As some would say, the 2011 football season has already started.Last week, the Daily Herald featured key players and posed questions the areas 4A and 5A football programs looked to answer during their spring drills. The spring season is all but over; only intra-team scrimmages remain.These scrimmages are the first tastes of the 2011 season and, for some of the players, a last chance to make an impression.Coaches, meanwhile, will be looking to find answers as they try to replace last seasons stalwarts, find an extra body or two to extend their depth chart and most importantly, let the kids have some fun. Heres what to watch for when the teams line up for the last time before the summer break:
When: 7 p.m., FridayWhere: Wilson-Kerzee Field (Belton)What Tigers coach Rodney Southern will be looking at: Depth
Outlook: They may not play starring roles, like whoever is to replace all-state quarterback David Ash (Texas), but the Tigers underclassmen will have roles if they can earn them on Friday night. Southern is looking to fill out his varsity roster, specifically those back-up and special teams roles, with underclassmen so that he has a solid two-deep rotation at every position.Were looking for those kids that will have a role, Southern said. A year ago, we played a lot of young kids on defense, and we paid for it, but now we have some experience on our defense.
What else to look at: QuarterbacksTheres no replacing a quarterback like Ash, who completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 3,351 yards and 41 touchdowns, led the Tigers to back-to-back playoff appearances and is vying to be the Longhorns starter. But the Tigers have to move forward and likely stepping into spot Ash held for three years will be junior Blayten Magana or sophomore Peter Shelburne, who was a JV quarterback last season.
When: 6:30 p.m., todayWhere: Bulldawg Stadium (Copperas Cove)What Bulldawgs coach Jack Welch will be looking at: Technique
Outlook: For the Bulldawgs, the evaluations from the spring are mostly done but teaching and learning dont stop. The offensive line will still be watched to see how the group unifies into a unit and how that unit gets to and sustains blocks. On the other side, the defense has shown flashes, but there have also been gaps.When we go into (the spring game), weve already done our basic work and evaluation, Welch said. So the game part is just fun and watching their technique.
What else to look at: The passing gameFew question Coves ability to run Orlando Thomas was a 1,000-yard rusher last year and Brandon Hamilton topped 800 yards. But the teams success could hinge on what happens when opponents load the box and force Cove to pass. Thomas is still less than a year into his quarterback career, but the converted running back and wideout completed just 13-of-41 passes last season.
When: 5 p.m., FridayWhere: Ellison High SchoolWhat Eagles coach Buddy McBryde will be looking at: Progress.Outlook: Ellison loses a lot of mainstays on both sides of the ball, especially on the defensive line and in the offensive backfield. But the Eagles have been doing more than just trying to find players to replace graduating standouts like running back David Cobb. Ellison has also been looking to move forward after three straight seasons without a playoff appearance.After three-straight postseasons, including a 4A regional appearance in 2005, the Eagles finished 5-5 in 2008 and 4-6 in each of the last two seasons.We want to see the progress weve made both offensively and defensively, McBryde said.
What else to look at: QuarterbacksIn Ellisons run-based, wing-T offense, senior quarterback Jacob Branks passing was a big plus, especially down the stretch when he threw for 431 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Eagles final two games both wins. Looking to replace Brank (1,155 yards, 9 TDs, 4 INTs), who was the districts third-leading passer, are junior Felix Marbury, last seasons back-up, and sophomores Daniel Doria and Dajour Jamison.
When: 7 p.m., FridayWhere: Leo Buckley StadiumWhat Roos coach Sam Jones will be looking at: Leadership
Outlook: Its going to be weird not having quarterback Michael Cummings taking snaps, running back JaQuail Haskins receiving hand-offs, linebacker Royce Asi giving hits and Nicholas Parks breaking up passes. But thats the nature of high school football great players come along and then leave.Players have already been put in place to take their positions, but the Roos mostly need to replace the leadership and identity the quartet of three-year lettermen built.We dont have an experienced quarterback, running back or free safety and anytime you lose so many players, you always look for leadership and character and an identity, Jones said.
What else to look at: QuarterbacksFor the first time since Cummings freshman year, the Roos will have their potential starting quarterback suited up and playing in their annual spring game. And it wont just be one. The Roos will play four quarterbacks, including three that are all vying for the varsity starting position sophomores Devarri McCray and Rasheed Dashiell, and freshman Garrett Gaskamp.
When: 5 p.m., todayWhere: Shoemaker High SchoolWhat Grey Wolves coach Ken Gray will be looking at: Offensive line
Outlook: Gray said the Grey Wolves will return another competitive defense, but Shoemakers offense which ranked last in 12-5A in total yards (182.1) and points (8.9) per game needs to do more. With a quarterback like junior Jammie Blunt, whos being looked at by Division I programs, and running back Johnny Jefferson, a 100- and 200-meter regional qualifier in track, the Grey Wolves have weapons. In years past, weve been more of a throw-first and run-second team. Weve got an excellent running back (Johnny Jefferson), really two because Sye Benefields having a great spring Gray said.
What else to look at: Enthusiasm
The hardest win is the first one. Well, the Grey Wolves get a guaranteed win in their spring game. They need to fight for it like its the one thats going to break their current 22-game losing streak. Descriptors like fight and grit have to be obvious because while its a guaranteed win for one side, its also a guaranteed loss for the other.