ELSIE — Chris Robinson is still making an impact for the Ovid-Elsie football team 10 years after his last game.
The former O-E and Grand Valley State star is back for his third year as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator, teaching promising running backs like Cooper Beard and Shayne Loynes the ins and outs of the position. But Robinson’s passion seems to be rubbing off on all members of the team.
“He brings a whole lot of experience and they look up to him,” Ovid-Elsie head coach Travis Long said.
Robinson was busy wiping away the rain from the football Thursday as the Marauders first practiced running plays and then concentrated on passing during Day 4 of high school football practice.
Robinson ran for 7,123 yards and 98 touchdowns in his storied career for the Marauders. His 2008 (2,840 yards) and 2009 (2,692) seasons still rank as top two all-time in Shiawassee County history.
When asked about this year’s running backs, Robinson said there is good potential.
“We have a couple — Shayne (Loynes), Cooper (Beard), Colten (Sutliff),” Robinson said. “Shayne is the fastest, no doubt about it. But Cooper, being 6-foot and 230 pounds, runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash) flat, so all that weight coming at you and he is pretty fast. That’s a hard guy to tackle … we have a Ferrari and a belly truck.”
Long agreed Beard — who rushed for more than 600 yards a year ago while averaging 6.0 yards per carry — can lower his shoulder with power on the inside. Loynes — who averaged more than 13 yards per carry — is small, but a threat with his elusive speed on the outside.
“Cooper Beard is a handful,” Long said. “Last year he stepped in when Bryce Dolan was hurt. Shayne Loynes will be a jack of all trades for us this year at running back/receiver.”
Loynes, 5-8 and 150, ran for 379 yards last year and five TDs.
“We’re smaller than we were last year, numbers-wise,” he said. “We’ve been saying all week we’ve got to be the best conditioned team there is. And we’re going to go out and condition and practice as hard as we can so we’re ready for the games.”
Full pads and contact were still a day away and the focus Thursday was on learning plays and assignments. Long told his team they need to be more aggressive on the offensive line and everyone needed to continue learning their assignments.
“We’re still working on basic stuff,” Long said during a break in an afternoon session. “Right now we’re working on pass protection with the offensive line and all of the other guys are working on pass combos, pass sets and things like that.”
Taking the reps at quarterback was Aaron Hurst, a southpaw who got some valuable experience backing up now-graduated Jakob Loynes.
“We lost some good athletes (from last year) but I think we have a lot of good components that if we piece them together correctly and keep working hard in practice, we can be a solid team,” Hurst said. “We just have to keep working hard and do what we can. We want to beat Portland, win the league and do some work in the playoffs.”
One of the ringleaders of the defense this year could be Justin Moore, who returns at defensive end and had 31 tackles, including three sacks, last season. But, at 6-foot- 3, he also has good size at receiver. Moore said the defense will be bulkier up front.
“We look pretty good,” Moore said. “We lost some players but we have a lot of hard-working people out there. We’re a little bit heavier than last year — weight-wise on the defensive line. I think our defensive line will be a real pain for other teams this year.”
Offensively, Moore said the focus was on execution.
“We’re trying to get in the hang of things with light stuff so we’re ready for Saturday, the Blue-Gold scrimmage,” he said. “We’ll have a draft and pick two teams. We’ll mix the varsity and JV up and go at it.”