By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Trent Hammond could be called a forward-thinking football coach.
Sure, the memorable 2013 season that included playing for the Class 6A state championship for the Tupelo Golden Wave is nice to talk about.
Postseason awards for the Tupelo coaching staff and team, like three Wave players on the roster for the MAC North/South All-Star Game, are well and good.
And Hammond still listens pleasantly when there is talk about the record-setting 2011 Amory Panthers offense, where he used to coach.
But Hammond now has both feet planted firmly on the calendar year of 2014. Everything else is just background noise.
“I told the players in the locker room to look around, that there are a lot of guys missing,” Hammond said of his first speech to the 2014 Golden Wave on the first Tuesday of school this month. “They need to start preparing, and start preparing today.”
A major catalyst of success in 2013 was the quick and stingy Wave defense. Now Hammond is already trying to figure ways to shore up the loss of seven starters.
“The defensive line will have to anchor us,” Hammond said. “And we’ll have to push the younger defensive players to get better.”
The front seven was the strength of Tupelo’s title game run in its 3-4 alignment, and linemen Demarcus Rogers, Shaun Kohlheim, and Jamel Wren return. The Wave lost three of its four linebackers, leaving Justin Clifton to initially carry the leadership role there.
Tupelo also suffered major graduation losses in the secondary.
Not the case on offense, where Hammond will see nine starters returning to the roster.
They include junior to-be Daniel Bristow at quarterback, and the bulk of the offensive line including Graham Taylor, Nathan Cox, States Norman, Reed Sanders, Dillon Flanagan, London Ruth, and Chase Cannon.
“We jumped into our first week with both feet,” Hammond said. “We won’t be slipping up on anybody this coming season, not after you play for a state championship.
“When you get to this time of the year, you’ve put last season to bed.”
Hammond plans for Tupelo’s spring practice to probably be in April. The MHSAA allows schools 21 days to get in 15 practices.