Green reached the 4-yard-line in the fourth quarter, but Gold junior defensive end Ryon Phillips sacked Nichols on fourth down.

“I’m anxious to see the film,” Daye said. “Just off the cuff, I think it’s easy to say that we have two quarterbacks who can run the football pretty good. We just got to improve in expanding our offense to be more threatening in other areas that will open up our run game as well.”

The Lions will try to improve the balance of an offense that rushed for 3,043 yards but passed for only 795 yards last season. Defensively, the Lions have moved to a three-down linemen front under new defensive coordinator Wally Ake.

“We’re trying to adapt with what we have talent wise,” Daye said. “We’re trying to make our offense and defense fit to what type of style of talent we have. We’re not making them fit a scheme, we’re making a scheme fit them.”

Six junior college transfers and 13 incoming freshmen will join the Lions as practice resumes in August. Missouri Southern will open the 2013 season at home against Central Oklahoma on Sept. 5.

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