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Inaugural Mercer football team nearing end of first spring practice

New Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb, left, is eager to get started leading the Bears in their first football season.

New Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb, left, is eager to get started leading the Bears in their first football season.

MACON — With a handful of practices remaining before his program’s first spring game, Mercer football head coach Bobby Lamb knows a fair amount about his team.

The Bears are already deep and talented in a variety of areas.

“We’re deep at corner; we’re deep at safety on the defensive side of the ball,” Lamb said. “On the offensive side of the ball, we’re pretty deep at wide receiver, and we’re pretty deep at running back.”

Now, about those big players in a three-point stance ...

“Notice I didn’t say offensive linemen or defensive linemen,” Lamb said. “Those are the key positions where you win the game, and we’re not very deep there. We have some quality players there, but we don’t have the depth that we need right now.”

Lamb hopes to exit the April 13 spring game with a depth chart he can write down with pen rather than pencil.

“Right now, we’re trying to finish up with spring practice and trying to identify our top 22 and hopefully some backups,” he said. “That’s what we’re still in the process of doing.”

The identification process will continue after the spring game.

“The quality of our depth is not where we want it right now, and that’s what we’re searching for,” Lamb said. “We knew that was going to be the situation.”

Lamb and his staff will have to wait until 31 newcomers report in August to see how the depth chart changes. About a third of that group is made up of linemen.

“We’re going to bring those guys in, and we’re going to give them every opportunity to move up the depth chart quick,” Lamb said with a little chuckle.

Lamb said quarterback John Russ has had a quality spring.

“(He’s) established himself as the No. 1 guy,” Lamb said of the 6-foot, 196-pounder. “He’s got a great arm; he can throw it to all areas of the field. And he can run good enough to run the zone-read and option plays that you need to run.”

J.T. Palmer and JoJo Marshall are solid receivers, and Josh Jones has moved from quarterback to wideout.

“That gives you three speed threats that we feel like are pretty doggone good,” said Lamb, who noted that Jones will still get plenty of practice at quarterback as the Bears’ “wildcat” option there.

Grant Radakovich, son of Clemson athletics director and former Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich, has stood out at tight end, and Caleb Brown and Payton Usher have looked good at running back.

Mercer might not have depth up front on either side, but the Bears aren’t without talent.

“Our center, Kirby Southard, has taken every snap and done a great job,” Lamb said. “Wilson Heres is a transfer from Air Force that has done a nice job. Mitch Payne is a big offensive tackle, our left tackle.”

Chase Orr at nose guard and outside linebackers Tosin Aquebor and Northside alum Corey Lockett are among those on defense who have drawn attention, as well.

Defensive lineman Cody Jones of Bleckley County earned a spot from tryouts.

Mercer is in the same routine as everybody else who’s playing this fall, but Lamb was interested to see how the spring would go after the first season of practice last fall.

“I’ve been very encouraged with how well we have transferred our knowledge and our energy level from the fall practice in to our spring practice,” he said. “Obviously, fall practice, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Now, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel for these young men.

“They’ve really stepped forward and done well.”