With recently graduated players like running back Tyren Jones, quarterback Parker McLeod and offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow getting banged up, it allowed D.J. Smith to show what he could do running the ball, and Price Wilson got plenty of reps under center.
However, the biggest place where young players had an opportunity to gain valuable experience was the offensive line, and that’s one of the reasons why coach Rocky Hidalgo said his Raiders have a chance to have another good season in the fall.
“Our offensive line got thrown to the wolves a little bit last season because we had to play four sophomores,” Hidalgo said. “It wasn’t always pretty.”
He said those four sophomores — Jack Henry, Eric Smith, David Davis and Jon France — all came out and had good springs and help set the tone Hidalgo said Walton’s spring practices are all about.
With the improvement of the line, it will allow Wilson, who threw for nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns, last season, to really have the time to show what he can do in the passing game in 2013.
Smith, who had more than 700 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns, will prove to be one of the offensive weapons Wilson will have to get the ball to, but it is unknown whether it will be at the wide receiver position or at tailback.
“D.J. is going to be a big part of the offense,” Hidalgo said. “We want to get him the ball 15 times or so a game.”
Smith’s use at tailback will be determined by the performance of new varsity players Breyon Thomas and Karekin “K.K.” Brooks. Hidalgo said both have an opportunity to be good tailbacks and will be looking for them to step up and earn the job.
While there are a lot of question marks on offense. Hidalgo said defensively, his team has a chance to be special.
“There is a lot of team speed,” Hidalgo said. “We have a chance to have one of the best defensive teams we’ve ever had here.”
Smith, who already has more than 20 Division I offers including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Ohio State and Clemson, will anchor the defensive backfield, but it may be a linebacking core that makes most of the noise.
Dreyon Williams, Jordan Vorster and Ridge Gibson are all expected to be back and Hidalgo said Zach Williams “is going to be a dynamite player.”