Week 2 Spring Football NotebookApril 8, 2004 · MT Media Relations
GATES MOVED: Redshirt sophomore Marcus Gates was moved this week from the defensive line to center. Gates, who played in all 12 games a year ago as a defensive end, will add much needed depth to the position. "Marcus is a good athlete, strong and physical," head coach Andy McCollum noted. "In just two days he has shown he can handle the position, but now just needs to learn the system. Once he gets everything down, Marcus could be the guy." Along with Gates, walk-ons Kyle Turnbow and Kyle Ringley are the front-runners to win the job following the first two weeks of drills.
LITTLEJOHN IMPRESSIVE: When you come with the credentials Jeff Littlejohn did out of high school a lot is expected and those expectations are starting to be met. The former high school all-American from Gaffney, SC, is having the best spring of his career. The defense won the first scrimmage last Saturday and a big reason for that is the play up front from Littlejohn. He has been explosive, stopped the run, and enabled the linebacking corps to make plays. "Jeff is coming to play everyday," McCollum added. "He is now becoming a dominant player and I can't wait to see him in action this fall. He had a pretty good year last season, but I think the best is ahead for Jeff."
GROSS GETTING PHYSICAL: Sophomore running back Eugene Gross is coming off a freshman season that saw him rush for 735 yards and 10 touchdowns to rank fifth in the Sun Belt. The Blue Raider coaching staff has impressed upon Gross that he needs to be a more physical runner. After two weeks of spring drills, the Statesboro, Ga., native appears to be getting the hint. In Wednesday's scrimmage, Gross got noticed when he took the ball on a 4th-and-1 and brought it hard down hill for the first down. "That 4th-and-1 play was the type of running I want to see from Eugene," McCollum said. "He is a good runner and a valuable player to this football team, but he can become more of a threat when he starts running through tackles. He's improving in that area, but we want to see him continue the progress."
RECEIVING CORPS UPDATE: One of the most talked about positions this spring has been the play of the wide receivers. The group is filled with experience, speed, and guys who can turn a 10-yard catch into a 65-yard score in a blink of an eye. The group, highlighted by all-American candidate Kerry Wright, Pedro Holiday, Chris Henry, and Jerrin Holt, is having a great spring but the coaching staff still feels there is room for improvement. "There is no question about the talent and athletic ability of this group," McCollum said. "But I want them to become mentally and physically tougher and that all starts in the spring. They have to get separation, make the tough catch in traffic, and block. I like their progress to date, but we need to continue getting better."
TIDBITS: Redshirt freshman Sean Mosley has moved from linebacker to defensive end and has really opened some eyes. The Sylvania, Ga., native will be an "impact player this year" according to McCollum. He has speed, great instincts and tenacity ... The one reason McCollum was able to move Marcus Gates to center was the play of transfer Quinton Staton. "Quinton has experience as an offensive lineman, but he is so good defensively we just could not move him over," McCollum said. "I think he is a difference maker on that side of the ball." ... Another player gaining attention has been lineman Kenyon Buford from Murfreesboro's Riverdale High School. A nationally-ranked lineman coming out of high school, Buford has lost over 40 pounds, dedicated himself to the weight room and getting in shape and the rewards are paying off on the field this spring. "Kenyon has really been coming on for us and I am very pleased with his effort on and off the field," said McCollum. "He is a player and will help this football team a great deal in the fall."
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