Gators build depth, talent in 2nd year with Rogers

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vicksburg High defensive lineman Torrey Price waits on the snap during practice on Monday. Vicksburg will play Callaway and Yazoo County in a spring jamboree Thursday at 6 p.m. at Yazoo County. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg High defensive lineman Torrey Price waits on the snap during practice on Monday. Vicksburg will play Callaway and Yazoo County in a spring jamboree Thursday at 6 p.m. at Yazoo County. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

During last year’s spring practice period, Vicksburg High coach Marcus Rogers was winging it a bit.

He had a plan, of course, but as a first-year coach coming into a new program, getting to know his team and staff were a bigger priority than installing any sort of game plan.

This time around, that’s far from the case.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

As he assesses his squad, Rogers rattles off nearly every player’s name, their strengths and weaknesses, and his hopes and plans for how they’ll fit into his system.

“It’s much easier than last year. Knowing the kids, them knowing me and the expectations of the staff. A year in, it’s becoming second nature,” Rogers said. “It’s much easier knowing each kid and how they react to coaching and to me.”

Rogers’ second spring with the Gators will come to an end Thursday night with a jamboree at Yazoo County. Vicksburg will play Yazoo County and Callaway beginning at 6 p.m.

The coach’s second season begins Aug. 21 with the Red Carpet Bowl against Terry. Vicksburg finished last season with a 4-7 record and missed the playoffs.

A poor running game was partially to blame — the Gators rushed for less than 1,000 yards as a team — and as a result the offense struggled to score points. That, hopefully, will change as a young offensive line begins to round into form.

Four starters will return, and of those only left tackle DeShun Younger will be a senior. The chance to not only build on last year, but to build for 2016 with the same unit, was an exciting prospect for Rogers.

“Four of those five will be back, and they’ll be back next year, too,” Rogers said. “That’s a great luxury to have, knowing this group is the future.”

Not having to figure out who can play, Rogers added, has helped the coaching staff develop more depth on both sides of the ball.

“Our emphasis has been developing the trenches,” he said. “Getting to where our offensive and defensive lines are both two platoons. We had 12 guys return, and we’re getting to where we can go 100 mph.”

At the skill positions, sophomore Joe Johnson has taken the reins at quarterback and has a big group of receivers to throw to — not in terms of numbers, but height. Basketball players Raheem Moore and Brandon King joined the football team this spring.

“The receiving corps, you’re going to think it’s a basketball team,” Rogers said with a laugh. “We’ve got 6-2, 6-2 and 6-3 out there.”

On defense, the Gators will also have a new look. Defensive coordinator Bill King was hired after eight years at Velma Jackson, and will install a 3-5-3 scheme that takes advantage of the Gators’ talent.

Rogers said there isn’t a lot of bulk on the defensive line, so he’s trying to use speed to compensate.

“There’s going to be a lot of athletes on defense. It’s going to be a lot of linebacker, DB type guys that can run, are strong and can get to the football,” Rogers said. “We’ve got a lot of those hybrid guys that can run and tackle the football.”

The defensive overhaul was needed for a team that allowed 30 points or more five times in 11 games last season. It’s also part of a long-term plan to stabilize the program a bit.

Rogers is Vicksburg’s third head coach in four years. He’s got a plan to turn the Gators into winners, and said a key part of it is to make sure his players know he won’t even think of leaving until it happens.

“I let them know I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “This is not a steppingstone job for me. It’s a dream job. The process is working. It’s not an overnight deal, but we’re doing everything to head in the right direction.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest