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Preseason practice begins for Panthers

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

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LAGRANGE – They’re under way.

The LaGrange College Panthers, who are heading into their second full season under head coach Matt Mumme, kicked off preseason football practice on Friday.

The Panthers are gearing up for a new season that will begin on Sept. 5 with a home game against Birmingham Southern.

Mumme has welcomed all of the returning players, as well as a big class of newcomers who will make up the 2015 LaGrange College football team.

The team will be holding a lot of morning practices to avoid the heat that is still an issue this time of year.

The Panthers are coming off back-to-back seasons where they finished 5-5.

In 2013, Mumme came to LaGrange College to be the offensive coordinator, and he took over as the head coach with three games remaining in the season, and he led the Panthers to a 2-1 record.

A year ago, in Mumme’s first full season as head coach, the Panthers finished at .500 again.

For the first time since he’s been at LaGrange College, Mumme will have someone other than Graham Craig running his pass-oriented offense.

Craig was an all-American quarterback who put up huge numbers in his two seasons as the starter.

Connor Blair, who saw some playing time a year ago, will likely be the new man to run Mumme’s “Air Raid” offense.

The Panthers have a lot of experience at the wide receiver and running-back positions, although there are four starting spots to fill on the offensive line.

On defense, the Panthers are a veteran unit that includes last year’s leading tackler, Larry Murdock.

The Panthers will have three weeks to get ready to face a familiar foe in Birmingham Southern.

Those teams have played every season since 2008.

A highlight of the preseason camp will come on Aug. 24 when LaGrange has a scrimmage game against Belhaven (Miss.) University at the University of Alabama.

Belhaven’s head coach is Hal Mumme, who is Matt Mumme’s father and mentor.

“The impact that my father has had not only on me but also the game of football is simply amazing,” Mumme said earlier this year. “I am truly blessed to be his son and thankful at the opportunity to spend a day together on the gridiron.”

Mumme added that “we are extremely fortunate to have connections in this business that gives our players an opportunity to experience a day in the realm of a Division I national champion. We can’t thank coach Nick Saban and the University of Alabama enough for giving us this opportunity.”

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports