Buffs close competitive spring football season


Loukyee Songprasert

Running back Eddy Williams runs as WT defenders chase down Williams during the annual Maroon and White spring game at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium on Friday, April 20.

Austin Heinen, Former Associate Editor

As another season of spring football has concluded at West Texas A&M, the Buffaloes now shift their focus to summer workouts in preparation for the final season at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.

Head coach Hunter Hughes said at the beginning of spring practices that competition was the point of emphasis. Hughes has seen the improvements his players have made over the 15 practices, and is happy about the direction the team is trending towards.

“I think, overall it went relatively smooth,” Hughes said. “The way we practiced and the things we did, what we got accomplished, install wise. I’m very pleased with the effort our guys gave and very pleased with the direction we are headed.”

During the spring football season, the one thing teams do is fix what went wrong last season. On the offensive side, last season proved troublesome for the WT offense as they averaged just 14 points per game and about 255 yards a game. Offensive coordinator Ryan McDonough says tweaks were made in all areas as the offense looks to improve their style.

“Biggest thing is just getting better at what we do,” McDonough said. “ It’s about getting better at our style. That includes quarterback play, better up front, better in the backfield, we got to do a better job at receiver. That’s what we were focusing on, and everyday we’re just focusing on getting better.”

Adding some transfers and familiar faces back into the offense should prove to be helpful to the offense as they move forward. With transfers coming in the get reps early and having player like running back Eddy Williams back after missing the previous season, and receiver PJ Leonce back in action after battling injuries, the offense has certainly improved their depth, increasing competition and player accountability as well.

“Everyone has been holding each other accountable,” Leonce said. “Everybody is trying to do their job, instead of trying to do someone else’s job. We just trying to work hard.”

For some players that have season experience now, like quarterback Justin Houghtaling, the spring practices also helped on improving themselves.

“For me, definitely my timing of throws and consistency with completing my throws,” Houghtaling said. “Just trusting the system as well as flowing with the system.”

Hughes says that there remains plenty of work to do with the offense, but he has also seen players and parts of the offense take big strides in a positive direction.

“We’ve been shifting the offensive line a lot and I was pleased with what they did,” Hughes said. “I like the competition we’ve had amongst our quarterbacks. I like what they are doing. Then I also think we need receivers to finish. We got to catch the ball and make plays when we get the opportunity to.”

Defensively, the Buffs started the season strong but struggled towards the end as injuries thinned the defensive depth. As players get healthy again and some getting back on the field, defensive coordinator Miles Kochevar was pleased to see some familiar faces return, as well as see other players step into new positions or roles and grow into those spots.

“This was a good season of spring ball,” Kochevar said. “We had some guys that had to adjust and play some new positions and were put into difficult spots where they had to learn on the fly. It was good to see them get out there and compete. You got to have that competitive nature to be successful. We have that competitiveness in our team and each position. We had that during the spring and we got to make sure we carry that over to this summer and fall camp.”

Various coaches say that it’s the little things that make big improvements. Defensive back Kevon Thomas feels like the defense especially has focused on the little things and thus improved the team’s chemistry.

“I think we got better as a team,” Thomas said. “We’re playing faster and more physical. We understand the defense better now and worked on the small things like running to the ball, making hits, things like that.”

Like the rest of the team, the defense has progressed. To Hughes, that has also helped other parts of the team improve as well.

“I think they have continuity amongst themselves than the offense, especially in the front seven,” Hughes said. “But I think they picked up on some things that we did and moved with that and they got better. I’m excited some of the young guys coming in, getting reps and seeing their progress.”