Take 5: Ray Woodard

BRI.com: Going back to the Spring, what player(s) surprised you/impressed you the most?

RW: Going into the Spring, I first wanted to look at the new additions to our team. Both QB’s impressed me with their intelligence and how quickly they seemed to pick up our offense. Brendan Langley showed flashes but needs reps with our QB’s to gain the consistency we will need.  Cameron Hampton can run and play the game. Out of our returning players, freshman Martell Hawthorne really came on and had an impressive spring. I look for him to have a break out season this year.

BRI.com: The last couple of years Lamar has held their spring practices earlier than most other schools across the country.  Is there any particular reason or strategy for having them earlier?

RW: We have warm weather and can get away with going that early. It affords us the opportunity to have extra time for injuries to heal following spring ball, plus we can get them back in the weight room and study hall. I believe both have been beneficial for us.

BRI.com: How healthy is the team going into fall camp?

RW: We are in good shape. We should be close to 100 percent.

BRI.com: Are any players making any notable position changes from last season?

RW: I don’t think so. Michael Handy will play both in the backfield and at receiver, but he did that last season.

BRI.com: What are the realistic expectations of the offense early on after having to replace the production of Caleb Berry and Mark Roberts along with a new Offensive Coordinator?

RW: Well our passing game depends the on timing and that takes reps. Our QB’s are new but a lot of the supporting cast around them are returning. We are expecting great things from our offense, but we realize we will have to work to get the timing and consistency out of our offensive unit.

BRI.com: What players do you think are primed to have a break-out year in 2015?

RW: Like I said previously Martell Hawthorne really came on this spring. With so many players back, it’s exciting to watch their progress. I feel we have a number of players that are on the verge of having a break out season. Also, if we can keep Kade Harrington healthy all season he will put up All-American type numbers. As good as he has been the past 2 seasons, we have not had him completely healthy.

BRI.com: Who do you expect to be the vocal leaders on offense and defense this season?

RW: Offensively we have 2 QB’s that aren’t “rah rah” guys. That’s ok, they will lead by example just as Berry did. The vocal leaders on offense will come from our receiving corp. We have quite a few experienced receivers that like to talk it up. Defensively, it’s a much shorter list to point out the players who are not vocal. Vocal leadership on defense will definitely NOT be a problem this season.

BRI.com: What was the biggest surprise to you from this past recruiting cycle?

RW: I don’t know if it surprised me, but we signed the best freshman class of offensive linemen that we have signed since I have been here. We signed large-framed linemen with good feet. They have the potential to give us great depth early on, and as they develop, we could have a very strong offensive line for years to come. In addition, coming off the 8-4 season, coupled with my new contract extension, there seemed to be more energy and excitement during the recruiting season. I believe we signed our best class to date.

BRI.com: We’ve seen a lot of what appear to be quality walk-ons coming this fall.  What does it take to convince a kid to turn down potential scholarship money at a D-II school to try to earn it at Lamar?

RW: I believe our walk-on players see this program as one that treats walk-ons fairly and will give them the opportunity to compete for playing time and scholarship money. We have many examples to point to. Reggie Begelton walked on and is now on full scholarship and our career receptions leader. I was a walk-on that went on to receive a full scholarship and made it all the way to the NFL. I treat walk-ons fairly having been one myself. I realize the importance of having a good walk-on program.  It can benefit the individuals and make our football program stronger.

BRI.com: What are you expecting from some of these walk-ons?

RW: I’m expecting them to come in and step on the field and get my attention right away. I expect them to come in and compete and earn a spot on our team and develop into the type of person and player that I feel we can’t win without.

BRI.com: In your experience so far, what has been the most challenging aspect of being a D-I Head Coach?

RW: I think the biggest challenge for this particular job has to be the fact that I had to start a program from scratch. There isn’t much experience for doing it this way. I just approached as I have every other challenge during my playing or coaching career. I saw it as a tremendous opportunity and if I worked hard and kept being positive, the potential was there. I feel we are beginning to see our hard work pay off.

BRI.com: Are there any facility upgrade ideas being kicked around?

RW: We replaced the floor in the locker room. As far as upgrades go we will plan together what the next step should be. As of today we do not have any immediate plans.

BRI.com: Not sure if you can comment on this at the moment but can you update us on the status of LB Anthony Beard and WR Dom Wheeler?

RW: Anthony is married and has a beautiful baby girl and has decided to pursue his career. He did a great job for us and will be missed. Wheeler is academically ineligible.

BRI.com: Thank you as always for your time coach and good luck this season.

RW: Thank you guys.



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