Sperduto scrambling to fill roster spots

Tuesday, April 24, 2001 at 1:00am

If it's Monday, that means Nashville Kats coach Pat Sperduto is on the telephone hunting for new players and the search is heading into the late night hours.

As his team enters its third week of the regular season with a Saturday night game on the road against the Florida Bobcats, they should be solidifying their team chemistry. Instead, thanks to a prolonged visit from the injury bug, they look more like an anatomy class with torn anterior cruciate ligaments and broken fibulas striking a number of players.

Gone for the season are defensive back-wide receiver John Williams, who went down with a torn ACL in Saturday night's loss to the Tampa Bay Storm; defensive back-wide receiver Jeff Russell, who tore his ACL in Saturday night's XFL championship game playing for the Los Angeles Xtreme; and defensive specialist Quincy LeJay, who underwent surgery by Dr. Michael Pagnani last week, According to Sperduto, Russell is flying to Nashville this week to have Pagnani perform his surgery.

"Being on the phone and looking for players is becoming a Monday night ritual," Sperduto said. "I'm not worried about the extra work. I'll do whatever I can to make this a better football team."

Sperduto gave credit to his assistant coaches for being able to make the adjustments week after week as players have fallen. When one goes down, adjustments have to be made not only to make room for a new player, but to also switch the duties of the players that remain.

Williams, a rookie Sperduto predicted would be one of the best defensive backs in the league, will be replaced in the middle of the secondary by former University of Tennessee player Steve Johnson.

"It's hard to build any chemistry moving players around like we are," Sperduto said. "Instead of putting in game plans and working on strategies in practice we are still in training camp teaching players how to play this game."

Johnson was originally being brought along slowly to be a two-way backup for defensive back-wide receiver Jarrick Hillery. With the loss of Williams, Johnson becomes a defensive specialist. Adrian Lunsford and Robert Davis will play wide in the secondary.

"Steve has been around here a little bit and that helps," Sperduto said. "But I still need to sign another guy to play back there. With the XFL season finished there should be some guys out there."

In fact, Sperduto has a prime candidate in mind who played in the XFL. He just has to make the proper contacts.

Ron Carpenter, a defensive back who also played for the XFL champion Xtreme, should be ready to go in two weeks. Davis, who has been balancing practice with his work as an assistant coach at Austin Peay State University, is ready to go this week against the Bobcats.

While Williams will be missed, Sperduto thinks Johnson also brings solid, if different, skills.

"Williams was a player who knew how to make a tackle once the catch was made without giving up any more yards," Sperduto said. "You caught the ball and he tackled you

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