New-look Vikings take field for spring workouts|[5/2/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Warren Central bid farewell to one family member on Monday, welcomed another back for a short visit, and initiated a whole bunch more as it started spring football practice.

The Vikings worked out for about two hours Monday afternoon with one glaring coaching absence.

For the first time since 2000, WC started its spring drills without Brian Oakes. The offensive line coach, who also played high school ball for Warren Central, left the staff last week to take the head coaching job at Stone High in Wiggins.

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Oakes had been an assistant at WC since 2001, but said his goal was to be a head coach. He had inquired about several head coaching vacancies in the last few years, but the Stone High position was the right place at the right time, he said.

&#8220It was tough. I’m from (Vicksburg), it’s my hometown and we’ve been there five years. We got attached to some of the people, our church, things like that,” Oakes said. &#8220But I have that ambition to be a head coach, and thought this was my opportunity.”

Stone High is upgrading its facilities, including a new fieldhouse that is under construction. It also plays its home games at Gulf Coast Community College, where one of Oakes’ mentors is the head coach.

Oakes played for Gulf Coast coach Steve Campbell at Delta State, and also served as a graduate assistant for him in 2000 when the Statesmen won the Division II national championship. Campbell played a big part in convincing Oakes to come to Stone.

&#8220Coach Campbell sold me on this,” Oakes said. &#8220He’s at Gulf Coast and said it’s a great, great town. The people get involved and there’s a lot of talent coming in.”

As Oakes headed south, a familiar face filled in for him at practice on Monday.

Josh Morgan, another former WC star and son of former head coach Robert Morgan, took over Oakes’ duties on a temporary basis. Oakes has taken a leave of absence to get his program up and running at Stone High, and the younger Morgan was serving as a substitute teacher in Oakes’ classes.

Josh Morgan was a graduate assistant at Memphis last season, and was coaching the Vikings’ defensive backs on Monday. He will be with WC through spring drills, but is not a permanent member of the coaching staff, head coach Curtis Brewer said.

Oakes’ position will be permanently filled this summer. Brewer said he wouldn’t mind having Morgan on his staff, though.

&#8220We’ll be glad to get him if we can get him, but some things have to be worked out,” Brewer said.

While the shakeup in the coaches’ office is minor, the one on the field is not. The Vikings need to fill a host of positions this spring on both sides of the ball.

About 80 players came out for the first week of drills.

&#8220We’ve got some new kids, some sophomores coming back,” Brewer said. &#8220We don’t have as many as we’ve had in the past, but we’ve got a good number.”

In the offensive backfield, only one starter returns from last season. Quarterback Ryan Williams graduated, as did leading rusher Carleton Davis. The No. 2 tailback, Michael Holt, moved to Minnesota. That leaves fullback Vic Tyrone as the only experienced rusher.

Tyrone was used primarily as a short-yardage and goal line back last season. He finished with 214 yards and five touchdowns on only 55 carries.

&#8220He was a junior last year, going to be a senior this year, and we expect more from him,” Brewer said.

At quarterback, the Vikings face a similar dilemma. The last few times they’ve had to break in a new signal-caller, there was a junior or senior backup waiting in the wings. This time, the frontrunner for the job is junior-to-be Jakoby Johnson. He played the position in junior high, but did not throw a pass last season and only carried the ball three times as a running back.

Others competing for the job are Trey Robinson and Joel Forbes, Brewer said. Finding a capable starter from among them will be a top priority this spring.

&#8220They’re starting from scratch, but they’re good athletes,” Brewer said. &#8220We’re absolutely going and getting a quarterback.”

The Vikings also need to fill some holes on defense. A half-dozen starters, including 2004 Vicksburg Post Player of the Year Chico Hunter and All-State defensive lineman Desmond Carson, have departed.

A number of younger players did see playing time because of various injuries last season, but some of them may be switched to offense or to new positions based on need, Brewer said.

&#8220Outside of the offensive line, we’re looking for people in every position. The people you had on defense, you’re looking at moving them to offense so that creates another hole,” Brewer said. &#8220Right now the thing we’re looking to get is the best 22 we can find for offense and defense.”

Brewer and the WC coaches will have 14 more practices to evaluate their players and figure out who those 22 best are. Mixed in with the weekday workouts will be a pair of Saturday scrimmages in Viking Stadium, the first of which is scheduled for this weekend.

A third scrimmage will likely serve as WC’s spring game. Brewer wasn’t sure, however, whether that would also be on a Saturday morning or simply be the final weekday workout.

&#8220We’ll see if we need another controlled scrimmage or how we’re going to divide them,” Brewer said. &#8220We’ll decide that second week.”