Mercer football coach talks about upcoming season
The Mercer Bears are getting ready for the new season on the gridiron with hopes of capturing their first Southern Conference title.
The Bears arguably have an advantage this season with multiple high-level quarterbacks, including star Robert Riddle, Kaelin Riley, Harrison Frost and Dylan Fromm.
The Telegraph sat down with Bears head football coach Bobby Lamb to discuss some of the big changes and key players to watch this season.
How has the offseason been going?
Starting this weekend, we will have them for five weeks. Then preseason camp will begin in August. It is here. The heat is here so you know its getting close to football time.
Robert Riddle was a key for you last season until he got hurt. How important will he be at the quarterback spot this season?
Spring practice was phenomenal with him out there. I think Robert Riddle will be one of the best quarterbacks in our league for the next three years, if not in the country. We are excited to see what he can do because we only got to see a snippet of his performances. He is stronger and bigger.
I am very encouraged on what we can do on the offensive side of the ball. You’ve added some pieces at the quarterback position to go behind Robert Riddle.
Tyray Devezin will return at running back this season after a breakout year. What does he bring to the table for your team?
The great thing about Tyray is he is a fine young man. He is one of the strongest individuals on our football team. It really shows in his running style. He is a really physical runner. He takes on a lot of contact but he is an exciting player. All of our guys love to see him run and they love to see them safeties’ eyes when he breaks through the line of scrimmage because it’s getting ready to be a pretty good collision. He gained 925 yards as a backup last season til Tee Mitchell got hurt, and he became the full-time starter. Hopefully, Tyray will have a big season his junior year.
You will take on North Carolina at the end of the season. Last year you took on FBS opponent Memphis first. Is there any difference in preparing for that game being at the end of the schedule?
I don’t think there is a whole lot of difference in it. The biggest difference this year is we have a conference game right out of the gate on the road against Western Carolina. That is a little bit more pressure because it is a conference game and you don’t want to get behind the 8 ball. As far as playing the big schools I would prefer to play them early but it seems like nowadays the SEC and ACC, in particular, want to play late.
You have a pair of conference road games in the first three weeks of the season. How important are those games?
I think it is the first time we’ve gone on the road to start a season with a conference opponent. It will be a big game for us. You know the conference is laid out for us different ways in different years, so you got to play them how they come. We will be ready.
You brought in some new coaches around the team, what will their impact be this season?
There is a sense of excitement around our football team, especially when they came in for spring practice. Everybody was on a clean slate because none of these coaches had seen these guys play live. I am really encouraged by Mike Adams, our defensive coordinator. He did a great job in spring practice. Coach Bill Legg and I can’t say enough about him. You look where he has been with his track record ... he has put some big numbers up at some of the places he has been.
How big is it to have great fan support? And how do you think the new concert series might impact that?
We started the program in 2013, so we’ve only been playing football six seasons. It just seems the time goes by so, so fast. We’ve had some great crowds. The game day atmosphere is always great. But the addition of the concert series will hopefully get some new people here on campus, and let them not only enjoy the concerts but Mercer football. We want to be Middle Georgia’s team, Macon’s team and, of course, Mercer’s team.
What are the expectations heading into the season?
Our goal is always to win a Southern Conference championship, which gives you a chance to win a national championship if you can get into the playoffs. We’ve been 4-4 in this league three years in a row. To be honest with you, we’ve had some very close games that could’ve gone either way, maybe go 6-2. And they proved it last year that if you go 6-2, you have a chance to win the league. We had three teams that were champions last year at 6-2. We feel like we are getting closer and closer. It will be a great day when we can win that first Southern Conference championship.