Bearcats get intense in spring football practice

By T. Scott Boatright

The Ruston High School Bearcats are nearly through an opening week of spring practice, and head coach Jerrod Baugh admits things might have turned up a notch this offseason.

There appears to be an increased intensity in this season’s spring workouts for the Bearcats.

“Probably so,” Baugh said about the increased urgency and intensity seeping into this year’s spring workouts. “Filling that quarterbacks coach role might have gotten me into things and more fired up. If we can find somebody that can take on that role we’ll do that, but if not, I’ve done that mostly in my career when I was a position coach, anyway.

“And that’s good for me. Normally I’m just operating practice, making sure that it’s running smoothly. But I think now that I’ve done that for so long, I’m able to serve both of those roles. So if that’s the way we do, then that’s gonna be back.”

Giving more than a little encouragement to Baugh is the return of senior quarterback Jaden Osborne, a three-year starter.

“Anytime you bring a returning starter back, it kinda relieves you a little,” Baugh said. “But when you bring a two-year starter back, then you want to go full speed you have to give the younger guys time to catch up.

“But with Jaden handling the ball every snap, and there’s some things we need to continue to get better at, but it is a big relief to have a two-year starter back.

Backing up Osborne behind center will be Joshua Brantley, a tall, rangy gun built not unlike former backup Bearcat quarterback CJ Willis, who doubled as a receiver.

“Those differences help,” Baugh said about Brantley’s build. “Josh adds some certain tools that Jaden doesn’t have. Obviously size is one. And he’s getting a lot better at throwing the football. That’s something we’re starting to spend a lot of time on. Losing quarterbacks coaches the past couple of years has me working with them right now. I’m trying. They might not think I know what I’m doing in comparison to what those guys did, but we’re working on some things that I think will help Josh and all the quarterbacks.”

The Bearcats have more experience returning in the offensive backfield with an experienced fullback returning in Josh Knighten along with Lajavian Ellis, who contributed last season at running back.

Ruston’s young receiving corps won’t be big, but Baugh still feels good about it.

“They’re not big but are going to make some big catches,” Baugh said. “We’re still trying to figure that position out, but there’s some definite talent there.”

So far through the first week of spring workouts, the Bearcats’ defense appears to be winning the war in the trenches.

“We lost several lineman on both sides,” Baugh said. “Peyton Bell has moved to defensive tackle and is doing well. We’re getting Ahmad Breaux some reps at defensive end and he’s helping there.

“On offense, Zy Scott, a good basketball player, has decided to come back out for football and we’re trying to see if he can play some tight end for us. He’s athletic and has caught some balls out here. We’ve just got to get him in on the running game.”

Baugh feels pretty good about his defense right now, too.

“Ray Owens is a returning starter,” Baugh said of his defensive secondary. “Jordan McWain has some playing time and did well filling in when BJ Green was hurt, and he came in on some throwing downs and packages. I think Kendrick Jones is going to be really good at corner.

“As far as linebackers, Jaden Mayfield was an all-district player last year and is returning as a junior. And we have some younger players ready to move up there, so I feel pretty good about that position.”

Maybe the biggest void Baugh will need to fill is the role of departed kicker/punter Brady Beason.

“Having Caleb Phillips (now at LA Tech) and Brady Beason back-to-back, that gives you an incredible comfort zone in the kicking game,” Baugh said. “But now we’re got to start fresh. Coach (Colt) Dunbar spends a lot of time out here on special teams and seems to be able to find kickers and snappers. He’ll figure out that so we can depend on that, too.”

Next Thursday — May 12 — the Bearcats will hold a spring scrimmage starting at 5:30 p.m. against Haughton before playing their spring game at 12:30 p.m. on May 21.


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