It’s a wonderful – and awful – time in the football season. The teams have reported to their respective camps and we can officially put the snoozefest of major league baseball behind us. Almost.
On the other hand, it is just camp. The real games are still over a month away so, in a way, any day without a headline should be seen as a good day. It’s scary times for the devoted football fan, as anytime a star player’s name starts trending on social media or flies across the ticker on ESPN one’s first thought is, “Oh no. Please don’t be hurt.”
Those are the stars, though. The guys you know. However, there are a lot of players at the Greenbrier looking to become gainfully employed by the New Orleans Saints. Some are undrafted free agents straight out of college, while others have been through this before and are returning to camp for another shot.
Everyone doesn’t get to only dream about Superbowls, some players have to dream about Week One.
So, as you sift through the deluge of reports and play-by-play tweets about glorified practices keep your eyes open for the “new guys” as one might turn into a diamond in the rough. Let’s take a look –
Kyle Prater (6’5’’, 231 lbs.) – WR
As with everything Saints, it all starts with number nine (which is Drew Brees’ number, in case you just crawled out of a sinkhole). While the receiving corps will be tough to crack (Cooks, Snead, Thomas, Nicks, Coleman), it’s not impossible. Prater has the credentials. He made essentially every All-American team coming out of Proviso West high school. Prater then signed with the powerhouse USC program but eventually transferred to Northwestern, leading the Wildcats in receiving yards and touchdowns his senior year. So, he’s a “big program” guy that won’t be overwhelmed. Prater just needs to show it on the field, as he was waived (then re-signed) by the Saints last year.
Jared Dangerfield (6’3’’, 215 lbs.) – WR
I hope this guy makes the team on his name alone. Fresh out of Western Kentucky University, Dangerfield is trying to find a spot as an undrafted free agent. Dangerfield was a two-year starter at WKU, and set the single-season receiving records in both seasons. Dangerfield finished his career with 151 receptions, 1,669 yards, and 19 touchdowns. WKU is one of those smaller schools that like to play the big boys, so Dangerfield has fought in some big arenas, including up the road in Death Valley, where he caught eight balls for 75 yards against the Tigers last year.
Jack Allen (6’2’’, 296 lbs.) – OL
Talks about credentials, Allen has them all as a four-year starter coming from Michigan State. Allen mostly lined up at center for the Spartans, with a handful of starts at the guard position as well. Word out of camp is that he is holding his own in one-on-one competition. Allen is a consensus All-American and could be one of those guys you point to years down the road and can’t believe he wasn’t drafted. Allen also has a degree in Hospitality Business, so he could tell the Saints where to get some sweet hotel deals when they’re on the road.
Switching to the other side of the ball the focus will be on defensive backs. After a season of turmoil, the Saints will need to shore up their pass defense to make gains on the rest of the NFL. The Saints cut loose some dead weight and possibly still have injury issues with Jairus Byrd (back, knee), Keenan Allen (hip) and Damian Swann (concussions). So, there are holes to fill.
Ken Crawley (6’1’’, 180 lbs.) – DB
Crawley has had a great start to camp, even causing Saints twitter to melt down after he picked off a Drew Brees pass (remember folks – it’s practice). Crawley has lined up at defensive back and safety. At Colorado, Crawley spent his time at right cornerback, but as the Saints figure out if Byrd is 100 percent, Crawley’s best shot may be at safety.
Jimmy Pruitt (6’0’’, 198 lbs.) – DB
Pruitt has made a name for himself this week at the expense of backup quarterback Garrett Grayson. Pruitt picked off the former third round draft pick on consecutive days. Pruitt is out of San Jose State, where he played both safety and corner, picking up All-Mountain West honors his last two years in college.
So, that’s just a few names among many that you can keep an eye on during the pre-season action. And, unbelievably, you can start tracking these guys in game-day situations nine days from now, as the Saints will play the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Aug. 11.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Greenbrier Valley Brewing’s “Wild Trail Pale Ale”
Playlist Recommendation: Rob Zombie – “Never Gonna Stop”
Around the Way
A belated congratulations to Lusher High’s girls track team who won the Class 3A title at the All State Sugar Bowl State Track and Field Championships. Lusher was in cruise control with five first-place finishes. Senior Aislinn Roberts repeated as champion in the 800 meters. Roberts also won the 1,600 meters. Senior Ry-Anne Riley won the 400 meters. Carolyn McGinniss, an eighth-grader, won the 3,200 meters – which is such a long distance that I get winded watching it on TV.