What summer break?
Just as spring sports officially came to a close, summer workouts began for several Tullahoma High School teams, including the football team, who hit the field running on Tuesday.
“They’ve been three good days and we’re getting to places we’re supposed to be on time and getting through workouts,” said THS Head Coach John Olive. “Our second day, Wednesday, was a really, really good day. We’re going to be young. I mean, we look like a young team again after basically being a veteran team these last couple of years.”
Last year, the Wildcats had a historic season, putting together a 10-3 year, before seeing their season end with a 6-2 loss to Maplewood in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. However, a huge portion of players from that team graduated in May.
While things have been good so far during the summer, Olive noted three key things that he’s going to be looking at during this summer.
1. Continuing to find linemen
During the spring, due to some players being unavailable since they were taking part in spring sports, Olive put an emphasis on trying to find offensive and defensive linemen. At that time, the THS coach said he spotted several players who could help at those positions.
However, without pads, it can really be a challenge to find some of those players who can help this year’s football team. That said, Olive said he and his staff are going to continue to be working with several athletes to fit into those positions.
“We’ve got to keep working with the linemen,” Olive said. “Obviously we’re not in pads so you can’t do nearly as much stuff as you got to do to find those linemen. Biggest thing we have to do is get healthy with some linemen. We’re still waiting on all of our line men to be healthy, all together at one time.”
2. Searching for another quarterback
Ben Fulton will be returning at quarterback for the Wildcats this fall. As a junior, he helped lead the Wildcats on the playoff run, amassing 1,600 yards and throwing 14 touchdowns, while running for one more.
Past Fulton on the depth chart though, Tullahoma is left with no players with varsity quarterback experience. As of now, sophomore Ryan Scott is slated to be the second-string quarterback, but past that, there’s plenty of uncertainty.
During the spring, the Wildcats’ coaching staff was hit with the news that Kyler Parker would be transferring to Moore County. Parker had been the second-string quarterback last year for Tullahoma, even receiving playing time against Maplewood in the playoff loss.
“That was a big blow to us,” Olive said. “Kyler was a really good football player and would have played a whole lot, in a lot of different areas for us, offense, defense and special teams. So the pressure’s on now to develop a second quarterback. We think Ryan Scott’s going to be a good one. There’s a couple other guys in that class that can play quarterback. We just got to get them ready to play.”
Olive noted that sophomores D.J. Dillehay and Jacob Dixon could both be in the running for those backup positions as well.
3. Consistently getting better
With so many players leaving from last year’s team it leaves plenty of room for this year’s squad to make its own name.
During the first few days of summer workouts, the Tullahoma coaching staff has been happy with the team’s effort. However, it’s still early in the summer and just like anything, that could change over time. The one thing that Olive wants to guard against, is seeing his team take steps backwards.
“We just have to learn how to become consistent in our work so that we don’t have a good day and then an average day,” he said. “We need to get it where we’re having one good day after another and when you do that, that’s when special things start happening.”
During the summer, Olive added two other areas that he wants to see his team improve. The first he noted was that he wants to see his squad’s overall speed improve. Secondly, he wants to see his defensive players, get better at jumping routes.
“One of our big goals is to try to gain a step maybe two steps and part of that is that you improve your speed, that you get a better burst,” Olive said. “And so a lot of our time this week’s been spent with Coach [Maurice] Shaw, trying to get us faster. And we’ll continue doing that all the way through the month of June.
“The other thing is that you can become a step quicker if you can figure out where the ball’s going,” he added. “Recognize the pattern. Therefore, I might not be quite as fast as I need to be, but because I have figured out where the ball is, I get an extra step, jump on trying to come up and make the play and pick off the pass.”