With the football season all but over, the time has come for the football team to find the players who will rise up the depth chart and have an impact in the future for the Bombers.
While the Bomber coaching staff will head out and look for potential recruits, they will have plenty of options from a junior varsity squad coached by Dan Elberty that is currently 4–1 this fall. Elberty has been in charge of the JV squad since 1999 and is responsible for making sure players are ready for the varsity squad at any given time.
Elberty said he makes sure all players see time in every game to prepare them in case their name is called up to varsity, but he said this approach can make it difficult to find standout players.
“If we go on the sideline with 60 guys, we play 60 guys, so reps are limited,” Elberty said. “A lot of kids don’t get into a rhythm, so it’s hard to tell, but we’ve had great performances at all our positions.”
While the rotation makes it difficult to notice standout players, there are a small handful of players who are making their marks on the varsity squad this fall. Junior running back Rakim Jones and freshman cornerback Malik Morris are two examples of players who have split time between the varsity and JV levels.
Jones and Morris have each seen playing time on both teams, with Jones playing in two varsity games this season and Morris playing in five varsity games — primarily on special teams. Morris said playing on JV helped him adapt to the speed of the collegiate game.
“Playing JV, you actually get experience playing against other teams, and you actually get to practice the schemes that the varsity run,” Morris said.
Morris said he wants to improve on his understanding of the Bomber defense to make the full-time move from special teams to defense.
Jones sits behind seniors Clay Ardoin and Jarret Naiden on the depth chart and, as a result, has only seen time late in games for the varsity team. Jones said he is ready to be the feature back when his time comes to be a starter.
“I’m ready to carry the load, hold the flag up for them and keep representing,” Jones said. “I learned hard from them, and I’m ready to carry it on.”
Jones faces competition from sophomore Tommy Padula, who Elberty says can be on the depth chart of most Division III teams. At 5 feet 7 inches, Padula is shifty and elusive, while Jones, who stands taller at 5 feet 10 inches, is more of a downhill runner. Elberty said he sees Jones refining his game as a running back.
“He’s starting to get his pass protections down and starting to see the field better,” Elberty said. “When he gets the ball and sees green, he’s going to green with authority, so it’s not going to take one guy to bring him down.”
Elberty is optimistic with the young players and said it is one of the finer groups he has had in his time with the program. He said he hopes the current success of his young players leads itself to success on bigger stages.
“They certainly are the building blocks and the types of people you want around you,” Elberty said. “They come in ready to go, flying all over the place. They’re strong, physical, smart players and are very coachable. I see great things for them in whatever role they fill for us down the road.”