Keeping the right attitude
Positive outlook of players impresses coaches
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Austin's Black Bears are a notch ahead of where they were at this time last year because they have developed a positive attitude, know their coach and what he expects of them and worked hard and improved during the off-season.
A positive attitude is essential to being successful in anything you do," coach David Norwood said. "And football is not an exception. We lost our focus at times last season and it hurt our production on the playing field. I don't think that's going to be a problem this season. The kids like each other and they're having fun working together."
"My transition as the new coach last year left something to be desired," Norwood said. "I didn't even know the names of all of the players when the season started and they didn't know much about me and my system. But the passage of time has changed all of that. Now I know them by their first names as well as what their talents are and what I can expect from them.
"We got a lot accomplished in spring training because our kids had a good attitude and worked hard," Norwood said. "Then, we took advantage of the seven extra days of summer work we had by hosting a seven-on-seven tournament and participating in one held in Russellville. We were able to match up against teams from Athens, Deshler, Muscle Shoals, Russellville and Briarwood. The competition really helped our skill players.
"It not only was fun but enabled them to go head to head with players of the caliber they'll be facing throughout the season."
A carryover of their attitude and work ethic was evident in the team's summer strength and conditioning program.
"We turned the weight room over to our interior linemen at 6:30 in the morning and let the skill players come in at 6 p.m. It worked out well. We had good participation and the team as a whole was able to report for pre-season practice in good physical shape," Norwood said.
The Black Bears return 12 starters from last year's offensive and defensive teams. Returning offensive starters are Parker Smith, Corey Scott and Austin Greene, all senior interior linemen; Cameron Gregg and Cordarryl Madry, both senior wide receivers; Cortez Shackelford, junior running back; Alfonso Edwards, junior wide receiver; LeMarcus Jackson, senior wide receiver; and running back and Morgan Hull, junior kicker.
Brandon Burnett, junior defensive end; Ty Chancellor, junior linebacker; and Kendral Ellison, senior defensive end, are returning starters on defense.
"Our kicking game should be in good shape with Hull coming back for his junior season," said Norwood. "He's stronger and more accurate. He kicked off twice in our spring game and put the ball out of the end zone both times. We'll also rely on him for extra point conversions, field goal attempts and punting."
Bailey Hardwick has stepped up at the quarterback position after coming on strong in the off-season. He logged valuable playing time last season as a backup and was the starter in one game.
"Bailey is a good athlete who has a lot of leadership ability," Norwood said. "He can run or pass and has the confidence of his teammates. We're expecting a lot from him this year.
"With the number of starters we have back, I feel like we're two-deep at every position on offense. Any one of these kids can step up and play."
However, the same can't be said for the defense.
"We lost a lot of seniors and they're going to be hard to replace. But the young kids we're looking to for help are talented and are making good progress," Norwood said. "I'm anxious to see what they can do when they're going up head against somebody besides their teammates."
Three sophomores have emerged in the off-season as prime candidates for starting roles with the defense. They are Drew Tuggle, Anthony Thomas and T.T. Mallard.
Two outstanding players for the Black Bears last season are enrolled in college on athletic scholarships. They are Brandon Thrasher, a freshman football player at UNA and Jeremy Dorrance, a freshman baseball player at West Alabama.
Norwood said he and his assistant coaches and players haven't wasted any time looking back on last season's 3-7 record. "We view it as a learning experience. You can't do anything about what has already happened. If something went wrong on the last play, we tell our players not to worry about it but focus on the next one and make it work.
"Success is all about setting goals and working hard to achieve them," Norwood said. "I believe in having a series of goals and I think they should be attainable. Actually, a football season is made up of three seasons. The kids work hard in the pre-season to get ready for their first game. In our case, it's Hartselle. Then, they have to deal with the rest of the games on the schedule. After that, they face the post-season if they're fortunate to make the playoffs.
"Our goals are to win our first game, have a successful season, reach the playoffs and compete for a state championship."
In addition to Norwood, the Black Bears coaching staff will consist of Jeff Smith, offensive coordinator; Steve Meek, quarterbacks; Chris Gillespie, runningbacks; Joel Schrenk, outside linebackers; Mitchell Knox, assistant head coach and linebackers; David Carroll, offensive line and running game coordinator; Paul Averitt, junior varsity head coach; and Nathan Powell, assistant junior varsity coach.