New faces putting D in Demopolis in 2012

Published 4:44 pm Saturday, June 16, 2012

A new year will bring new faces and renewed optimism for the Demopolis HIgh football team this season.

The Tigers’ roster will pepper a handful of established players amid a bevy of inexperience as it looks to work its way through a redrawn region and toward another Class 5A crown.

While the offense will have its share of fresh faces, it is the defensive side of the ball where Tiger fans will most need the roster included in the souvenir program.

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As Demopolis head coach Tom Causey and his team went back earlier this spring, they did so with the notion that the team would return only five players with considerable experience on defense.

The greatest area of concern heading into the spring was the team’s pressing need to identify capable players in the secondary. For the second consecutive season, the Tigers graduated all four of their starting defensive backs and return no players who logged any measurable time in the defense’s third level.

“Throughout spring and summer, we’re going to try to find eight that can play back there. You’ve got to have two deep,” Causey said. “We’re looking for guys who can be 1s and 2s about the same that will, No. 1, tackle and be physical and, No. 2, be able to cover the pass.”

The Tigers are looking to put together a group that will be more efficient at stopping ball carriers than its 2011 predecessor, a group that made big plays but often struggled to finish tackles.

“We’ve had some really nice additions to our team that have come out for spring training that are going to help us in the secondary,” Causey said.

While the Tigers will not return a single player to the position group, they will find their leadership in the form of Demetrius Kemp, a junior who will slide from outside linebacker to safety for the 2012 season.

Kemp will be joined at the safety spots by newcomer Tyler Perkins, who made his presence felt in the spring, along with fellow new Tigers Mason Rogers and Sebastian Hale as well as Wyatt Hale, who moves from offense to the last line of the defense. Sophomore Tyler Overstreet also figures to push for playing time should he continue to produce at his current level.

The cornerback positions will also see a handful of new faces take snaps as senior Tommy Wilson will be called upon to lead the group despite not having played the game in more than two years. Wilson will play opposite a pair of talented freshmen pushing for early playing time in Marcus Wright and Jamarcus Ezell.

Despite all the new faces, Causey is optimistic about the Tiger secondary, crediting the group for its speed and hard-nosed play.

While the defensive backs will be a parade of new names, the linebacking corps will bring back senior Wesley Anderson to anchor the group after a solid 2011 campaign. Anderson will play on the inside for the Tigers and be flanked on one side by Peyton Pearson, a junior who played starter’s snaps at outside linebacker late in the 2011 season for the Tigers and has impressed thus far this offseason.

Tanner Moore, a junior, figures to be in the mix in the defense’s second level along with classmates Wil Logan and Kevin Wheeler, the latter of which moved from safety to outside linebacker.

Senior Jack Kerby has come on strong and begun to make his presence felt in the linebacking corps while a trio of freshmen are also in the mix for playing time as Drew Jones, Matt Dauphin and Keishaun Scott have produced well since arriving from Demopolis MIddle School.

“I like them because they are football players. They like playing football. They push each other everyday. They’re highly competitive and they’re very coachable. They’re very young,” Causey said of his linebacking corps. “They’re competing everyday for playing time and they’re competing everyday just to be competitive. We’re not as big as we’d like to be but we are fast and we’re physical.”

Anchoring the defense will be a revamped defensive front that returns the most experience on the team. Kessy Bell, the leader of the 2011 defensive line and Hollis Bright, who played considerable snaps toward the end of the season, figure to return as starters. Lane Hawkins saw plenty of playing time in 2011 and finds himself in the mix for more of the same in 2012.

“Those guys played a ton of reps for us up there last year. Those three got tons of reps for us and they’re back,” Causey said of the group. “We expect those guys to lead our defense from the D-line position.”

While the Tigers’ trusty trio brings experience to the group, Tyler Merriweather will slide down from outside linebacker, offering the potential to be the most dynamic playmaker on the defensive line.

“Putting Tyler Merriweather down at defensive end has been a really good move for us. We also moved Stephen Stewart down from OLB to DE and he has been really good for us,” Causey said. “We’ve had some young guys who’ve stepped up over there and have been really good for us.”

Sophomores Drake Holtzclaw, Amon Gracie and Timothy Bonner have wedged themselves firmly in the conversation on the Tigers’ defensive line while Rahmeel Cook and Travares Hall, both freshmen, have also refused to be ignored thus far.

From the front end of the Demopolis defense to the back, one theme is abundantly clear. The Tigers value speed more than ever before.

“We’re trying to get faster,” Causey said. “We want 11 hats that will run to the ball and make tackles when we get there.”

Because speed and hustle are optimal in the Tigers’ defensive scheme, many of the team’s freshmen have found themselves with a unique opportunity based upon their willingness to get dirty.

“Their effort and their attitude. They came in last December to life weights over here. They’ve come in with great attitude and given us great effort from the jump. They’ve got a confidence and a swagger about them and that’s good for our team,” Causey said. “I think our older guys have done a real good job of leading the younger guys, which has made our younger guys better. Hopefully good things will come from it, as long as they’re competing each day. They’re competing each day at each position. Competition breeds success.”

The Demopolis Tigers will begin to get a better look at what they have beginning June 26 when they travel to Thomasville for a 7-on-7 scrimmage. Other such dates include a scrimmage at UWA July 17 and an FCA team camp at UWA July 20.

The Tigers are set to travel to Jackson for a 7-on-7 July 24 before hosting Bibb County for a scrimmage July 25.

The Tigers will wrap up their summer with their south Marengo County cousins Sweet Water July 30 and July 31 before playing their final exhibition contest Aug. 24 at Sweet Water for their annual Jamboree game.