Coleman sees depth emerging for Hurricane

Quarterback Rykar Acebo looks downfield for a receiver during Jonesboro’s spring game at Cooksey-Johns Field.

JONESBORO — Spring football answered a number of Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman’s questions.

Drills came to abrupt end Thursday evening at Cooksey-Johns Field when Jonesboro’s spring game was canceled after a few minutes because of stormy weather. While the Hurricane got in limited work Thursday, Coleman is pleased with what they accomplished in the last couple of weeks.

“There are some places that you thought were question marks that have turned into places that we feel really good about,” said Coleman.

While Jonesboro lost a talented senior class that included two Arkansas Sports Media Super Team selections in linebacker Marco Avant and tight end Connor Clark, several key starters return. Jonesboro finished 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the 6A-East, ending the season with a 37-14 loss to Van Buren in the state playoffs.

Senior quarterback Rykar Acebo, who took over as the starter last season in the fourth game, passed for 2,305 yards and 20 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions.

“Having Rykar back, with how well he throws and his understanding of concepts, made it a good transition to thinking about throwing it more,” Coleman said. “If you take the Van Buren game out, Rykar really went in a six-game starting span where he threw 20 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He played extremely well.”

Coleman expects another strong receiver corps led by 6-3 senior Kavon Pointer, last year’s third-leading receiver with 35 receptions for 564 yards and eight touchdowns. Pointer already has scholarship offers from Arkansas State and Army, Coleman said.

Jesse Washington, an all-state basketball player, has joined the football team and made a difficult deep catch in Thursday’s scrimmage. Drake Taylor, Latrell Brown, Maddox Morrison and Grant Bartels also figure into Jonesboro’s plans at receiver. Tight end Tyrin Ruffin will spread out in a receiving role like Clark filled last season.

Coleman was less certain about Jonesboro’s depth at running back to go with Brock McCoy, who ran for 344 yards and four touchdowns last fall. Sophomores Kevion Williams and Markevious Pickett showed promise this spring and Erik Wilson, a starting cornerback, will also have a role.

“Where we didn’t know about depth, now we really, really like our depth at running back,” Coleman said.

The offensive line returns four starters in left tackle Josh Hyneman, left guard Omarion Wilson, center Hunter Mitchell and right guard Zach Oliver. Coleman said sophomores Cole Abernathy and Trevon Jones are competing at right tackle.

Linebacker figured prominently among Coleman’s questions on defense after losing Avant and Cameron Clark, but he feels better about Jonesboro’s depth at that position after spring practice.

“Maybe the surprise of the spring has been Jackson Layman at our Mike linebacker,” Coleman said. “He has looked really, really good and played really well. He still has a ways to go, but he’s answering the question at Mike and replacing Marco Avant.”

Carter-Reece Long was a starter last season, Andre Reed saw playing time and Coleman has been impressed with Will Thyer as well. “You thought you had a big question mark at linebacker, but it looks like we have pretty good depth,” Coleman said.

Elijah Faulkner and Jamariyon Thomas are back on the defensive line. Montrell Varner played a considerable amount and Bendarrion Webster, who was injured early last season, is back on the defensive line.

Safeties John Paul Pickens and Jack Cheatham anchor the defense. Wilson and Washington are expected to step in at cornerback.

Coleman said Pickens, who intercepted six passes last year, has offers from ASU, Army and Troy.

“I think John Paul Pickens is as good a player as Jonesboro High School has had in a long, long time, and I’m not saying as good a player at free safety,” Coleman said. “I think he’s just one heck of a football player.”

Jonesboro’s plans in June include 7-on-7 competitions at Benton, Hoxie and Little Rock Catholic, plus a few team camps. The Hurricane will go to Pulaski Academy for team camps in June and July.