GARDENDALE, Alabama — The first sign of the coming fall is already upon us. High school football season is right along the horizon.
While there’s still one more week until practices begin for high school football teams across Alabama, there are 21 local high school teams set to make their appearances in Gardendale on Monday and Tuesday.
That’s the dates for the Jefferson and Shelby County Football Coaches Associations annual media days in Gardendale. There will be 42 Alabama High School Athletic Association programs represented at the podium across Monday and Tuesday in Gardendale.
The new season brings about some new questions in a true introductory session for this fall.
Why? That’s because a full third of the area’s 42 AHSAA coaches at those schools have new coaches in place for the 2013 seasons.
The Metro area saw rampant turnover this winter as teams geared up for another football season.
There will be 14 new head football coaches meeting the media for the first time in Gardendale this week. That’s quite a lot of new faces in new places for one year’s worth of Media Days.
Check back here often for real-time updates from Media Days. There should be more than 100 updates to the timeline of events from the day with each team’s appearance.
Minor and coach Randy Cook are set to kick the two-day event off at 9 a.m. The Berry High and UGA grad is always to the point and entertaining about the outlook for his Tenacious Tigers every fall.
HOOVER BUCS (CLASS 6A)
Guests: Coach Josh Niblett, Senior LB Chandler Coskery, Senior OG P.J. Hatcher; Senior WR Hagan Scott
12:14 PM: Niblett would like to play 20 players on both sides of the ball and have depth. He defines it differently than most might.
He defines depth to him as somebody that can come in and do just as good as the starter at the position without any significant dropoff.
12:13 PM: Key position battles for Hoover during fall camp: Running back and wide receiver.
12:12 PM: Niblett doesn’t think anything is wrong with Twitter and social media but noted what it is put out there is seen by everybody.
12:10 PM: When asked about whether the modern football player has it any easier than their peers of yesteryear, Niblett said it depends on whether “he has a phone or not” these days.
12:08 PM: Coskery said new defensive coordinator Robert Evans runs “essentially the same defense” the Bucs did last year. Coach Evans.
12:04 PM: Hatcher is also a model example of the student-athlete concept on and off the field. He was the President of the Student Council last year.
12:03 PM: Coskery wore a bow tie today. He’s extremely capable in the classroom ranking 64th in his class. He’s a National Honor Society member and scored a 26 on his ACT.
12:00 PM: Hoover returns its middle linebacker for the first time in several years.
Coskery’s return will be big. Coach Niblett stressed that impact of the position as the “quarterback of his defense” on the field.
11:34 AM: Hill is exploring new options with building team chemistry with this year’s team like cookouts and even going to bond together as a team by playing paintball.
11:33 AM: New Vincent coach Jason Hill feels good about the receiver position on the football team. There’s a lack of the big bodies that are necessary to look imposing on the offensive line at this time.
11:30 AM: Numbers appear to be a big concern. The coaching staff has reached out to the members of the baseball team in order to generate more numbers and build more depth on this year’s team.
11:29 AM: The Yellow Jackets will be senior heavy this year. There are maybe 13-14 seniors among the 27 varsity players in the program.
11:28 AM: New coach Jason Hill comes over from Phil Campbell. He got hired earlier this month. He’s had three weeks leading the program, but he’s been in “driver’s education school” for two of those weeks to update his teaching qualifications in order to fill the coaching and teaching slot at Vincent.
Guests: Coach Andrew Zow; Junior DL Brian Hodge; Senior LB Aaron Terrill; Soph. LB William Inabinett
11:25 AM: He realizes that it is coach speak, but he said that the Fultondale game will be big as far as seeing how much better his program is in its second year.
He also pointed out the Leeds game later in the season as a benchmark.
11:24 AM: There are currently no Bulldogs in the program with a college offer.
11:22 AM: Zow said that he hopes to be balanced, but stressed the importance of the run game this year. He likes his backs and he feels he has the offensive line to move other teams around.
He’s not as tall on the offensive line as he might like but they are “wide and stocky” with a couple of 300-pounders on the team.
11:20 AM: Montevallo brought Inabinett along even though he’s just a sophomore. Why? The young linebacker has show a lot of leadership ability on and off the field and in the classroom.
