Indians may find immediate help as freshman talent improves

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University's football team has increased its talent level and depth enough to where the Indians no longer have to rely on true freshmen to play key roles -- which was not the case during coach Tim Billings' first two years with the program.

But as the Indians continue to recruit better talent, the possibility always exists that some of those raw rookies will be good enough to contribute right away.

That certainly appears to be the case this year as Southeast's current depth chart shows five true freshmen on the first two units, including a pair listed as starters.

"I think it shows that every year our recruiting has gotten better, and hopefully it will continue to get better in the future," said Billings, entering his fourth season with the Indians. "We've got some really talented freshmen."

Punter David Simonhoff, from Coral Gables, Fla., was recruited to be the Indians' regular punter from day one and that hasn't changed as he is firmly entrenched at that position. He was particularly impressive during Saturday's second and final scrimmage of the preseason, booming several punts well over 50 yards.

"I'm excited," Simonhoff said. "I'm just trying to kick well and help the team with field position."

The Newman Smith trio

The second true freshman listed first on the current depth chart is right guard Austin Russell, a 320-pounder who was one of three offensive line teammates from Newman Smith High School in Carrolton, Texas, to sign with the Indians this year

Southeast hopes that returning right guard Dan Bieg will be able to man his usual spot this year, but Bieg has been held out of contact drills because of a thumb injury and his status for the season opener is questionable.

If Bieg can't go, then Russell and senior converted defensive tackle Ron Byias will have to pick up the slack.

One of Russell's prep teammates last year, 290-pound Matt Foster, is listed No. 2 at right tackle. The other Newman Smith product is 290-pound John Ball.

"They're still young and have a lot to learn, but they've got a lot of potential and all have made good progress," offensive line coach Mike Chavez said of the Texas trio. "I think they were a pretty good steal for us. When we saw them all on film, the thing we noticed is their feet. They could all move."

The third true freshmen on the offensive depth chart is Adam Casper, a former standout at Anna-Jonesboro (Ill.) High School. The Indians don't always line up with a fullback, but when they do, converted defensive end John Paul Usrey -- the first-teamer -- and Casper will see action. Casper scored a touchdown in both of Southeast's preseason scrimmages.

Defensively, 280-pounder Fred Amano from San Pedro, Calif. -- he is the brother of Southeast senior center Eugene Amano -- is No. 2 at one of the tackle spots.

And not on the current depth chart but battling for playing time are several other true freshman, including wide receivers Scott NesSmith from Millbrook, Ala., Antonio Scaife from St. Louis and Nikelya Dennis from Miami, Fla.; tailback Elton Peterson from Melbourne, Fla.; and defensive end Edgar Jones from Rayville, La. NesSmith is the brother of Southeast junior wide out Chris NesSmith.

"We have a lot of true freshman who are really looking good and should help us this year," Billings said.

Billings said he is also high on true freshman Matt McComas, a defensive lineman from Jackson, but that McComas will almost certainly redshirt.

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