Special to the Monitor-Herald
James Ray, Bruce High School
Q:What are your numbers looking like for spring practice?
A:We have 62 players out… we’ve had some success over the past few years and people are starting to come out. We have a large bunch of eight graders coming up (25 players) so that helped the numbers get up as well.
I hope we can keep everybody and I hope everybody out there stays because it will really help us having a big team.
It appears that we will have a whole lot more depth than we’ve had the past few years. I don’t know about the talent level and if it will be up there where it has been the past few years, but we will have a lot more kids that can and will play.
Q:What are some of the goals that the coaching staff is focusing right now?
A:Seeing how we’ve lost just about everybody, our main goal right now is just to find starters. We only have one starter returning on offense and one on defense with about five guys that played last year… coming into the spring our main goal was establishing who are starters are going to be and their backups.
Our second goal is to get in as much offense and defense as we can, but we are having to take it kind of slow to make sure that we are getting everything taught correctly that way we won’t have to go back and make a lot of corrections.
That part of the job is always fun year-after-year watching kids that were kind of unsure of themselves last year to come out in the spring ready to play. It’s been exciting these past two or three days watching those kids emerge.
Q:Defensively, as you said, you have a lot of holes to fill – how are you going about that?
A:We are rotating a lot of guys in and out to find the best kid at each position. We have already moved one guy to two different positions in two days trying to find where he can help us the best.
On defense we want guys that are willing to hit, are aggressive, and love that aspect of the game… everyday we are hoping to find somebody else.
Q:Offensively, replacing Richard Freelon and other talented skill guys is a tough task, how is that going?
A:We are still talented in the skill positions, but you are never going to replaces guys like Richard, Curtis (Lyons), or any of the other skill guys we had last season… those are gifted athletes that only come around so often.
We are sticking with the same offense with Reed Gregory stepping in at quarterback… he has made major improvement since the last fall. He was a player I was concerned about, but over the past two days he has really proven to me that he is ready to continue what we have been doing.
We have more running backs than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. We are three deep in our one-back position and slot position… all of them are equally good. I told them today their attitude had to be good and they can’t be selfish because all six of them are going to play.
I think our offense is going will be where I envisioned it would be over the past three years. Instead of a one or two-man show, we are going to be a three or four-man show. We are going to be able to spread the ball out and really put a defense in a bind where they have to respect our spread… really making our offense explode.
Q:Things sound as if they are really exciting for you guys right now, what are your overall thoughts on the spring so far?
A:If you would have called Monday night it probably wouldn’t have been a very positive comment because I was really starting to question what we were doing. It was one of those first day practices where conditioning was really becoming a factor, but the last two days have really been tremendous.
Yesterday was a good practice, today was an outstanding practice. I think we are going to be right where we wanted to be come summer and hopefully the summer will explode like it normally does around here… we are going to be ready to roll come next August.
The Trojans will take on Coffeeville in the Spring Game on May 15th.
Justin Hollis, Vardaman High School
Q:What are your numbers looking like for this spring?
A:Right now we’ve got 38 players, that’s about six or seven more than we had last year and we’ve got a bunch of kids back out there that use to play, but hadn’t been playing.
Q:You had a successful run in your first season with the Rams, what is going to be some of your main goals that you want to accomplish this spring?
A:Our number one goal is to be physical. We want to be the most physical football team on the field and that means we are going to have to get after it on every play. That’s what we’re trying to get to right now in conditioning. I feel conditioning in the spring is really important because if you challenge them in the spring it will get them ready to do it in the fall.
Q:Defensively you have some big shoes to fill in players like Kevin Barnett, but what are you going to focus on to help you fill in those spots?
A:We’ve got to find some secondary guys because we are going to be really young there.
We’ve got to replace Kevin at linebacker, but luckily we’ve got Jamie Jenkins that played there a couple of games last year… he’s not going to be as big as Kevin, but he is going to be just as fearless.
We’ve got to create some depth on the defensive line because that’s going to be big for us. Our first few guys have a chance to be pretty good, but we’re going to have to find some guys that can give them a spill.
Q:Offensively you won’t ever be able to replace a quarterback like you had in Gene Ruth, what is going to be some of the things you are going to try do to get things done on that side of the ball?
A:You won’t ever replace someone like Gene, he is a very unique football player. He spoiled me in his toughness and leadership… we’ve got to find some guys that can be leaders and we’ve got a couple of options in Austin Spann, transfer from Smithville, and freshman Cody Jenkins.
Q:There was a lot of excitement in the camp this time last year when you came on to the scene, what are your thoughts on your second spring practice?
A:We’ve had some really good practices… the kids emotions are high and we’ve challenged them these three days going full gear and haven’t held anything back.
I’m really excited because I thought we have a really good first day. Obviously the execution isn’t going to be there yet, but the main thing I enjoyed was the competition and how much the kids enjoyed being out on the field. We want to instill that in the kids, to compete everyday we’re their out there and that’s the biggest thing we are trying to get done.
The Rams will host a four-team jamboree on May 14th featuring Houlka, Nettleton, and New Albany.
Mike Ray, Calhoun City? High School
Q:What kind of numbers did you have come out for practice today?
A:Our numbers were down a little bit because a lot of the guys are still in track and baseball, but we are expecting close to 30 to 35 players by the time we get ready for our spring game against Charleston.
Q:What are the goal for the spring?
A:We’ve got a lot of work to do, but our top focus right now is going to be finding some depth.
Q:Defensively, what will be your focus?
A:We have some key positions to fill, so we are going to trying a lot of different things with some of the guys to see where they can help us out on that side of the ball.
Q:Offensively seems to be a strong point, what is going to be your focus?
A:We have a lot of skill guys coming back on offense, so it’s going to be about finding consistently on that side of the ball and using a lot of guys at different spots to help create some depth.
Q:What were your overall thoughts on the day?
A:I was pleased with everything. We still have a little bit of a challenge in front of us, but that’s always what you are faced with in the spring.