by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
Fairmont State University's football team wrapped up the 2012 version of spring drills with the annual Maroon-White Spring Game Saturday, April 28 at Duvall-Rosier Field.
The opportunistic Maroon defense forced four turnovers early to set the tone and help record a 53-32 victory over the White offense. (Check out the stats from the game here.)
Despite missing a number of starters due to graduation or injury this spring, FSU's defense matured significantly over the course of the spring drills and had a lot of talented young players supply answers to some big questions heading into the month-long workout session.
“I think we're in great shape defensively,” said head coach Mike Lopez. “We feel like we've got some very good young talent on this team. I've coached a lot of good linebackers over the years, but Jordan Condinanzo and Matt Larrubia are two of the most talented young guys I've ever had. We also have Quincy Casimir working at both the bandit and spur and when you mix those young guys in with our veterans like Garrett Davis, Daniel Strosnider and Ryan Watts I think we have the potential to be pretty solid.
“Up front we've got some young talent too – guys like Jephte (Leveille), Jarick (Gee) and Andre (Revere) and when you put them with veterans like Jordan Greathouse and Anthony Domico we feel pretty good about that situation as well.
“In the secondary we're going to be a little young at corner so we may take some lumps early, but we feel like we can develop and be a pretty special group by the season's end.”
One of Fairmont State's leaders on the defense is senior-to-be free safety Dewey McDonald, an Academic All-American and two-time, first-team All-WVIAC selection who says he likes what he saw from the Falcons' young talent this spring.
“We were kind of thin all spring on defense, especially at linebacker, but we had some key veterans who I really think stepped up this spring and helped out the young guys a lot,” said McDonald. “Those young guys are talented and right now they have plenty of questions, but they're asking the right questions and taking those answers that we're giving them and applying them on the field. That's what you like to see. They came to work every day and did the work that needed to be done on the field, up in the film room and studying their play books.
“Like I said the good thing about our young guys is they have the right frame of mind. They're open to instruction and willing to learn and I think because of that they really progressed a lot this past month. Now we've got to continue that progression on our own throughout the summer to get ready for fall camp and the season.”
Offensively FSU's depth on the offensive front hampered the Falcons the entire spring. Fairmont State completed all 15 spring drill practice sessions with just five offensive linemen.
“I really have to commend that group for the effort and hard work they put in this spring,” said Lopez. “Those guys are exhausted. They went every rep this spring without a break and all in all they did a nice job for us.
“We're going to get them some help in our recruiting class. We've got seven or eight offensive linemen coming in for the fall, six of whom we feel are pretty good ones which should provide us with some much-needed depth at that position.”
Another position where Fairmont has added some much-needed depth is at quarterback. Last season two-year starter Logan Moore and true freshman Nevin Honeycutt were the lone quarterbacks on FSU's roster. The Falcons added junior Bobby Vega, a junior college transfer from Miami, Fla., and redshirt freshman Tyler Pate, a former prep standout at Hurricane High School who transferred from Marshall University.
Vega was impressive during the spring and in the Maroon-White game he completed 12-of-24 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown. He and Moore are expected to battle it out for the starting job in fall camp.
“When I was looking for a school I wanted to go somewhere where I'd have a chance to compete for a job,” said Vega. “I also wanted to go to a program which had a chance to compete for a conference title and I think here at Fairmont we have the opportunity to do that.
“Since I started here I've gotten a lot more comfortable with what we're doing offensively. Actually, my first day on the field I did better than I expected to do. I still have a lot to learn in terms of the protection and things like that but that's why I'll be here this summer working on that. I want to be solid when fall camp opens.”
Both Vega and Moore, who has thrown for 3,546 yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons as the Falcons' starter, have a wealth of respect for one another.
“Bobby has brought competition to the quarterback position and I respect that,” said Moore. “He's a great quarterback with a big-time arm. We'll see what happens this fall in terms of the depth chart, but I know he's pushed me to get better this spring and I appreciate that.”
Vega is equally impressed with Moore's skills.
“I have a lot of respect for Logan. He's a really good quarterback,” said Vega. “He can throw the ball. I know his feet really work for him. He's a very good scrambler, but he can throw it too.
“The one thing about this spring and us is I think we've brought out the best in each other. That's what competition does. If there's ever a question I need to ask I know I can go to him and he'll give me an answer with the best of his knowledge and not try to make me look bad. The competition is bringing out the best in both of us and whatever happens will happen. I want what's best for the team. If he wins the job I'll suck it up, root for him and when my number is called I'll go in there and do the best that I can do for us.”
Hard-working and popular backup tailback Damon Waters has ended his career at Fairmont State after three years and two seasons on the field. The choice, however, was not one Waters really wanted to make.
The former Grafton High School standout, who helped lead the Bearcats to the Class AA state championship in the fall of 2008, suffered the sixth concussion of his career dating back to high school during a scrimmage session this spring. It was Waters' third concussion in the last calender year and after meeting with a neurologist the youngster decided it was not in his best interest to continue playing the game he loves and has played since the age of six.
“It was a hard decision, but after discussing the possible long-term affects with a neurologist and some other doctors I knew it was in my best interest to end my career,” said Waters. “I'm going be using my brain for the rest of my life and I really don't want to have any long-term affects.
“I absolutely will miss the game. I've never really been in a position where I've had a physical ailment where I couldn't play. I've always been in good shape and I honestly feel very good right now, but I know it's the right decision for me given the circumstances. I'm still going to be around, though. I've got two years of school remaining and I still want to help out this football team and program in some capacity. I've always had a role here. I'll just have to find a new role.”
Waters, who rarely failed to produce on the field when given the opportunity for the Falcons, finishes his career with 602 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries. He averaged 4.9 yards per rush during his career. He also caught 17 passes for 96 yards in two seasons.
FSU head coach Mike Lopez says Waters will definitely have a role on the team in the future.
“Losing Damon was crushing for us because he's such a great kid,” said Lopez. “He will definitely still be a part of our program. He's going to help us academically with tutoring and things like that. We will, without question, find a role for him to fill.
“Like I said he's just a class individual. If my son can turn out to be half the person that Damon Waters is then my son is going to be outstanding. I think the world of him.”
Waters, who is 21 years old, is a triple major at FSU in accounting, Spanish and finance. In the future he plans on attending West Virginia University to pursue a Master's Degree in professional accounting and then eventually attend law school.