Tuesday, August 16, 2011

President Howard's Son is Looking Good at VES

Virginia Episcopal School first-year football coach and athletic director Albert “Butch” Jennings motivates a small group of players in town for summer conditioning with a steady stream of positive affirmation. "We can be a dominant team this year," Jennings said Friday as five members of the Bishops’ backfield, including two of his stepsons, Ronnie and Caleb Stringfield, work out on the practice field behind the private school. "We’re going to shock people in this league. We’re going to be a more physical team, a more disciplined team. We’re going to catch the ball out of the backfield, we’re going to run out of the backfield...
We’re going to be athletic." Indeed, the Bishops could take the Old Dominion Football Conference by storm this season after finishing .500 last fall. Jennings and his staff that includes fellow E.C. Glass graduate and new defensive coordinator Vince Brown, who formerly coached in the NFL World League and Arena Football League, as well as holdovers Chip Jones and offensive coordinator Tom Shahady will have a high level of talent to work with when students officially arrive on campus Saturday, two weeks before they kick off the season. “With the group we have this year, I think we can lay down the whole foundation for (a successful future),” said Ronnie Stringfield, a reclassified sophomore who ranked second in the area in rushing last year for Liberty Christian Academy, behind only Glass graduate Lamont Hamlette, who’s now at VMI. “It’s definitely possible. It’s all up for grabs. We’ll see what we have to work with and go from there.” "We have tremendous speed, power and athletic ability," Jennings added. "I’m very excited,” added senior slot receiver and cornerback Martin Owens, who has returned from a broken leg suffered late in a stellar sophomore season, when he ranked among the area’s leading receivers and top deep threats. “We have a lot of weapons. We just need to figure out our quarterback and from there, we’re ready to go.” Compared to previous seasons, when VES was passing-oriented, the strength of this year’s team will be its explosive running game. "I’m a run guy,” said Jennings, who converted from a lineman to a fullback at VMI and Liberty University. “I’m more power. I love the run game. But we have the ability to be very balanced.” The rushing attack will be led by Cohen Howard, last year’s primary back, the Stringfield brothers, Owens and Jefferson Forest transfer Brendan Short, a multi-purpose player who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. "I can play H-back in certain formations, fullback, tight end, maybe a slot receiver and I have an arm, too, so I might end up playing quarterback,” said Short, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior who ran cross country as a freshman at JF. “He can run, throw and catch, whatever he wants to do,” Jennings added. “He can play it all. He’s our starting middle linebacker.” Howard, who relocated from Oklahoma as a sophomore when his father Christopher Howard became president of Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, looks forward to being part of a balanced attack this fall. “I’m more power, he’s more speed and us working together, we’ll be great,” he said. "Last year was pass first and run second and this year it’s going to be both.” "Cohen has good vision and incredible hands,” Jennings added. “Last year, he strictly ran that ball as that one back, but this year, he’ll have the ability to showcase his hands a little bit more.” Owens, who could get some reps at quarterback, depending on how quickly Dante Jefferson, an incoming freshman from Dunbar Middle School, develops, said the Bishops hope to maintain balance on offense this fall. "We’ll be multiple-threat, half run, half pass,” he said. "We’ll run two-back, one-back, spread (and) option (formations), everything. It’ll be a lot to learn, to get everybody in sync.” Jennings still wants to keep all of the Bishops’ receivers involved, especially Jeff Rowell, VES’s candidate for the Titan Award as a receiver, Caleb White, a 6-5 transfer from Buckingham, Owens, Howard, Jefferson, when he’s not playing quarterback, and Short, when he lines up at tight end. VES has the offensive line in place to provide plenty of both pass protection and run blocking, led by tackle Michael Biesmeyer, who’s drawn interest from both Anthony Poindexter at UVa and Cornell Brown at Virginia Tech, Joe Kaiser, who’s being recruited by JMU, LU and William & Mary, Spencer Lynden, a 6-1, 270-pound sophomore offensive guard from North Carolina, and freshman Matt Meadows.

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