Bulldogs begin spring practice drills

Published 11:19 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stacy Luker walked up and down the sidelines Monday, taking notice of the 45 young men who donned gold jerseys and white pants for the first day of spring practice.

He was missing more than a dozen players thanks in large part to the multi-sport athletes who successfully extended the school’s baseball season just two days earlier. Unfazed, he continued his customary opening session.

“Put your mouthpiece in and buckle your chinstrap,” he said as he leaned in and addressed one of his younger players who apparently was unaware of what would soon follow. “You’re going to thank me for that advice later.”

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Regardless of the absentees and reduced numbers, Luker and his staff entered Monday with specific goals in mind.

“We’ve definitely got to address our cornerback situation,” he said, referring to one of a handful of positions in which the Bulldogs will seek to identify starters, “and we’ll have about three guys auditioning for two linebacker spots.”

The two open cornerback slots are available due to the graduation of long-time starters Damaraquis Williams and Antonio Landrum. The linebacker positions remain vacant following the departures of Devin Wolf and Trae McIntosh.

Additionally, the Bulldogs will look to fill holes on the offensive side of the ball. Among those is the tight end spot vacated by 2008 1A Lineman of the Year finalist Tate Luker.

“We’re moving Linc (Luker) from wingback to tight end,” Luker said of the staff’s primary plan for filling the tight end spot, “but we’ve first got to make sure Linc is the right guy there.”

Still, the highest profile position currently open in the Bulldogs’ lineup is the quarterback slot.

“We’ll be throwing three guys in the mix at quarterback and see who comes out there,” Stacy said of the empty space under center.

The SWHS head man said he and his staff will be assessing the credentials and performances of Randy Jackson, Jul Gaines and Brett Davis at the signal-caller position. Jackson projects to be the favorite in the battle due to his experiences from having filled in for an injured Williams in 2008.

“Our quarterback situation has got to be answered by the time spring is over,” Stacy said. “Randy should have the upper hand. Randy should come out and answer those questions for me.”

While the Bulldogs’ roster features a number of holes following the departure of a class that won four of five state championships – including the last three in a row – Luker is unconcerned with the question of who will assume the leadership of his football team.

“With every group that leaves, there’s always somebody there to take their place,” Luker explained. “(The 2008 class) was a great group of kids. But we lost a great group of kids from the ‘07 team, too.”

While many of the well-known names are no longer on the roster, Luker is pleased with the depth of talent the 2009 player group appears to boast.

“We do think we’re deep enough that we’re going to be able to play a lot of kids,” he said. “We’ve got three or four ninth graders we think can help us.”

Luker and his staff are scheduled to get their first in-game look at their 2009 roster on May 15 when they travel play West Lauderdale (Miss.) for their spring game.

“They’re a bigger school and we’re always looking to play a bigger team,” Luker said. “They’ve got a great program. And they run the Wing-T. So when I get to that week, I don’t have to slow down and line our kids up against the spread. And it prepares us for teams we play that run the Wing-T.”

Aside from identifying starters, one of the key focuses of the Bulldogs’ spring practice period will be developing that depth. Sweet Water’s method for developing that depth is simple. It involves putting in a mouthpiece and buckling a chinstrap.

“You’re not able to get a whole lot done,” Stacy said of the 10 days the AHSAA allows for spring practice. “But we’re just trying to build depth and be as physical as we can each day we’re out there.”