West Virginia State University football coach Jon Anderson learned quickly in his first coaching assignment how important it is to keep his players level headed and insist on the concept of team.
Then again Anderson, who typically shies away from singling out players, also knows a gem when he sees it.
During spring practice Anderson, the former defensive coordinator at NCAA Division II power University of Sioux Falls, has watched three of his players emerge as leaders.
Senior offensive lineman Ricardo Figueroa, senior tight end Jon Cabral-Ramsey and junior defensive back Romell Haley is the trio Anderson will lean on in his second season.
“Last year we had some success and there are guys that we’re going to build around,” said Anderson, who was 0-11 in his first assignment as a head football coach. “There are guys we’re going to use as examples. These are guys that are important to our program, guys who do the right things on the field and do the right things in class.”
Figueroa, a 6-foot-3, 285-pounder, was a bright spot on the State offensive line, which struggled much of last season as the Yellow Jackets finished next-to-last in the 11-team league in rushing offense with 78.4 yards per game.
The 6-2, 230-pound Cabral-Ramsey finished second on the team in receiving last season with 42 catches for 356 yards and two of State’s six receiving touchdowns. The 6-foot, 180-pound Haley was tied for seventh in the Mountain East Conference in passes defensed with 13 and was second in the league in interceptions with six.
Figueroa was all-MEC honorable mention, while Cabral-Ramsey and Haley were second-team all-conference selections.
Anderson said many of his players have “worked really hard this winter to become better.”
The Yellow Jackets have 60 players participating in spring practice, which is almost double the number of last April — barely four months after Anderson was named head coach.
“Anytime you do something for a second time you’re more comfortable,” said Anderson, whose team was sixth in the league in passing last season. “That’s one thing our staff has done a good job with is evaluating everything we do. We’ve evaluating everything we do in the program.
“We’re tweaking a few things to be able to do it better the second time around. I expect the same out of our players. It’s OK to make a mistake, but don’t make the same mistake twice.”
State’s practice will culminate with the spring game at 3 p.m. on April 26 at Lakin Field.
The day will get underway with Yellow Jacket Kids Day for boys and girls in grades kindergarten through the 8th grade. A free football clinic will begin with registration at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at noon.
The clinic will be guided by Anderson and State assistant coaches.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail