Clint Hoots will have to make some big decisions in a short amount of time.
The Itawamba AHS football coach needs new starters at quarterback and tailback. With spring drills canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoots has lost an important evaluation period when it comes to judging position battles.
“We evaluate every single player and what they can do and what they can’t do,” Hoots said. “Are they potential starters? Are they backups? Are they guys that are going to help on special teams?
“All that evaluation that goes on in the spring for three weeks, you’re missing.”
IAHS is trying to replace QB Daeveon Sistrunk and tailback Ike Chandler – the 2019 Daily Journal Offensive Player of the Year.
Three players are in the mix at quarterback, while lead back duties will likely be handled by either junior Tae Chandler – Ike’s brother – or sophomore Isaac Smith. Or it could be a tandem effort, with junior Daquon Waters worked into the mix as a scatback.
Preseason drills are currently scheduled to start Aug. 3. By then, football teams will have been unable to gather in nearly five months.
“The thing about high school kids is their bodies change really fast. It’s going to be interesting to see when we get them back on campus what some of these guys look like as far as maturing and bodies changing,” Hoots said.
Spring is also a key evaluation period for Corinth coach Todd Lowery, who led the Warriors to the Class 4A state title last season.
He must replace tailback Tam Patterson, quarterback DT Sheffield and 2019 Daily Journal Defensive Player of the Year Carter Bonds. Sheffield mastered running Corinth’s deceptive Wing-T offense, and the leading candidate to replace him is sophomore Brawner Cregeen.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Cregeen took several snaps last season.
“We see big potential for him,” Lowery said. “He really learned the offense a lot his freshman year.”
Lowery actually is not a big fan of spring football. He doesn’t like having to prepare for a spring game, and doesn’t like the potential of players getting injured.
Still, the absence of spring practices will make preseason drills that much more important in determining starting roles. And coaches will have less than three weeks to figure it all out before the season begins.
“We’re going to be a lot more meticulous in our evaluations, and probably a little more purposeful,” Lowery said.
The loss of spring ball can have an even bigger impact on Class 1A schools like Baldwyn, which relies heavily on two-way players. Graduation took skill players Gabe Richardson, Timothy Scales and Jacolby Williams, the latter of whom was the 2019 Daily Journal Two-Way Player of the Year.
Williams had 1,215 yards and 17 TDs receiving, and he made 11 interceptions at his cornerback position.
Richardson played receiver and corner, while Scales was a receiver and linebacker.
Baldwyn has several rising freshmen and sophomores who are expected to compete for those jobs, but with no spring, “they’re all going to be behind,” coach Michael Gray said.
One advantage for the Bearcats is there are some capable players returning from injuries. Senior Pete Gouine, who tore his ACL early last season, will play receiver. And sophomore Jamaury Marshall, Baldwyn’s quarterback of the future, will play defensive back and slot receiver after returning from a broken leg suffered last summer.
Also, Baldwyn returns starting QB Maddux Richey, who passed for 2,622 yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions last fall. But he won’t have weapons the caliber of Williams or Richardson – players who could catch a pass and burn a defense.
“We’re going to have some pretty good football players, but they’re not going to be (the kind that) they touch it and they just go,” Gray said. “It’ll be a more dink and dunk and ball control type thing until a couple of those kids are able to bust loose.”