Jamie Snider’s chess board of a depth chart may not be set for some time.
The Lions’ fourth-year coach has a tailback, Levi Moody, who has rushed for 2,200 yards combined in the past two seasons. Moody has personally buried some lesser opponents as Loris has risen close to the top levels of Class AA football.
Thing is, Snider needs Moody to be at his best on the other side of the ball if Loris is going to continue its ascent. He’s going to employ three other running backs to lighten the load and ensure the Lions are at full strength later in the year.
“Three of them are playing both ways. It’s one of those things where you have to have the best people on the field,” Snider said. “Levi has been an important cog in our defense for so long. He’s got to be there for us.”
With Moody also playing defensive tackle, Loris had the best defense in the class for portions of last season. It finished the year giving up a stout 11.9 points per game, a figure that would have been in single digits had it not been for a lopsided loss to Timberland in the third round of the playoffs.
With just four returning defensive players from last year’s team, it’s left Snider making some hard decisions about how to proceed. He doesn’t see them as sacrifices, necessarily, but he also knows the Lions have been as relatively dominant as they have in the past three seasons because of that defense.
He’s spent more time finding ways to replace his entire linebacking unit than worrying about Ta’Jay Williams taking over the quarterback position.
Splitting running back reps between Moody, Charoldric Williams, Stacy Dozier and Demetrius Hemingway (all seniors) is nothing compared to replacing two defensive backs, including Ryan Bellamy, arguably the more dangerous Lion under Snider.
“As coaches, we’re expecting those linebackers to develop and expect them to be as good,” Snider said. “What we’re looking for is if they’re not quite as good, how much progress do they make from [last] Friday to this Friday. We like our starters on defense and think they’ll do a good job. They’re just not as experienced.”
That’s not how Moody approaches it. Whether he has more help on offense or not, he wants to continue the tradition that has boosted Loris from the middle of the pack in Class AA.
“You can’t think about it. You’ve got to go out and play,” he said. “We’ve had some good defenses in the past. We’ve got to keep up that reputation.”