Tigers' spring practice dominated by veterans

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Donaldsonville head coach Brian Richardson says that his team's greatest strength in 2017 will be their line play. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

With only two 12th-graders on Donaldsonville’s roster last year, they didn’t have the luxury of strong senior leadership, but so far this spring, they’ve gotten plenty of it, and second-year head coach Brian Richardson couldn’t be happier.

“It’s been terrific. The senior leadership has been outstanding,” Richardson said. “We had a little bit of that last year, but we only had two seniors. Now, we have 13, so it’s resounding. They really make my job a lot easier.”

During Richardson’s inaugural season as head coach, he and Donaldsonville were faced with their share of challenges right from the beginning.

Off of the field, Richardson was one of the many that was directly affected by the August flood. He was displaced after his house was submerged by five feet of water.

On the field, the Tigers headed into the season with plenty of youth and inexperience as they lost many key starters—including receiver Stephen Sullivan (LSU signee), quarterback Tyler Brown (Southern signee) and defensive tackle Tyarise Stevenson (Tulsa signee).

To complicate matters, the Tigers are bitten by the injury bug during the season.

Quarterback Jaylin Williams and running back Jemon Pleasant both had to miss time with injuries, and receiver James Gipson missed almost the entire season.

So far this spring, those players have been healthy, and all the first-year starters from last year now have a season of experience under their belts.

“I can’t say enough about the progression from last year,” Richardson said. “The experience, there’s nothing like that. You can talk all you want, watch all the film you want and do what you want, but there’s nothing like experiencing things on your own and getting hands-on learning.

“These guys have learned a lot. They’ve learned everything—from getting off the bus quicker, to getting their grades higher, to getting better on the football field. Their reads are coming quicker, they’re getting to the ball faster and the receivers are catching the ball better.”

Over the course of the spring, it’s been obvious to Richardson what will be the major strength of his team in 2017.

“Once again, line play is going to be our greatest strength,” Richardson said. “We’ll have the same guys that led us last year, but they have a sense of urgency now because they’re seniors. Last year, they did their job, but they were missing some of that urgency. Those linemen, from their grades, to their attendance, to their discipline, they’re going to lead us all year.”

The only all-district player that Donaldsonville will lose from last season will be offensive lineman Kaleb Phillips. Nine others will return.

From their returning all-district stars, Richardson has been most impressed by starting middle linebacker Tahj Brown.

Brown has become one of the most sought-after prospects in the area. He has received scholarship offers from a plethora of different schools, including Mississippi State, Kansas State, N.C. State and Houston.

“Tahj Brown has been great,” Richardson said. “I like to tell people all the time that he’s our ball boy. He’s like a little boy coming here drawing ‘DHS’ on his jersey and wanting to play. He couldn’t wait to be in a leadership role, and now, he’s enjoying every minute of it.”

There were many other players that stood out to Richardson this spring.

Williams and Pleasant have made up a strong backfield, Gipson and Ladarius Jackson have given the receiving corps a big boost and Kadarrion Jones and Davon Wright have played well in the trenches.

These players will all be out on display for Donaldsonville next Thursday night as they go on the road to face Tara in their spring game.