Aug. 9, 2007
Throughout the history of football, a lot of the hopes and dreams of aspiring championship teams have rested squarely on the shoulders of the man behind center. Heading into last season, Danny Southall entered the year with a ton of potential and a lot of expectations, but after three seasons of sitting behind names like Michael Williams and Zeke Dixon, it was only potential. Then the 2006 season came along and it was Southall's time to shine, and shine he did leading the Southland Conference in total offense and pass yards.
As Southall heads into his final season in the Lumberjack purple and white, there is a plethora of excitement surrounding the SFA squad, and that is due in large part to Southall. Despite the majority of his playing time coming during his junior season, Southall is on pace to leave SFA among the school's all-time leaders in completions, touchdown passes, total offense and pass yards.
"Danny is our man," SFA said head coach J.C. Harper. "He has proven himself as the starter. I've been real impressed with the way he as returned to campus pushing himself and teammates to be better. He's a tough individual who has great leadership skills on the field."
A dual-threat weapon, Southall proved his toughness as a junior. Coming off a sophomore season where he spent a majority of the year on the sideline with an injury, Southall returned for the 2006 season to take virtually every snap. Having a player that can be counted on every game has also made the transition for new quarterbacks coach Todd Schonhar that much easier.
"The first thing I noticed about Danny is that he was well coached before I got here," said Schonhar. "His experience and what he brings to the table makes my job a lot easier. We can do so many things with Danny in the game. He is a dual-threat at all times. He has a strong arm and his experience is invaluable, but you also have to respect his speed."
The return of Southall has given the Lumberjack coaching staff another reason to smile heading into the upcoming season, but beyond Southall there is some reason for concern. That concern is based, not so much in a lack of talent, but in an overwhelming amount of youthful inexperience. Behind Southall rests a quartet of talented rookies trying to make the transition from high school senior to college freshman.
"We have to get our freshmen ready to play," said Schonhar. "All the young guys have come in and are working hard, but there is a lot to learn in a new system. I'm proud of the way Danny has stepped in to help bring these young guys along."
The list of rookies includes Baytown Lee's Jeremy Moses, Lufkin's Jeremy Claybon, Garrett Milton from Southwest Christian Academy and Beaumont's Anthony Boutte. All four players are very talented individuals that bring different skills to the field.
Moses has inside track as the No. 2 man after going through spring drills with the team. During his short time in a Lumberjack uniform, Moses has proven that he has the leadership skills that could one day earn him a starting role at SFA. One need only look back to the spring game last March for evidence.
After struggling to connect with receivers early in the game, along with throwing an interception, Moses proved that he doesn't let a previous mistake control his next decision. Moses rallied his team from a 17-0 deficit to defeat the Lumberjack first-teamers, 20-17. He finished the game completing 6-of-his-final-9 passes in the victorious effort. Moses completed 16-of-26 passes for 219 yards and was responsible for two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).
"Jeremy is a very confident kid," said Schonhar. "His background is the passing game after being coached by Dick Olin at Baytown Lee. Jeremy is always on the field competing. He is the type of kid who if he were to struggle early, it won't effect him later in the game, because he never gives up."
But before we start dishing out assignments prior to Harper releasing the final depth chart lets not forget about Mr. Claybon. A 6-0, 190-pound, standout from 5A-power Lufkin, Claybon may remind many SFA fans of Southall. Claybon has the ability make things happen with his arm and his feet. He came out of high school listed as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state according to TexasPrepXtra, and threw for more than 4,500 yards and 28 touchdowns in two years as a starter for head coach John Outlaw.
"Jeremy is very similar to Danny Southall in terms of the attributes that he brings to the field," said Schonhar. "He hasn't had a ton of opportunities early on in camp just because of the jump start that Southall and Moses had coming into the season. But he is fun to watch once he gets his hands on the ball. He allows us the opportunity to do so many different things offensively."
Milton comes to Nacogdoches with strong ties to Lumberjack football. His father, Larry, was a Lumberjack letterwinner from 1982-84. Milton is an all-state honoree who threw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns for head coach Wade Whites in high school.
"During the recruiting process, we really liked Garrett's attitude," said Schonhar. "He's not quite as big as the other guys but he finds away to get the job done. Whereas Moses came from a passing attack in high school, Milton ran more of a balanced offense."
Despite the wares of the previously mentioned athletes, Lumberjack fans should not overlook Boutte. A 6-0, 175-pound, prospect from Beaumont, Boutte brings an extra dimension of speed to the Lumberjack offense, and like Moses, he also went through spring drills the 'Jacks.
"Anthony is the type of kid that will help you win," said Schonhar. "He is a great guy, and is a student of the game. Anthony is easy to coach because he will do what you ask him to do. He may also see some time at receiver due to his athletic ability. Every team needs more guys like him."