First, Chuck Robertson is the new Bobcat offensive line coach. He replaces Ron Brewer, who left over the summer to take a similar position at Gulfport High School.
Next, the Bobcats only have two returning starters from last season and will have several newcomers to start, as well as being backups.
“The speed of the athletes is a lot quicker at this level,” said Robertson, who was at West Jones High School last year. “But, I’m adjusting pretty well. My younger kids are having to adjust, but the time we had with them in the summer helped tremendously. They came into camp in a lot better shape and they are ahead of the game.
“I was really pleased with the way the experienced guys came back into camp. Last year really helped them because I think it made them work a little harder over the summertime. Experience makes a lot of things better.”
Returning starters will be right tackle Jalen Beavers and left guard Levell Hartfield.
Beavers (6-3, 330) was a second-team All-MACJC South Division performer as a freshman out of Stringer. Hartfield (6-0, 280) is a third-year sophomore from Moss Point. Hartfield was moved to center initially in the offseason, but has now gone back to his natural position at guard.
“Jalen has tremendous upside,” Robertson said. “He has a great body and great feet. He came in to camp in much better shape and just has a little bit to go to get into game shape. Levell is a three-year guy, which helps tremendously. There is not much for those two to learn as far as learning the plays. It’s just a matter of getting their technique down and refining some things.
“You know, it’s hard when you realize you only have two years with these guys. Once you get used to them, you have to bring new kids in to the program. In high school, you may coach a kid from the 7th-grade on up.”
A newcomer to offense this fall is James Anthony (6-4, 275) out of Wilkinson County. Anthony played in the defensive line as a freshman and has made the shift to left offensive tackle.
“Again, James has tremendous upside,” Robertson said. “He is one of the most athletic offensive linemen we have. He has great feet, great hands and a wonderful attitude. He is a good kid and a joy to be around. He has really bought into being an offensive lineman because once some guys play defense they have a hard time making the switch to offense.”
At center, the Bobcats are going with Travis Brogle (6-2, 280) out of Bay High.
“Travis is getting the majority of snaps at center and has a tremendous work ethic,” Robertson said. “He is just a hardnosed football player. He does not have tremendous size, but has great hands and has a little grit about him. He competes very well. He has taken hold of the center spot and that helps me out because I get to move Levell back to guard. That’s a double-plus for us.”
It’s a battle for the starting right guard slot between Petal sophomore Jaryd Whitman (6-2, 305) and Gautier freshman Tyrone Patterson (6-2, 290).
“Jaryd has a foot up right now because he was here last year,” Robertson said. “You just cannot coach experience and that helps him out right now. Jaryd came out and put in some extra work in the summertime, too. But Tyrone is pushing him pretty good. He is a tremendous athlete, but the speed of the game is pretty hard on him right now. Once he adjusts to the speed of the game he will be a tremendous offensive lineman.”
Backing up Hartfield is Dallas Carter (6-3, 290), a freshman from North Forrest.
“Dallas is a wonderful kid,” said Robertson. “He is a ‘yes sir, no sir,’ type of kid. He is having to adjust because they ran the option in high school and we do more ‘inside zone’ and pass the ball more than they did. But he has a great work ethic.”
Behind Beavers will be Aaron Bourgeois (6-3, 330) out of Bay High.
“Aaron came into camp a little out of shape and he struggled a bit to get into shape,” Robertson said. “But he is a good kid and has great feet. He has to understand that he has to work a little harder to get to where he wants to be.”
Spencer Stovall (6-0, 295) out of Ridgeland is working behind Brogle at center. Stovall played at Southwest Mississippi Community College two years ago.
“Spencer has done everything we have asked of him,” Robertson said. “He is a tremendous team player. I have moved him around from guard to tackle to center and he just fits wherever I need to fit him. He has a tremendously positive attitude.”
Behind Anthony at left tackle will be Chandler Rhymes (6-5, 335), a freshman out of George County.
“Chandler was signed as a long snapper and I’ve taken him and started letting him get some reps at left tackle,” Robertson said. “The speed of the game is a little quick for him right now and adjusting to the college game has been tough for him. Our offense is a little different than what they ran at George County. But he is a tremendous kid, works hard every day and is another ‘yes sir, no sir,’ type of kid. He is probably a year away from seeing a lot of playing time.”
Even though Robertson is new and the majority of the offensive linemen are new to their roles, he is quite pleased with where his troops have progressed up to this point.
“I have zero complaints with them and the way they work,” Robertson said. “We ask them to be on time and have a good attitude and they have responded really well. We still have a long way to go, but everybody does at this point in camp.
“We are just looking forward to August 29.”
The Bobcats of head coach Ray Perkins will open the 2013 season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Holmes Community College. The game will be audiocast on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.