Hartselle wraps up spring practice
With a long list of players with returning experience, including several top offensive threats, the Tigers prefer to look at the situation as a reloading mission.
“I think our spring went really well,” said Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey. “We’ve got good numbers on both sides of the ball and I was very pleased with the work we got done during the spring.
“It was a very, very demanding off-season and that wasn’t really because of pressure the coaches put on them. This group was harder on themselves. That hard work doesn’t guarantee you championships, though. It does guarantee you’ll be competitive.”
The Tigers have several key players returning on the defensive side of the football, including three players who started at linebacker last season, two starters in the secondary and a pair of defensive linemen.
But Hartselle must replace leading tackler Logan Cain, the Tigers’ most experienced player.
Jake Kimbrell, the team’s second leading tackler last season, will be counted on to step up and fill Cain’s leadership role.
“We’re going to be young at outside linebacker,” Godsey said. “We’ve got some talented players at the position, but they’re just very young.”
Tyler Phillips, who started four games last season at the outside linebacker slot, has shown solid improvement and should be ready to step into a full-time starting role.
Jackson Reeves, a rising junior, overcame a broken thumb last year to lead the Tigers in interceptions on the way to all-state honorable mention honors to lead the Tigers’ secondary.
One of the top defensive playmakers in the state, Reeves will anchor the Tigers’ secondary. “Jackson is as good a player as I’ve ever coached ability-wise,” Godsey said. “He has the tools to be a great as player as we’ve had here.”
Several other key returners from last year’s team include cornerback Isiah Fowler, fullback Blaze Lawrimore and linebackers James Seiglock and Jordon Orr.
Orr – the younger brother for former Tiger standout Craig Orr – missed all of last season after transferring to the program.
Offensively, the Tigers return several talented producers from a year ago, including quarterback Will Lang, tailback Malcom Fossett and receiver Will Tiffin.
All three played major roles in the team’s success on the offensive side of the ball.
Lang had off-season shoulder surgery and was limited during the spring. He was able to test the repaired shoulder late in the spring schedule and reported no problem with the shoulder.
Fossett, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, has looked solid in the backfield.
“Malcom had an outstanding spring,” Godsey said. “I think he is going to have another good year.”
Tiffin is the lone returning starter at wide receiver, but Jeston Thompson and Chance Partlow will be expected to fill two receiver spots created by the graduation of Payton Sittason and Mac Hendrix.
The Tigers didn’t spend much time working on the passing game – the limited spring practice days were geared toward the running attack – but the newcomers will get plenty of work in the passing attack during summer 7-on-7 drills.
Hartselle’s offensive front will need to be reworked after losing several key players, including Chad Hampton, who will play at Jacksonville State this fall.
Will Swann started at center last season and brings experience to the offensive front. He could also see playing time at defensive end this fall.
Austin Borden, a two-year starter at nose guard, will also play in some capacity on the offensive line.
Jared Appleton, Brian Malone, Charles Youngblood, Dylan Thompson and Carter Harrison will also be in the mix for starting spots up front when the Tigers open the 2010 season.
“We’ve got competition at every position and that’s a good thing,” Godsey said. “Hopefully, that competition raises the level of everybody’s play. And hopefully that competition builds depth.
“We’ve still got a lot of learning that has to be done before we are ready to open the season this fall.”