Rams try to go airborne during drills

COVINGTON - Spring football showed that Newton will be heading into uncharted territory after losing key personnel off last season's squad.

Rather than concentrating on running, the Rams are looking to go airborne on offense next season.

"I think we got caught last year in situations where we just didn't open it up enough," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "We're going to open up a little more and use formations and not use as many running backs as we did last year. We want to try to get as many of our skilled receivers on the field as we can."

Quarterback Demetrius McCray was able to tuck the ball and run last year, but this season Collins wants to be able to stay in formation and use designed plays.

With some varsity game experience, Tyree Williams is the front-runner to lead the Rams offense. However, there are several other players battling for the starting nod at quarterback.

"Tyree understands what we're trying to do. Both he and Anthony (Johnson) and even some of our younger guys, like Darius Hill and Gematrian Brown, are very capable," Collins said. "Tyree has the edge because he's battle tested. He's been in that fire and understands a little bit, so it's going to give him an edge.

"Quarterback is going to be a huge position. He's going to have a lot of control, a lot of decision-making, as to what happens on the field. That position will have to make good decisions."

While Collins realizes that his team is going to have to throw the ball and be willing to open it up offensively, he also knows that a steady running game is essential to a successful and well balanced team.

With D.J. Hill and Akeem Hunt running the ball well, his main concern is replacing fullback Quinton Pooler.

So far, Torrian Hunte, Demarquail Renfroe and Sammy Merchant are in contention for the job.

"Torrian is the big guy of the bunch weighing 225. Demarquail is another big kid around 5-10 weighing 220. So we've got another big guy in there. We feel good about where we are with those young guys," Collins said.

While the Rams lost a valuable lineman in Brian Forde, Collins said that he lucked out with several transfers who will be able to immediately fill the vacated position.

The one position that Newton has to fill defensively is that of inside linebacker, a position left open by Pooler.

The leading candidates for the linebacker position are Merchant and Renfroe.

"Do we have another Quinton Pooler? I don't think we do right now," Collins said. "Do we have another Demetrius McCray at quarterback? I don't think we do right now, which means you have to do what good high school teams do and adapt to what you do have. Will they be better then the guys we lost? Only time will tell."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils