Defending champs getting geared up for season opener

Published 3:10 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

The Tigers are closing in on the six-week mark before the opening kickoff for the 2010 season, which will come on the road against perennial power Briarwood Christian Aug. 27.

“We’re not close to where we need to be,” Demopolis High head coach Tom Causey said. “We’ve got a lot of young players as far as playing time that have got to start taking ownership in this team. You step in that huddle on offense and defense and there are a lot of new faces that weren’t in there last year.”

The Tigers entered the offseason needing to replace all but six pass receptions from last year’s squad, which won the Class 5A state title.

“We’ve got to have somebody out there that will block on the edge and stretch a defense and go vertical with them,” Causey said of the team’s quest for help at receiver.

The current makeup of the Demopolis receiving corps creates an interesting dynamic as returning starting quarterback Ben Pettus has no experienced targets at his disposal. A season ago, Pettus was the new face in the Demopolis passing game and was led, in large part, by his receivers. The opposite will need to be true in order for Demopolis to find success this season.

“The good thing about last year was those guys were so experienced they helped (Pettus) grow faster,” Causey said of the now-departed receiving corps that made a considerable impact on the team’s state title run. “Now (Pettus is) the guy that (the receivers) are looking to.”

Other offensive holes include an offensive line spot at right tackle where Caleb Garrett graduated.

But it is the defense where there is a larger number of new faces are getting significant repetitions in practice. The Tigers lost key contributors Dalvin Harris, Jeremy Wallace, Larry Cobb, Anthony Hardy and Larry Cobb out of the secondary. Additionally, the lack of experience at linebacker has moved rising senior Tramaine Irby up closer to the line of scrimmage. That means that almost the entire two-deep depth chart in the Tigers secondary has moved on.

On the defensive line, Reid Barkley is the only returning starter. And the linebacking corps features a handful of faces still acclimating to new positions.

Still, Causey feels better about where his defense is, citing the offense as a primary point of concern.

“I guess you don’t notice it as much on the defense because it is a new system,” Causey said. “There is the old saying about defense being ahead of the offense and I think, in our case, it is.”

While there are plenty of questions yet to be answered by Causey and his staff, the team has seen a handful of players begin to emerge throughout the roster.

“Tramaine Irby has had a phenomenal offseason the entire time,” Causey said of the safety who converted to outside linebacker. “He has done a good job of leading us on the field and in the weight room.” Causey said Demopolis has also gotten impressive contributions from seniors Matt Sellers, Wiley Isaac, Dantrayle Wheeler and Matt Barger as well as junior Steven Foster and sophomore Tyrelle Barnett. Wheeler and Barger are in their first years playing football during their high school careers.

The team will continue its daily workout routine until Aug. 5 when it is allowed to put on pads for the first time.