Written by Aldean Starr, Staff Writer
It may be April, but it’s always football season in Valdosta.
The VSU Blazers are months away from the Sep. 3 opener against the Albany State Rams, but they started preparing last week.
For the first time in nine seasons, the Blazers started spring practice with a new head coach in Kerwin Bell. Bell, a former Florida Gator and NFL quarterback, arrives fresh off a successful tenure at Jacksonville University.
“These guys have been trained,” said Bell. “They’re in a good program and you have to give Coach Dean and all the coaches a lot of credit. They understand the process: That you have to work hard for anything you get in life.”
Bell will be tasked with replacing a record-setting back in Cedric O’Neal and a starting quarterback in E.J. Hilliard. Roland Rivers, who received significant playing time in 2015, is expected to be the starting signal caller. Rivers possesses a cannon arm and an aggressive mentality that perfectly suits Bell’s pro-style offense.
The Blazers kick off the spring returning four of their all-American honorees and 39 new signees this year. VSU started its spring practice in full equipment on March 28 and will continue until the spring game on April 23 at 4 p.m.
“I am really pleased with just the way the guys are focused,” said Bell. “They are competing their butt off. I will say it has been some very competitive practices and guys are trying to get better. They are trying to compete and win spots and it has been a real joy to coach them so far.”
Throughout spring practice the Blazers will host two scrimmages and a spring game. The first scrimmage is this Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
“If you want to come out, come watch these practices for the next three weeks, it will be entertaining,” said Bell.