Area underclassmen add to race for Indians' starting spots

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

There is quality if not quantity regarding local products on Southeast Missouri State University's football team.

The Indians list just seven former high school athletes from the immediate area on their active roster -- but three of those hold down starting positions and two more do all the place-kicking.

"The guys from this area all played really well for us last year and we expect them to be even better this year," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "We've been happy with the guys we've gotten from around here and we recruited even more but didn't get some of them."

Five of the locals were thrown into the fire as true freshmen last year for the rebuilding Indians, which Billings said will make them that much better this season.

Jackson High School graduates Ray Goodson and Caleb Daniel were part-time starters last season, at tight end and defensive tackle, respectively. Linebacker O.J. Turner (Cape Girardeau Central) also moved into the starting lineup about midway through the season.

Derek Kutz (St. Vincent) handled all the field-goal and extra-point duties while Brian Emmendorfer (Central) was the kickoff man.

"They're all a lot more mature. It's amazing what a year can do," Billings said. "Ray, Caleb and O.J. all have gained a lot of weight and gotten a lot stronger. Derek and Brian have also improved."

Goodson, a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder, had eight receptions for 68 yards last year, but Billings envisions an even bigger role for him this season, using him at times in the backfield and even some at wide receiver.

"I've gotten bigger and stronger and I think I can contribute a lot more this year," Goodson said. "Me and some of the other young guys feel like we're veterans now."

Daniel (6-6, 270), who had 25 tackles and one quarterback sack a year ago, has been one of the more noticeable beneficiaries of Southeast's offseason strength program. He has gained about 30 pounds since last season.

"I was surprised I got to play that much last year, but we didn't have that many defensive tackles and it was kind of by default," Daniel said. "This year I feel like I've really earned it. I'm a lot bigger and stronger."

Turner (6-0, 210) had 42 tackles and one sack last year. Like Goodson and Daniel, he's looking for even bigger things this season.

"Coming in last year, I didn't know how much I would get to play, but I got lucky and got to play a lot," Turner said. "It was a big adjustment, everybody being bigger, stronger and faster than in high school. Now, having a year experience, I feel I can do a lot better."

It would be hard for Kutz (5-10, 160) to perform much better than he did as a freshman, except maybe to get a few more opportunities. The holder of five state high school kicking records, Kutz connected on seven of eight field-goal attempts and 30 of 32 extra points last year. He had a long field goal of 45 yards and his miss was from 49 yards in the season opener.

"I was pleased with last year," Kutz said. "I didn't get many attempts, but I did the best with what I could. I feel like I've gotten better."

Emmendorfer, whose field goals of 58 and 57 yards at Central rank second and third on the state's all-time high school list, showed a solid leg on kickoffs last year and Billings said he has improved considerably in that department.

Rounding out the local products are junior wide receiver Brandon Amick (Scott City) and freshman tight end Seth McDowell (Jackson), a pair of walk-ons.

Amick (6-0, 160) attended Southeast the past two years but did not play football. After being approached by coaches, he joined the squad to help out the Indians' depleted receiving corps and has been one of the big surprises of the preseason, quickly moving to No. 2 on the depth chart. He figures to see quality action.

McDowell (6-2, 220) will likely redshirt, but Billings said he has plenty of promise for the future.

One more former area high school athlete, walk-on sophomore quarterback T.J. Erlacker (Central), is ineligible this year after transferring from Missouri Valley College, although he has been practicing with the team.

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