Football Outlook: Lobos try to answer questions in spring
By Jimmy Carter firstname.lastname@example.org
April 27, 2013 at 10 p.m.
The gold football trophies and plaques that line the Lobo Den hallway in a glass case serve as evidence that Longview coach John King and his staff have built a consistent winner.
King won 100 games in his first nine seasons at Longview, a span that includes two state championship appearances, a semifinals appearance and eight district titles.
The Lobos have had to reload and replace talented senior classes before under King. And they've largely been successful doing so.
But this spring might be the most uncertain one he's faced since taking over as head coach in 2004.
Longview has to replace a huge senior class that includes multiple players who contributed for the last three seasons. In all, the Lobos lose eight full-time defensive starters, two part-time defensive starters, seven full-time offensive starters and another part-time offensive starter.
Ample playing time is up for grabs after just three spring practices. And King likes the attitude surrounding the team despite the challenge of replacing so many key players.
"You always want to coach a hungry team," King said. "And when you've got new guys, new faces, that hunger's there and kids are starving for that attention. I'm not saying last year's team wasn't hungry. But a lot of times experienced guys don't pay attention to fine detail that you need to in certain areas. I thought last year's senior class was pretty good as a whole. Better than most. But there's still those guys who get the chance for that first varsity experience, that first time to be a starter on Friday nights.
"There's just something about their daily efforts and practice habits because they don't feel entitled. They're trying to keep that spot. So that'll be fun."
The Lobos are trying to build off their 9-4 finish and third-round playoff trip from last season. And there will still be plenty of talent on campus in the fall.
Receiver Dorian Leonard and defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson are both being pursued by Division I programs and are among the highest-rated class of 2014 prospects in Texas for their positions. Henderson committed to TCU in February.
Rising seniors Stephan Maxey, Travin Howard, Chris Coby, Laurent Johnson and Jhavaurian Moore make up a secondary that should be the strong point of Longview's defense. And a junior backfield tandem of quarterback Dezmond Chumley and running back JaMycal Hasty could be electric while senior running backs L'darrius Peterson and Deionte Wall also have big-play ability.
Now it's the coaching staff's job to fill in the pieces around the returning talent.
There are still a lot of question marks, especially on the offensive line, defensive line and at linebacker. The staff has to find three new starters on both lines and replace both linebackers.
"All three areas can be a strong part of this football team, but there's some growing we have to do in all of those areas," King said. "Chemistry-wise finding the best spot for players. We've got some good guys coming back in those spots. And we're going to ask some guys to make some position changes. And hopefully that will enable us to put our best combination on the field."
Longview has had to work around its rising seniors missing the first two days for mandatory testing and other players out or limited because of track and baseball. The Lobos still have 14 scheduled practices to find some answers before the May 17 spring game.
And they will likely need all of them.
"With having some missing pieces to the puzzle and people gone, it may take a little longer," King said. "But the guys that we know are going to be there, we're going to make sure we get their questions answered. Find out who'll strike and who won't. Who's going to be able to contribute and who's not. We for sure hope we can get it figured out by the spring game."
<em>(Follow Jimmy Carter on Twitter @jicartersports)</em>