Art Lawler Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma City —
I don't want to overplay this guy JoJo Snell too much.
After all, he's only been able to lead his East Central Tigers to victory in two out of five contests.
I'm thinking this kid from Mississippi will now help the Tigers win the rest of their games.
I know there are a couple of very good teams that could derail this bunch, but I've got my reasons for optimism.
The schedule that was so much against the Tigers in three of the first four games magnified this team's deficiencies on the field in full Technicolor on the gaudy new playing surface.
But last week, against an obviously inferior Southern Nazarene team, the Tigers were able to execute the things that showed what they're capable of once they gain enough confidence in themselves and each other.
Granted, in the second half of last week's game, they seemed to rest on their first-half laurels. They're young, and teenage young can be youthfully foolish at times — just ask Johnny Football.
This bunch won't be a Henderson State this year, so forget that. They blew a game to Ouachita Baptist and made too many mistakes in the game with Southern Arkansas.
Coach Tim McCarty went into the season with optimism because he probably had his best overall collection of talent since arriving at ECU.
What he clearly didn't have was his most experienced team, and much of his defense, except for the secondary, had to be rebuilt.
At times, even his secondary has been squirrelly, making big hits without bothering to wrap up.
But he's had a good young quarterback in Spencer Bond, who's thrown for almost 400 yards a game in recent weeks. And of course, there's scat back Snell to entertain the home folks from time to time.
Local fans got to see the Roadrunner do his thing again last week. All he needs is a breath of air to get his legs working at high velocity and shifting unpredictably as he runs to solitude.
Granted, there's no end zone beeping if Jo Jo doesn't get his blocking. For the most part, the O-line has done a credible job.
Against the rest of the schedule, I see this guy rocketing into the end zone with increasing frequency, and not just because it's fun for us to watch.
McCarty and his staff have used Snell wisely, finding all the ways they can to get him into the open spaces.
Realistically, JoJo's always going to have his minus yard plays. That's because this line still misses assignments on occasion, and he's too small to run over 260- to 270-pound muscle machines. He can certainly run past their reactions, though.
The defense still needs to earn a bit more of a swagger. They don't have the big names this year, but they do have some good athletes who are getting better.
Open-field tackling is still a problem at times, but it has improved 1,000 percent since that opener, when they won despite sloppy tackling.
Thanks to an open date, McCarty has a chance for his nicked-up players to heal and for his younger ones to listen and learn.
The really great teams can exploit the Tigers' weaknesses, but from what I've seen, those weaknesses are methodically being eliminated.
Eventually the Tigers, with the appropriate amount of confidence and momentum, are going to get — at the gut level — what their coaches are trying to show them. They can be special, too, and later in the year, a tough knockout even for the great teams.
I'm thinking about a game where everyone pays attention to the snap count, blocks with fundamental integrity and springs JoJo for a half dozen of those 50-yard-plus explosions in a single game. He’ll be beep-beeping all around the field.
Not saying it'll happen. Then again, why not? They're fun to watch later on video, even if you are too busy at the time clearing the path in front of him.
When the Tigers return to the field next Saturday, they'll be doing it with No. 5 (Qumain Black) returning to the secondary after an ankle sprain.
If he's fully healed, he has the talent to turn a no-name defense into a fierce one.
I just don't see anybody beating up on these guys. I see inconsistency, occasional stupidity, and at other times a lot of football intelligence.
When they decide to discipline themselves without taking plays off, they'll be on the road to becoming a Henderson State.
You did get that, didn't you? I did indeed pick the Tigers to win the rest of their games.
Now all the Tigers have to do is go out and make me look a lot smarter than I am.
So what's the problem, Tigers?
Just do it.