Carroll puts a wrap on spring practice when it welcomes Madison Parish to the Dog Pound on Friday at 6 p.m.
Second-year head coach Alex Washington is looking for major improvement after the Bulldogs lost only seven seniors from last year’s 2-8 outfit.
“This year, we’ll have right at 20 seniors,” Washington said. “All those young guys have experience now.”
Among the returnees for the Bulldogs is Cedric Woods, who begins his third season as the starting quarterback. A Louisiana Tech commit as a cornerback, the rising senior collected first-team All-District 2-3A honors as an athlete.
“Cedric’s a top recruit, and he’s (academically) qualified,” Washington said.
Paving the way up front are offensive linemen Isaiah Taylor and Kevin Hamilton. Entering his fourth season as a starter, Taylor was a first-team All-District selection last fall. Another senior, Kevin Hamilton is a third-year starter.
In an effort to shore up the line, middle linebacker Chartavion Errington will double as the starting center.
“He’s had a great spring so far,” Washington said of Errington. “He will make us more athletic at center this year.”
Despite the veteran presence of Taylor, Hamilton and Errington, the C-Dogs are dealing with a shortage of linemen.
“I don’t know why, but it’s real dry around here when it comes to the bigger kids,” said Washington, a former Carroll offensive lineman who went on to start for Ole Miss. “We just don’t have many of the bigger kids around here.
“Once this group graduates, we’ll be looking for linemen again next year. Our biggest struggle has been getting consistent line play. That’s the reason we run the spread — to counteract our lack of big guys. We have to be able to punch people off the ball.”
Carroll’s depth issues aren’t limited to the line as Washington expects to break camp with between 40-45 players.
“We are going to have to play a lot of guys both ways, especially on the line,” Washington said.
While the Bulldogs have continued to thrive on the hardwood under recently-retired coach Jesse Burnette, the once-proud football program has had only modest success in recent years.
“Most of the kids around here are more interested in basketball than football,” said Washington, who played both sports for the Bulldogs. “A lot of that is a testament to coach Burnette having so much success.”
In an effort to raise awareness of the school’s football tradition on campus, Washington has brought in Carroll grads James “Shack” Harris, the NFL’s first black starting quarterback, and local attorney Eddie Clark to speak to the team.
“We want our kids to know the history of the school,” Washington said.
Along with a year’s worth of seasoning, the Bulldogs have the advantage of being familiar with the coaching staff.
“Having a whole year and the spring, the kids are more comfortable with our schemes,” Washington said. “We haven’t made a lot of changes. Basically, we are just looking for better execution in the schemes we have.”
Linebacker Derrick Conner and defensive back Xylon Kirkpatrick, a pair of first-team All-District performers, are expected to set the tone defensively. Among the other key holdovers are Jackie Wallace and Jacoby Brown, who doubles at wide receiver.
Washington is hoping a handful of incoming freshmen will be able to contribute in backup roles.
“We have a good group of kids coming up from junior high,” Washington said. “The main problem is we haven’t been getting a lot of numbers.”
Washington has added two new assistant coaches this spring in Jamal Henry (defensive line) and Carroll alumnus Greg James (secondary).
For the Bulldogs to make a significant jump this season, they will need to follow up spring practice with a productive summer.
“We have to have a good summer. I think the kids are up for the challenge,” Washington said. “So far, they have been real competitive this spring.”
2019 CARROLL SCHEDULE
Sept. 6 at Booker T. Washington
Sept. 13 Madison
Sept. 20 at Bastrop
Sept. 27 at Huntington
Oct. 17at Caldwell (Thurs.)
Nov. 7at Sterlington* (Thurs.)