The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 10, 2014

Lions' spring football game slated for Saturday

For the first time in his three years as Missouri Southern’s head coach, Daryl Daye entered spring football practices surrounded by familiar faces.

The Lions, who are coming off a 7-3 season, return all-MIAA quarterback Jay McDowell, all-American fullback Chris Barnwell and the rest of their starting offensive skill players. The defense returns a pair of all-conference players in linebacker Dalvin Taylor and defensive back Johnquavious McBride.

“I think the carryover has been really good offensively and defensively,” Daye said. “We’ve been running the same defense for a solid year now, and we’ve been running the same style of offense since I’ve been here.

“It’s been the carryover and understanding what to do. The tempo is the most impressive thing to me. They understand how to practice now. We get double or triple the amount of repetitions in at practice now. They are hustling and getting plays in.”

Missouri Southern’s stability will be on display as the Lions conclude spring drills with their annual Green and Gold game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. There is no charge to watch the scrimmage.

“We just want to have a real competitive scrimmage,” Daye said. “It will allow us to evaluate some of the younger guys who are contending for jobs and looking to get into the rotation. And we’ll continue to work on the fundamentals and the techniques of our returning players.”

McDowell will be a second-year starter after a successful sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound option quarterback completed 49-of-87 passes for 855 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 788 yards and nine touchdowns.

“Everything has been very positive with Jay,” Daye said. “Jay’s come back more mature and more focused. He understands his role and leads by example. He’s not a big talker, but he works hard. All the quarterbacks have bought in to the system. They all know the offense and know they must be ready if their number is called.”

Daye said another positive through spring practices has been the play of the offensive line. Missouri Southern returns all-MIAA linemen Caleb Benner and Austin Wolfe from a unit that helped the Lions rush for a school-record 368.4 yards per game last year. MSSU also added competition to the line with several junior college transfers.

“Overall, our offensive line has been a pleasant surprise with all the newcomers,” Daye said. “We’ve really added depth to the unit. It’s the best looking, most physical looking and experienced offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here. It will really help when you need to pound the ball to finish a game. We’ll be able to lean on some people there.”

Daye is looking for a productive end to the spring. Running back Michael Nelson and defensive end Ryon Phillips will miss the spring game because of injuries, but both are expected to be ready in the fall.

“We want to finish up the spring healthy,” Daye said. “We’ve got a good idea of who can help us and be productive in the fall. We have a lot of alumni coming back for the game. It should be a good time.”

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