VSU Trojans have lofty goals
By Ryan Lazo
Aug 28, 2013, 13:16
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — A new season brings with it new opportunity. Add a new coach into the mix and you have a brand-new atmosphere and new-found confidence as you head into the season.
Virginia State University’s football team is the midst of those feelings as they ended a week of fully-padded practices with two live scrimmages. It didn’t take long for those in attendance to notice the new man in charge is focused on bringing fast-paced action to the Trojans.
Head coach Latrell Scott takes over a VSU squad that struggled to put points on the scoreboard last season, averaging just 18 points per contest. That should change under the former Richmond head coach who shattered 10 team records, including touchdowns and wins, under his watchful eye.
“We want it more,” Jaivon Smallwood said after practice. “We want it way, way more.”
And that approach of wanting success seemed evident from even the warm-ups. Everything the Trojans did was fast and filled with purpose — from stretching, to passing, to sprints and even field goal kicking — this VSU squad is demanding perfection from each other.
While perfection isn’t likely, the improvement they have shown in the short time practicing under Scott gives a promise of success in the future.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but they have come out to play,” Scott said of his team. “We asked the guys to be better than they were in the Spring and they’ve done that to this point. I don’t think we are in the physical shape we need to be, but we’re going to keep plugging away.”
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
A desire to keep plugging away. Improvement over the course of a few short months. These are marks of a team on the rise.
And it certainly helps if the said team has numerous playmakers at their disposal to help them reach those lofty goals. These Trojans don’t just have one playmaker, but two who are go-to guys on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Sean Smith, a senior defensive back, is the unquestioned leader of the defense after a stellar junior season saw him record five interceptions along with 42 total tackles.
But that would be only part of the story.
In addition, Smith is a jack-of-all-trades for the Trojans as he returns both punts and kick-offs where he’s able to display his trademark anticipatory plays. It’s an area he continually works on which he knows his teammates notice.
“I go through every day hard, letting my back-ups understand what I’m doing,” Smith said. “I play my technique and do what the coaches ask me to do along with using my natural athleticism.”
However, more important than all of the tackles, interceptions and yardage gained on kick-offs, is the valuable experience Smith can lean on to help his young team in both difficult times and times of prosperity.
“Sean’s played a lot of football,” Scott explained. “He can lean on those positive and negative experiences throughout his career that other guys haven’t been in. He can tell you from experience, he’s not just preaching.”
While Smith certainly brings both shutdown ability in the secondary and fearsome hitting as evidenced by a loud pop whenever he zeroes in on someone like a laser-guided missile, nothing makes the coach smile more than when he talks about Smallwood.
Smallwood led the Trojans last season in receiving with 40 receptions, totaling 508 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-2 menacing target can also be physical with cornerbacks, constantly shaking them off to gain the extra yardage.
During the scrimmage, Smallwood lined up as both the outside wideout and slot receiver to get as many touches as he could. And when he did, it took multiple Trojans’ defenders to bring him down.
“That’s why I stayed over the summer — to get bigger,” Smallwood said with a smile.
It’s that effort that makes Scott’s head fill with ideas.
“I’m a receiver’s coach by trade and when you have guys like Jaivon, Gene (Holloman) and Markee Brooks, it makes you want to find ways to get these guys the ball,” Scott said. “And when you got a trigger man like Justin Thorpe, it makes it easier.”
With numerous skill-position players at their disposal, a team willing to work and a coach trying to find any advantage they have, the Trojans could be on the verge of having, at the very least, an exciting season.