Mark Ross has at least two reasons to believe defensive line play will be improved when Misericordia University enters its second season of football in the fall.
Ross pointed out the defensive line as one of two position groups that appear promising in recruiting and also likes progress that he sees from the returning group in spring practices.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association allows Division III football programs 16 days of spring practice, but Ross said it is not in the format of what people might see on television with Division I teams.
“It’s more individual emphasis and technique,” the Cougars head coach said. “We’re not allowed to use any pads.”
Former Dallas High School coach Ted Jackson, a part-time member of the Misericordia coaching staff, has worked with defensive linemen this spring after dealing with inside linebackers last season.
“He’s raised the skill level and technique of our defensive linemen,” Ross said of Jackson, who was recently selected for induction in the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Jackson, who went 227-79-3 and won a state title in 27 years at Dallas, will be honored June 15 in Harrisburg as part of ceremonies in conjunction with the Big 33 Football Classic.
Ross said it was too early to talk specifically about individual recruits, but he did say that defensive line and quarterback were the two areas where the program made important progress in terms of depth.
“The majority of our recruiting for this year is done, although at our level, and particularly this year, there are still a number of potential candidates we are working with at this point,” Ross said. “There are some position groups that we felt like, going in, we needed to improve our depth.
“Quarterback was one of them. At the end of the year, we had only two.”
The Cougars were shut out five times, including three of their final four games, while going 0-10 in their debut season.
The 2012 team was put together for the first time and built from a two-person recruiting effort the year before. With his staff complete, Ross was one of five coaches able to work on recruiting this spring.
“We have a better handle on the kids coming in,” Ross said. “There’s not as much guesswork.
“With some of the kids we brought in last year, once we saw what they could do, we had to put them in other spots.”
The first Misericordia team included just one player from each of the two Back Mountain high schools.
It did, however, get significant contributions from those two. Lake-Lehman graduate Cody Lamoureux led the team in rushing while Dallas graduate Paul Brace was the leading receiver.
Ross said Brace does not plan to return next season, but Lamoureux will be back.
Lamoureux, who ran for 339 yards on 103 carries, was one of the players who served as the single running back in the pistol formation the Cougars often employed. Misericordia ran most of its attack from shot gun formation with either one tight end and three wide receivers or two tight ends and two wide receivers.
Ross said the team is experimenting with a few “schematic issues” within its offense, but the general approach is likely to remain the same.