CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU running back Corey Thomas gets past defenders Curtis Jackson, left, and Sau Fauhala during the team’s scrimmage on Saturday morning at Greyhound Stadium.
BLACKWATER DRAW — With talented cornerbacks Rodney Mitchell and Tavius Bigelow and safety Tillman Stevens gone to graduation, Eastern New Mexico University will have a little different look in the secondary next fall.
There are some experienced players returning, although in general the secondary will be relatively young.
“Our young guys are progressing really well,” defensive backs coach John Hair said Friday. “We’re a little thin in the secondary, but I feel good with the guys we have.
“It’s important they continue to grow. I have no doubt that, come August, they’ll be ready to go.”
The Hounds finished off their first full week of spring practice with about a two-hour intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday morning at Greyhound Stadium.
Senior-to-be free safety Curtis Jackson, who was second in the LSC in tackles last season with 98, said the defensive backs get a good workout every day in practice with the Hounds’ wide-open passing attack.
“We’ve got some young guys with a lot of potential,” he said. “They’re getting better every day, and hopefully that can carry over to the fall.”
Redshirt sophomore Keith Davis has the most experience at the cornerback position, having started three games last season.
“All of us are young at the corner positions — actually, all of us are sophomores,” said Davis, from Houston. “But we’re learning real quick.
“When the fall comes, we’ll be ready. All the pieces will come together.”
Newcomers will join the program in August as the Hounds look to improve on last year’s 5-6 record. Those in spring ball have an advantage, Hair said — the jobs are theirs to lose.
Davis is competing with Lloyd Black and Chris Redman for starting spots at the corners. Jackson, who is from College Station, Texas, and sophomore Linvil Moseby are the leading candidates at the safety positions.
Moseby, from Odessa, Texas, said he enjoys going against the team’s potent offense in practice.
“I think we have some of the best receivers in the (Lone Star) Conference, so it’s a real good challenge every day,” he said.
Spring ball is an important time for a team to bond, Jackson said.
“We’re a little thin in the secondary, but I feel good with the guys we have,” he said. “It’s important that they continue to grow. I have no doubt that, come August, they’ll be ready to go.”
ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said after Saturday’s scrimmage that tackling has been an emphasis during spring drills, and he was generally pleased with what he saw.
“Tackling is something we have to get better at,” Moseby acknowledged.
The Hounds also showed a solid kicking game on a blustery day. Ribaudo said Taylor Cannon and Michael Cottingham did a solid job punting under the conditions.
“Our kicking game — I was really impressed with our punters,” Ribaudo said. “And our tempo (on offense) was great.
“If we take care of a few things (in preparing for the season), I think we’ll be pretty tough.”
The Hounds have another scrimmage scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at the stadium. The annual spring game at 4 p.m. on April 23 will bring preseason drills to an end.