FORDYCE — With only two starters on offense returning this season, the Fordyce Redbugs are completely starting over with an all-new team.
“It has been kind of fun, seeing a lot of new kids and new faces, but it is also kind of scary,” Fordyce head coach Tim Rodgers said. “A lot of these guys haven’t played as much because we had such a good group of seniors that graduated last year.”
When Fordyce begins its season, the Redbugs will have a new quarterback and an entirely new offensive and defensive line. The only two returning starters on offense are running back Larry Buckley and tight end Josh Stroud.
“At our skill positions, we’ve been good the last three or four years,” Rodgers said. “But the line — both offense and defense — is the part we are really concerned about this year.
“We got all new people in those spots and we won’t know what our expectations are, until we start hitting and getting into pads.”
Rodgers said the team did compete in some 7-on-7 tournaments and team camps and did well, but because it wasn’t a full game, there is no way to tell where they really stand as of now.
“We think we will get better as the year goes along because we are so young and inexperienced on the offensive line,” Rodgers said.
All-conference quarterback Cole Johnson graduated in May. The three-year starter completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,457 yards and 42 touchdowns last fall.
Buckley, a two-year starter returning this season, earned all-conference honors last season after rushing for 765 yards on 85 carries with eight touchdowns. He also caught 38 passes for 443 yards and eight scores.
“He is not very big, but he is strong and he runs hard,” Rodgers said. “He is one of those kids you can count on because he does just about everything.
“When it is his time to carry the ball, you can count on him because he will go full speed. He is the kind of kid that you love to coach.”
Rodgers said a lot of the Redbugs’ offense depends on how well Buckley plays week to week.
“We are going to depend on him a lot this year,” Rodgers said.
The Redbugs averaged 40 points per game last season, scoring at least five touchdowns in 11 games.
Stroud returns at tight end after catching a pair of passes last year, both for touchdowns, including a 56-yarder at Horatio.
“We have so many people that didn’t play last year at a lot of positions,” Rodgers said. “Everybody is new and a lot of them are in different positions.
“That is a big concern as far as offense goes.”
The Redbugs surrendered 21 points a game last fall, shutting out three opponents and holding three more to two scores or less.
“As the season went along, what hurt us was our secondary,” Rodgers said. “Most of those guys, we got coming back but we’ve had to move some of them around because other positions that we had to fill.”
Rodgers said the team is little bit quicker on defense this season, but may not be as strong or as physical as years’ past.
“We may not know what to expect out of our defense until we have a game,” Rodgers said. “So many people are in different positions and a lot of them didn’t even play last year.
“It is a real big concern.”
Despite the lack of experience, the biggest goal for the Redbugs this season is to beat rival Rison.
“It is one of the main things we are concerned about,” Rodgers said. “That’s what we end practice with and that’s what we end our offseason with.”
For the first time in three years, the game will be held at Fordyce.
“It is kind of exciting to have the game back over here,” Rodgers said. “The atmosphere, the people and everything us that goes along with that game.”