By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Missouri Southern football coach Daryl Daye has been pleased with the competition he’s seen in spring drills.
Fans will have the opportunity to see that competition in action as the Lions will play their spring game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
The Lions, coming off a 6-5 season, are coping with the graduation of 15 seniors, including All-American defensive tackle Brandon Williams. They opened spring drills on March 12 with 11 mid-year transfers and four new assistant coaches.
“It’s gone good,” Daye said. “We struggled a little at first putting in some new wrinkles in the defense and new wrinkles offensively. Some of our guys were jumping offsides or fumbling the ball, but that has improved with reps and understanding what they’ve been asked to do. Overall, the effort is there. It’s our job as coaches to get them trained up in the techniques and the responsibility of what they’re doing.”
With only 74 players out for spring ball, Daye said the Lions won’t be able to have a true game. However, they will mostly have the first unit take face the No. 2 and No. 3 squads.
Sophomore Jay McDowell (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) is the front-runner at quarterback after serving as a backup to Kellen Cox last season. Ricky Nichols (6-2, 185), a sophomore out of Cassville, follows McDowell on the depth chart.
“Both had very productive springs,” Daye said. “They seem to be understanding what we’re asking them to do offensively. They’re starting to take over leadership roles. In the huddle, you see all of that. There’s been a lot of progress in a short time. I wish we had more.”
Daye said the Lions will boast a deep group on the offensive line.
“The O-line has a lot of depth and there are a lot of players who make each other better,” he said. “It does nothing but make you better when you have a guy who can step in at any minute and take your job. You know there’s somebody back there breathing down your neck. Iron sharpens iron.”
The defensive line is without Williams, who is expected to go as high as the second round in this month’s NFL Draft, but includes several junior college transfers competing for playing time.
“There’s strong competition,” Daye said. “The defensive line is different without Brandon (Williams), but there is a group of four or five guys who are competing for starting jobs. They are all capable players. I’m anxious to see how that turns out.”