Aug. 11, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Never before in program history had Lamar fans seen similar numbers put up by a quarterback. A single-season school record for completions (295), passing yards (3,332), yards of total offense (3,492) and touchdown passes (32) all set by the same player - quarterback Caleb Berry
. But one year ago today, the thought of recording the best single-season performance by a Lamar quarterback in program history was the furthest thing from Berry's mind. The only thing he was focused on was trying to win the starting job. At this time last year, Berry was locked in a battle for the starting spot, which he eventually won.
What a difference a year makes. The Needville, Texas senior comes into the 2014 season as the favorite to be Lamar's starting QB as he is the lone senior on a Lamar quarterback roster that consists of two underclassmen behind Berry. Although Berry comes into the new season as the favorite to earn the starting spot another record-setting campaign is the last thing on his mind.
"The records are nice for the university and the fans," said Berry. "To be honest with you, I never thought about it, nor did I ever hear anyone on the team mention it. Our focus every time we step out on the field is try and put points on the scoreboard, and help this team win games."
One of the reasons that a lot of the prognosticators feel 2014 could be even better than 2013 is due to returning talent on the offense side of the ball. The Cardinals return eight starters from last season - and there were questions surrounding the LU offense last season as it was replacing several starters from the year before - a similar situation to what the current Lamar defense is in.
Not only does Berry return for his final season in a red and white uniform, but he is surrounded by a lot of options to get the football too. He returns his top three targets from last year, including junior Reggie Begelton who led the Southland with a school-record 82 receptions. In addition, senior Mark Roberts enters his senior campaign after being recognized on some all-conference teams last season.
At running back LU returns 2013 Freshman All-American Kade Harrington
, who set a Lamar rookie record with nearly 900 yards on the ground. In addition to Harrington, the Cardinals also return another talented sophomore running back in Emmitt Raleigh
and Memphis transfer Karl Harris.
Overlooked in all of this is senior Payden McVey. One of the strongest players in the conference, McVey is a unique athlete who can pass block, and is a solid option to throw the ball too from the Y position.
The Cardinals will protect these weapons with an offensive line that returns three of five starters from a year ago.
"It is a tremendous feeling as a quarterback to step out on the field knowing you're surrounded by so much experience," said Berry. "It means we can step on the field from first day of practice and we should be able to pick up where we left off. The goal is to go out there every day and add to that."
Despite the numbers, Berry's strongest attribute is something that never shows up on a stat sheet, but is something all coaches want from their players. Berry has his primary focus on what he can do to help make the team better.
"His strongest point is he is committed to being a good player," said Lamar offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Larry Kueck. "He wants to be a good player, and he is always looking to get better. At his position that involves a lot of film study, a lot of work in the weight room and a lot of work during the offseason. These are all things that he is committed to doing."
Just as important as having a strong leader as your starter, it is just as important to develop a strong backup who is ready to go when his number is called. The Cardinals have two players currently battling it out for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart in sophomore Rex Dausin and redshirt freshman Robert Mitchell. Both signal callers found their way to Lamar by taking very different paths.
A high school standout from San Antonio, Dausin originally signed with Houston out of high school, and utilized his redshirt during the 2012 season before transferring to Lamar, where Mitchell had a much shorter path. A Beaumont native, Mitchell was a standout for Central High School, signing with the Cardinals prior to the 2013 season.
"Both Dausin and Mitchell are tremendously talented players," said Berry. "Both guys have strong arms and are impressive to watch play the game. The one thing that is really stands out, especially for young guys, is that both have an internal drive to get better. The don't mind hard work, and they want to help make this team better. That's the type of player you want to be surrounded by."
Despite Berry's best attempts at downplaying all the records, there is still one record that is very important to him, and all his teammates - Lamar's overall record at the end of the season. After flirting with the .500 level last season the Cardinals want to take the program to a different level in 2014.
"Our goal every year is to win a Southland Conference title," said Berry. "Whether that is eight wins or 10 it doesn't matter. We want to bring a Southland title to Beaumont, and we want to be in the playoffs. That goal will never change."
The Cardinals will face their first challenge of the 2014 season Saturday, Aug. 30th when they host Grambling State. The game against the Tigers is slated to begin at 7 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium. Lamar tickets can be purchased online at www.LamarCardinals.com or by calling the LU Ticket Office at (409) 880-1715.