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Jonesboro’s OL looks to step up performance

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro offensive linemen (from left) Myles Ammons, Kali James, Waymon Orr, and Jeffrey Taylor say they have to step it up this season for the Cardinals to be successful.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro offensive linemen (from left) Myles Ammons, Kali James, Waymon Orr, and Jeffrey Taylor say they have to step it up this season for the Cardinals to be successful.

JONESBORO — Jonesboro’s potential for success this football season will likely start, and in some instances end, with the performance of its offensive line.

With the graduation of most of its talented, play-making skill position players, the Cardinals will be breaking in several new faces in key offensive positions.

Multi-talented Cameron Sutton is now at Tennessee while speedster Taurean Ferguson is an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt. Dereon London and Patrick Petty have also graduated.

The lone returnee among the top skill players is quarterback Mario Atkinson, who will operate behind three returning starters on the offensive line.

Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd said there has been a sense of urgency this summer in preparing the offensive line for the upcoming season. They no longer have the luxury of relying on the skill players to make things happen.

“We let them know that they have to step it up,” said Floyd, who is coaching the line this summer until he hires a new coach. “I think they have taken it to heart, and are determined to step up to the challenge. The big question we are waiting to answer is how they will look in pads.”

The Cardinals have several weeks before the beginning of official practices, so they have time to work out the kinks.

Returning starters on the offensive line include seniors Tim Bridges at center, Marquis Murray at tackle and Kenyarie McKelvin at guard.

The linemen say they understand what role they will have to play in the success or failure of this season’s team.

“We’ve got to work harder, and push ourselves more,” said rising sophomore Kali Jones, who is expected to play center and guard. “We know we have some good people behind us. I know we can get the job done. We are a big part of this team, because it all starts in the trenches.”

Floyd, a former offensive lineman at Albany State, has had to coach the offensive line in addition to his defensive coordinator duties, after last year’s line coach left for graduate school. He said his men in the trenches are making strides, but he wants to see more improvement in July.

A new coach is expected to be hired in a couple of weeks to help free Floyd up for other duties. He said the new coach will be familiar with the team’s system.

“We have an idea of who we want to bring in,” Floyd said. “I think it’s going to be a smooth transition for the team and line.”

With a year’s experience under his belt, Atkinson said he is ready to step up and become more of a leader. Last season, his first as a starter, the 6-foot-3 signal caller passed for 2,030 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

“We just all have to be on the same page as far as the offense goes,” Atkinson said. “Right now, I know we are the underdogs because people know we graduated a lot of good players. I’m going to be more vocal, and I know this team will step to the challenge.”