Spring Update: Lions Football
Q & A with Jesse Godding
Assessing spring results and recruiting needs
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- It has been said that spring is when nature gets back on its feet and fights again. So it is with football teams.
The Southwestern Assemblies of God University team, who are coming off of back-to-back 4-6 seasons, the added impetus to rise above the .500 hump is compelling. It would be the Lions’ first since joining the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which has between 250-300 member schools.
Veteran Head Coach Jesse Godding and the Lions just completed their spring camp, which was capped with an on-campus scrimmage, is as optimistic as ever.
There was a strong cast of players who took part in the drills, giving credence to that enthusiasm.
The defensive secondary, the linebacking crew, kickers, a core of wide receivers, and a veteran, returning quarterback has Coach Godding as a happy as a raccoon in a smokehouse.
If a young offensive line returns in the fall with a steelworkers attitude, and providing a bolstered defensive front lives up to their billing, the Lions will be as "dangerous as hammering dynamite," as James G. Huneker once said.
That’s an “if” that effects control at the line scrimmage.
Running back appeared to have more questions than answers when camp ended.
The coming summer months, until the start of fall camp in August, will determine how long the stays on its feet and fights.
Recently Coach Godding took a few moments to answer questions about the team.
Q1) The three-week spring camp ended with a good scrimmage on Saturday. How would you grade the performance of the team?
Coach Godding: Overall, I was OK with the progress through the spring. We had much of our focus on the offense. The defense and didn’t do as much scheme implementation as we have done in past years. But, in what we wanted to focus on, I felt we progressed through spring ball.
Q2) What were the areas of play that graded best?
CG: The young men playing in our defensive backfield and at the OLB’er (Outside Linebacker) position have an opportunity to be very special (this fall). That group of individuals has worked hard over the winter to become better and it showed this spring.
Q3) The coaching staff targets growth in strategic places in camp. What were those and what elements were you most satisfied?
CG: On the offensive line our goal was to develop a little more of a “lunch pail (blue collar) attitude,” a desire to knock people off the ball. Those guys are big but we were absorbing too many blows and not delivering enough (of them).
We had a couple runningbacks that we wanted to see run. Unfortunately they had nagging injuries toward the end of spring that slowed them down. But that gave us an opportunity to see some younger guys run.
There were some new faces on the DL (defensive line) that we needed to see and we really wanted to develop some younger guys.
Q4) Were there any injuries of note during the camp? If so, will they be healed by August?
CG: There were the normal spring ball injuries but luckily nothing that will prevent participation beyond the spring.
Q5) Care to list some individual players who performed well in camp?
CG: Our quarterbacks had a good camp. Reid (Golson, Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ., Grandview HS) has grown so much in his command of the game and his patience in the pocket was impressive this spring.
I have already mentioned our defensive backs. Those guys are hardworking and consistently put in a good day’s work.
Q6) How many players participated in spring camp, and how does that number compare to recent years?
CG: I believe on the campus we had 61 players to start the spring. Between injuries, baseball players, and other commitments there were 52 that went completely through the spring drills.
Retention remains a key for us. For SAGU to be successful in football we need to retain players and develop them. Certainly spring ball is a great part of that process.
Q7) In terms of those who caught your eye - revealing the fruit of a strong off-season - who stepped up?
CG: Deonte Morrison (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS), Glendez Matthews (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS), are two that immediately come to mind. Trevor Van-Kempen (Henderson, Nv / Mtn View Christian) is another.
Deonte put on about 20 pounds and continues to progress. Glendez was hurt much of the fall and, in part, that was a strength issue. Trevor has blown up over the winter and was, all-around, a better player this spring.
Q8) How would you describe the attributes of the defense you hope to see on the field in September - based on what you saw this spring?
CG: In terms of yards allowed per game and pass defense, last year was the best in school history. This defense was fast and actually got faster this spring with a couple of transfer and redshirt freshmen additions to the defense.
If they continue to work hard over the summer they have a chance to be the best unit this institution has seen defensively.
Q9) The offensive and defensive lines, a senior starter at QB, experience at WR, an All-America candidate at K and some gifted cover guys in the secondary... where do we look strong as we head into the next four months?
CG: Our offensive line should be capable of producing in the fall. There are five starters returning with no seniors and that group includes a lot of people who have game experience. QB makes a team go or not and we have a competitive winner in my estimation.
Our kicking games should be solid. James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) became so consistent last year and continues to work hard to get better in terms of accuracy and distance.
Bonus Q) How is this year's recruiting class shaping up?
CG: The beauty (or curse) of NAIA football is that recruiting will end for us about August 1st. Our coaches have done a good job attempting to recruit the need areas.
We wanted help in our DL and feel that we have accomplished that in the upcoming class.
We seem to be stockpiling receivers, and we can use the weapons.
We’re bringing in two or three runningbacks that will either have an immediate impact or we feel will develop into quality NAIA players.
We are still beating the bushes for an O-Lineman or two and a linebacker.
The Lions play an 11-game schedule that begins with a pair of home games on September 7 against Bethany College (Ks) and Sept. 14 when Howard Payne University (Tx) visits the 10,000 seat Lumpkins Stadium.