Robert E. Lee football began spring practices Monday without a returning starter.
Well, that is not exactly true.
The Red Raiders do have players returning who started last year, but new head coach Darrell Piske is opening up competition for every position on the field.
Piske and his staff, a few of them also new to REL, are evaluating all 80 incoming juniors and seniors for the next two weeks. Piske also believes a few incoming sophomores are showing enough to be considered for varsity.
“These first two weeks everybody is working both sides of the ball,” Piske said. “When it comes to crunch time, we are going to put the best 11 players on the field. Every kid knows that it doesn’t matter who started or who the superstar was or whatever. It’s a new game and every position is wide open.”
Lee will practice every afternoon Monday-Thursday leading up to the annual Red and White Spring Game on May 24 at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
“We have 30 days to get in 18 workouts and we are going to give them Fridays off,” Piske said. “So they can kind of recover and stuff.”
This is the first spring session not being led by Mike Owens since 1996. Owens retired following last spring’s Red and White game, with Randy Huffstickler named interim coach prior to the 2011 season. After a 1-9 campaign Huffstickler was not retained, with Piske leaving Fairfield to take over the reins at Lee.
REL aims to rebound from consecutive nine-loss seasons and get back to playoffs after a year hiatus.
Piske admitted there is a lot of work to do between now and then.
“The biggest challenge is just getting it all in; all of the base stuff in,” Piske said. “We’ve tried to match as much terminology as we could to what they’ve done in the past. (This spring is also about) getting to know the kids as well as getting to know the coaches.”
New offensive coordinator Dan Roberson came with Piske from Fairfield, with new defensive coordinator Shane Anderson taking over after helping Waco Midway reach the 4A state finals last year.
The Red Raiders rushed for 2,212 yards last year, but lose three-fourths of that to graduation. REL passed for a paltry 739 yards. There isn’t a quarterback on the roster who returns with varsity experience while incoming senior LaQuintas Wallace looks to bounce back from an injury-ravaged junior season.
“LaQuintas has looked really good; he’s really trying to learn and do things,” Piske said. “He’s always been such a good athlete that he could just do what he wanted to do (once he got the football), but now he’s learning the progression on his cuts and point of attack and that kind of stuff.”
As for quarterback, Lee currently has four on its spring roster, led by Jordan Richardson (played receiver last year) and Raleigh Poster (starting QB on JV last year).
“Right now all four are working hard,” Piske said.