By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – A year ago, the fanfare surrounding the beginning of spring practice for the Tupelo Golden Wave football team was not even a blip on the radar.
Since, the Wave won 13 ball games, including wins over South Panola and Madison Central. And Tupelo earned its way into the Class 6A state championship game.
Now, spring football 2014 begins Tuesday for Tupelo, and the Wave are certainly a big ping on the radar of 6A schools. At the same time, spring football for the Wave is just a low-key chance for second-year head coach Trent Hammond and his squad to prepare for the fall.
“Last year, we didn’t know anybody,” said Hammond, who took over a program coming off a 4-7 mark, and which had not been in a state title game since 1992. “This year, we have a little bit more of an idea of what the kids can do.
“But we can’t dwell on last season, or we won’t be getting ready for the coming season.”
Hammond will have challenges that most head coaches have preparing for the fall season. Specific to the Wave, overcoming the loss of three star linebackers and the entire defensive backfield, and graduation of significant offensive weapons.
On defense, the Wave do return linebacker Justin Clifton, and linemen Demarcus Rogers, Jamal Wren, and Shaun Kohlheim.
“That’s a huge building block right there,” Hammond said.
A year ago, Hammond proved he was not bashful about moving established players to new positions
Last season, it was star defensive back Quinn Tiggs to running back.
Hammond’s potential big change currently will be moving key wingback Jarvis Wilson into the defensive backfield.
Also, Hammond will stand up Rogers in a move from line to linebacker.
‘Best 11 on field’
“We want the best 11 on the field at all times,” Hammond said. “There are several kids who are going to make changes.
“As coaches, it’s our job to find what makes the best fit for the Tupelo Golden Wave.”
On offense, quarterback Daniel Bristow started as a sophomore, and will bring a veteran sense to the offense as a junior. And the Wave return 10 offensive linemen who started at least one game.
Senior Alex Norwood should be one of Bristow’s prime targets through the air, with Deamio Garmon a prime candidate to replace Tiggs.
Under MHSAA rules, Tupelo will have 21 days to get in 15 practices. Hammond does not plan to scrimmage against another school.
“We will be focused on the task at hand,” Hammond said.