By T. Scott Boatright
Football is often a game of numbers.
And Lincoln Preparatory School football coach Glen Hall is hoping the numbers play in his favor after watching his Panthers conduct their first official preseason practice of 2023 on the brand new Lincoln Prep field.
For years Hall and his staff have had to work with a bare minimum number of student-athletes, but Hall feels the tide has turned and the number of players out for Lincoln Prep football is on the rise.
But Hall said he doesn’t believe it’s a new school building and football field that has been behind the increase in the number of players hitting the gridiron.
“We’ve got more numbers than I’ve had in a long time,” said Hall, who only has three senior players listed on the Panthers’ roster — lineman Jamion James, linebacker/fullback Marvin Johnson, RB/DB Lamarion Burton and WR/DB Emmanuel Seals. “Probably more players than I’ve ever had here at Lincoln Prep. I had about 37 kids out there today, and that’s something new to us but a very good sign.”
When asked if he thought the new school building and football field were behind the increased number of players, Hall said he didn’t believe that was the cause.
“A lot of these kids, fortunately, have come up through our middle school,” Hall said. “They’ve been here, but have just been too young to play football, and we’ve played some junior high guys over the years.
“We don’t have a lot of new transfers or anything like that. We may have two or three of those guys. But 90% of our players now have been at this school since it opened. We’re getting into that younger group that they know is being a student at Lincoln Prep. They’re excited and I think you’re going to see them be part of a big turnaround over the next couple of years in terms of the kind of depth this team will have to work with.”
Hall said he saw a mixed bag as far as team conditioning when the players all reported on Monday.
“We have some guys who have worked hard all summer and are in good shape, and we’ve got some guys who missed a lot of practices and aren’t in the shape they need to be in right now, and that showed on them,” Hall said. “But overall it wasn’t too bad at all.
“Some of them know they’re out of shape. And they know it’s because they’ve been lazy. But they also know it’s up to us coaches to get that lazy out of them.”
The Panthers may have been helped a little in that aspect by somewhat overcast skies that kept temperatures from soaring as they have over the past week throughout Lincoln Parish.
“We had a blessed day as far as weather,” Hall said. “It wasn’t as hot and we had a good little breeze coming through. That really helped us coming in and getting off to a good start on this first day.”
Hall admitted much of the first official day at practice was looking at how players can help at certain positions to create a better depth chart moving forward.
“A lot of these guys, even though they’ve been at the school they haven’t been playing football,” Hall said. “So right now we’re trying to find out who can do what and where they can best help us so that we can be the best we can be at all positions as preseason practice really gets going.
One of those positions is quarterback, where Hall already knew he had a two-way battle going between juniors Jordan Brown and Michael Lewis.
But the Panthers’ coaching staff is also considering potentially using junior speedster Chavale Robinson behind center and at the end of practice on Monday told junior Masir Hicks that he would likely see some reps at quarterback during today’s practice.
“We were trying to see who can be our best passer and now we’re also trying to decide who can be our best runner (at quarterback),” Hall said. “If we have to go with a two-back system, so be it. We’re going to do whatever it takes —- whatever our athletes match —- to put us into the best position to win games.
“In the past, we’ve always had the right kind of people on the team where we could run a Pistol offense when we wanted to. But right now we might have to do something different, because right now it looks like we might not have that kind of quarterback. It forces me to make an adjustment, but that’s what they pay me for. (Quarterbacks coach Matthew) Reed told me today he thought the young man (Hicks) might have the kind of speed we can use in a Wildcat quarterback, so we’re going to take a look at him, even if it’s as a change of pace backup to run the ball a little.”
Hall admits his Panthers have a long way to go as far as knowing the schemes and systems the team will use, but he still feels good about it.
“That’s because I think we have kids – players – who are going to stick with us,” Hall said. “That’s the main thing. Most of them played in our spring game. A lot of them have attended summer workouts.
“So we’re still a work in progress, but we only just got started for real today. So there’s nowhere to go but up — forward. But there’s just a feeling — an attitude — where I believe these kids are going to work hard. They’re going to learn what we need them to learn. And we’re going to keep getting better. That’s what the first day of practice is all about.”