After losing seven members of its defense, its starting quarterback and two of its biggest offensive weapons, Ellison will look very different at most positions next season.
But the Eagles are hoping an improved offensive line and an added dimension on offense helps them change for the better next season.
Ellison returns six starters on offense but lost quarterback Trent Jones and wide receivers Hayward Clay and Reggie Jackson. And while that production will certainly be missed, head coach Trent Gregory said his focus was elsewhere at the end of last season.
“The biggest improvement that we’ve got to see is our offensive line. That’s a must,” Gregory said. “That was an area that we got a huge concern for after last season was over with and we sat down as a staff and targeted that group that we’ve really got to push them.”
With two-year starter Garrett Hall back at left tackle to lead the way, Gregory was optimistic that the line will be better in 2014.
Gregory also hopes to improve the offense with a new emphasis on tempo — which the Eagles are working at meticulously this spring.
“We want to try to get as many plays in as we possibly can,” Gregory said. “When the ball is set and ready to go we want to snap the football and roll.
“So, we’ve really been pushing the offensive kids as far as our conditioning is concerned.”
Replacing the production of Clay and Jackson, one of the better receiving tandems in the district last season, will be a challenge, but Gregory and the players believe someone will find a way to step up.
“We’re just going to have to lift them up. We can’t break them down,” junior running back Deon Burch said of his young teammates. “That’s all we’ve got to do. We’re all a team, so we’re just going to have to stick together.”
Ellison returns just four starters on defense. Gregory feels comfortable with junior linebacker Austun Lambert leading the front seven and sophomore Joseph Williams leading the secondary.
All in all, Gregory was highly optimistic that his young team will find a way to step up next season.
But he acknowledged there is plenty of work to be done between now and then.
“It’s been good,” Gregory said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, a long way to go.”