By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Rodney Southern knows who is going to throw the ball. He even has some ideas on who is going to run it.
But, as of now, the biggest question facing his Belton Tigers midway through spring practices is who is going to block for them.
The Tigers, who went 8-3 last season, graduate four starters from last season's offensive line, including center Michael Gall.
"Losing those four starters, that is probably one unit that has to be cohesive and we are still not there," Southern said. "We took a big step in our scrimmage Friday, but we still have a ways to go there."
Austin Farr is the only returning starter for Belton, but Colby Williams saw action on the line last year.
Outside of those two players, Southern believes any of eight players have a shot of playing time or even a starting position next season.
"We have moved a couple of guys and we might move a couple of more just to get enough depth at that spot," Southern said. "Right now, I can't say these are the five that are going to start."
Belton attempts to find those answers as it scrimmages again Wednesday before it heads to an Under Armour 7-on-7 tournament Saturday in Cedar Hill. The spring game is slated to kickoff 7 p.m. May 25.
"We will probably split offense and defense 1s and 2s and put them on different teams, much like we did a year ago," Southern said.
Another key area for the Tigers to replace this spring is running back, where last season Southern rode Donavan Williams for 1,332 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Vying to replace Williams is Rayshon Jones, who moved over from nose tackle, Kyle Adamson, the junior varsity back last season, and Brandon Rhoads, a freshman.
"I think it will be different because we have different types of backs now," Southern said. "We don't have to rely on a one-back guy all the time. We are going to get in some two-back stuff and take advantage of Durham."
One set role is quarterback. Peter Shelburne threw for 2,280 yards last season, but had 14 interceptions and 13 touchdowns passes. But, two of his main targets are back.
Wide receiver Derick Bates caught 44 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns last season and tight end Durham Smythe is a three-star recruit committed to Texas. The main loss is Levi Jordan, who placed second in the discus at the state track meet Saturday and had 40 receptions for 606 yards in 2011.
"We have Derick Bates back and Chase Thornal back and a couple of young guys, who have had a good spring to this point," Southern said. "We are going to be as tall, but maybe not as tall, but maybe not as athletic, because obviously Levi was a pretty good athlete with what he did this weekend in the discus."
Smythe had 22 catches for 341 yards as a junior, but will also be counted on to be the lynch-pin in a rebuilding offensive line for the Tigers.
"He will play a true tight end for us," Southern said. "He is 230-something pounds now and he has gotten a lot stronger this offseason ... He may at the same time be standing up in the slot, too."
Defensively, Belton has holes to fill in its secondary with the loss of Tramaine Rose and Shane Ward, who each had played three varsity seasons. Garrett Curry and Ben Munoz both changed positions to fill those gaps.
Belton has 10 defensive linemen with varsity experience and also returns linebackers Ryan Stinson, Tyler Santellana and Cameron David.
"Everywhere else we are as solid as we have been since I have been here," Southern said.