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Goetz: Yarborough has busy day

Brookhaven product Simmie Yarborough had a busy Wednesdaycatching questions from the media and delivering patented,non-inflammatory answers. He was representing SoutheasternLouisiana University at the Southland Conference’s Media Day inLake Charles, La.

Yarborough, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior tight end/wide receiverfor the Lions, is fresh from being decorated with more preseasonhonors. He wears No. 88 for the green and gold.

“I’ve never been a big person on the honors,” said Yarborough. “Ijust take it day by day. I just let the Lord lead me.”

Selected a Preseason All-American by the Consensus Draft Service,Yarborough said he prefers a humble but hopeful approach to the2010 season. “To me, preseason accolades aren’t all that important.We have a lot to prove during the season to show that we’redeserving of awards. Ultimately, if the team’s not successful, anyawards we get are not going to mean much.”

Yarborough plays a slot position for the Lions. He explained. “It’sa hybrid, like an H-back. I can stand up in the slot or put my headdown and block.”

Able to concentrate on one sport in college, the talentedYarborough has developed his football strength and focus. “I’m alot stronger. At BHS I was bouncing from football, to basketball,to track. Now I just focus on football.”

Yarborough ran 4.46 in the 40-yard dash on testing day. “I had a39-inch vertical jump.”

He caught 57 passes for 803 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Lions(6-5) realized their best record since 2004. He is a PreseasonAll-SLC selection at tight end.

The Lions begin preseason practice Aug. 5 in Hammond. They reportAug. 4. Their first game is Thursday night, Sept. 2, at Tulane, inthe Louisiana Superdome.

Receiver will be one of the premier areas of competition when theLions open camp as a strong collection of veterans and newcomerscompetes to see who will replace the likes of Chris Wilson andMerrick Lanaux, the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 receivers behindYarborough’s 57 catches for 803 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“We’re looking real good,” said Yarborough. “We’ve got a lot ofoptions.”

Yarborough and teammates have participated in numerous, informalpass skeleton workouts at Strawberry Stadium this summer, usuallytwice a week. He’s been impressed by the stable of receivers,especially the newcomers.

“It’s going to be real interesting to see everybody compete whencamp starts,” said Yarborough, cracking a smile. “Most teams have adesignated few that’s going to go out there and do what they haveto do and be trusted. But I feel like most of the guys we’ve gotare like that. We’ve brought in a really good freshman class andthey’re catching on to stuff real fast.”

At quarterback, Tyler Batty is the top choice who saw duty latelast season when SLU starter was injured. Yarborough said, “He’s apretty big guy and he has a strong arm.”

An accounting major at SLU, Yarborough is like many college playerswho dream of playing professional football. “I want to have achance in the NFL. I want to graduate first. If it doesn’t workout, I’ll probably apply for grad school.”

Yarborough put up some big numbers last season before suffering aninjury in the McNeese State game. In his opinion, SLU’s toughestconference opponent was Stephen F. Austin. “They have a prettystrong defense, a good secondary.”

Yarborough pointed out an old rival from Pike County, Bobby Felder,who plays for Nicholls State University. Felder works at cornerbackand safety.

Last season the Lions tackled Ole Miss at Oxford. It was a 52-6Rebel victory but Yarborough could salvage some pleasant memoriesdespite the loss.

“It felt real good to play Ole Miss. I always wanted to go back toMississippi and play against guys I might have known in highschool.”

He caught nine passes for 60 yards against Ole Miss. He actuallygot a chance to knock heads with Rebel senior defensive end MarcusTillman, a Franklin County product.

“Ole Miss had a great defensive line,” said Yarborough. “They’relinebacking corps was strong and they had some pretty goodsafeties.

“I had to block a couple of those guys, including Marcus Tillman. Iplayed against him my sophomore year.”

A partisan crowd of 58,119 watched the blowout. “I really liked theatmosphere,” said Yarborough. “I saw some people I graduated within the student section.”

In the preseason poll of SLU coaches and sports informationdirectors, the Lions were picked to finish third. Stephen F. Austinand McNeese State were predicted to finish 1-2.

SLU coach Mike Lucas expressed his optimism regarding the 2010campaign. “We took a step forward as a program. We had someinjuries last year at the end with (quarterback) Brian Babinmissing some time, Tommy Connors missing the entire season, SimmieYarborough getting hurt in the McNeese State game.

“That really hurt us towards the end, but with two games left onthe schedule, we’re playing Stephen F. Austin at home for firstplace in the Southland Conference. And that was exciting for ourprogram. It was a great.”

Yarborough offered an open invitation to readers of this column tocome see the Lions perform in Strawberry Stadium. “Come see usplay. We are about an hour down the road.”

Writer to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com