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ROAD TO KICKOFF: Youth will have to pace Mount Zion toward a better 2013

Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr will be depending on several incoming freshmen, and other young talent to help the team this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr will be depending on several incoming freshmen, and other young talent to help the team this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Rising senior Alexis Johnson is hoping to be back at 100 percent after missing most of last season with an ACL injury. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — Ervin Starr isn’t sure who coined the quote, but he was certainly glad to hear one of his players reciting it.

Each day after practice, one offensive and defensive player is assigned to provide a quote from a collection of sayings posted all around the Mount Zion football office and locker room area.

On this particular day, one of the players stood up, and stated the words of a quote that Starr said has now become a team favorite.

“No glory in practice. Without practice there is no glory,” the quote reads.

“I love it,” Starr said. “And I love the fact that they love it even more. The fact that they like that quote so much shows me that they’re understanding why we ask them to do what they do. This is why they’re in the weight room. This is why we go hard in the summer. This is why we watch film. The glory. Winning. It’s what they want.”

It’s the second year for the Starr administration, and he will be the first to admit that 2012 — his first as a head coach — was an exceedingly tough year.

He experienced everything from coaching staff issues to costly injuries and trying to install an offense that moved so slow at times, Starr likened the process to “watching paint dry.”

But he said he feels like it’s not only made him a better coach, but it’s making the players he coaches better as well —even if those players may be a little younger than what is deemed ideal at this level.

“Right now, I mean, if we had to put a team on the field now as far as competing in the playoffs, I’d be a little nervous about it,” Starr said. “But putting this team out on the field here at the beginning, I feel okay about it. Talent wise, we have the talent. We’ve got a lot of young kids, and even the older ones we do have are kind of inexperienced. But they’re hungry. They’re passionate and, most importantly, they’re believing in themselves.”

But they’re also young. Very young. Starr has a senior in Devonte Dudley at quarterback, but some of his most key complimentary pieces are only a year removed from playing middle school football.

Lennox Copeland and Anthony Crider are among those freshmen Starr said he’s looking to for immediate impact. Both Copeland and Crider have football physiques that would not put one in the mind of freshmen football players. Both players stand 6-feet-2 inches tall, with Crider, a linebacker, weighing in at 195 pounds. Copeland, a receiver and safety, is at about 185, according to Starr.

“These guys right here are already athletic, already fast and have good strength,” Starr said. “They are the future of Mount Zion.”

But in order for the Bulldogs to improve upon its 1-9 campaign last year, Starr will need some of that future potential to manifest in the here-and-now. The schedule isn’t daunting, but games against 2012 playoff teams Jonesboro and Washington in the first two weeks of the season should give Starr an indication of what things will be for the remainder of 2013.

“Our coaching staff talked about those two games really determining where we’ll be for the season,” Starr said. “If we can win both of those, or even split them, then I like where we’ll be. If we go 0-2, it could get ugly.”