11:18 AM: Zow noticed the big gap between his program and that or region heavyweight like Leeds was numbers and then a consistency to get better as the game went along.
Leeds just showed their ability to win and just pulled away from his team last year despite just a 10-0 deficit at the half. He noted a “deer in the headlights” look with his team in that game last year.
11:17 AM: Zow said some teams get caught up in the plays. He said the program worked on the skill set for each play. He stressed teaching things like scoop blocks.
He looked at the film after a great rushing game and saw that his guys didn’t really “block a soul” and that the running back did most of it by itself.
11:16 AM: Zow is pleased with his program in his second year. He feels so much better about the program compared to this time last year. He says the football part and “getting sweaty” stuff is easy but all the financial stuff that pays the bills such as fundraisers and organizing travel and meals is a big headache.
11:14 AM: Zow couldn’t help but be frank with depth issues at a 3A program in terms of a practice schedule or facing Class 5A or 6A teams in 7-on-7 sessions where they simply swap out players and his Bulldogs stay on the field.
11:12 AM: Zow noted the lack of seniors on this team. He’s got quite a lot more players in his junior class.
11:10 AM: One of our media friends made a quip to coach Andrew Zow about his team’s colors.
Zow, the former Alabama quarterback great, just said that his team’s orange and blue was “Montevallo orange and blue” and left it at that.
Guests: Coach Brett Burnett; Senior S Josh Brasher; Senior QB Devon Mines
11:03 AM: Pelham coach Brett Burnett says Hoyette (6-3, 295) is attracting interest on both sides of the ball for his length and his ability to move. His feet are pretty good for a big man. He’s an interior defensive lineman at Pelham.
11:00 AM: Look for Eli Beall’s vast production at fullback to be replaced by more of a committee this fall rather than one single player.
10:58 AM: DT Braxton Hoyette (6-3, 295) has offers from Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, South Alabama and UAB.
10:57 AM: Pelham’s players said they didn’t mind the new region so much. There’s no Hoover, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills but they didn’t feel it was too much of a loss in their high school experience not getting to play those teams.
10:57 AM: Pelham coach Brett Burnett said that the new Montgomery and Shelby County region his program joined last year resulted in an approximate increase in the team’s travel budget of about $5,000.
HUEYTOWN (CLASS 6A)
Guests: Coach Mark Stephens; Senior QB Robert Johnson; Senior S Will Reynolds
10:31 AM: Stephens has
16 seniors of 64 total players.
10:30 AM: Stephens says
this could “absolutely” be a playoff team. “We’ve shown spurts when these guys
10:28 AM: This is the
first head coaching job for Stephens, but he says he is thankful for the things
that were in place before he got there.
10:23 AM: Robert Johnson says team chemistry
is the most important aspect of the team. “If we play together as a team we can
10:22 AM: Stephens plans
on keeping it simple defensively. “If our kids are playing fast we can be
competitive with anyone. That’s what we’re hanging our hat on,” he said.
10:21 AM: Stephens said
Hueytown will utilize the “Pistol” formation this season. “We want to be a
downhill run team, but our overall philosophy is we want to be the most
physical team on the field.”
Guests: Coach Wiley McKeller; Senior ATH Ronnie Clark (6-3, 218); Senior WR Jordan Bishop (6-3, 195)
10:20 AM: McKeller has a number in mind for how many times Clark will throw the ball per game this season. That’s 17 times per game and McKeller’s answer appears to have some solid math and film study behind that logic.
10:19 AM: Coach Wiley McKeller thinks that playing quarterback
will be a little bit of a break for him as he won’t be at receiver this
season and that will save him several sprints down the field. He thinks
it will free Clark up to play more defense this fall.
10:18 AM: Calera is moving to a 3-3 front on defense and away from a 3-4 front this fall.
10:17 AM: Elite prospect Ronnie Clark said his decision will be
between Alabama and Auburn and it will be sometime next week. He’s not
sure yet if he will take any official visits once he makes his decision
other than his college choice.
10:16 AM: Coach Wiley McKeller really likes his offensive line. Another key camp battle is at the defensive end spot.
10:15 AM: The Hornets are looking for another receiver at the
off spot opposite of rising senior Jordan Bishop. That’s a big position
SHELBY COUNTY (CLASS 5A)
Guests: Coach Brian Smith; Senior QB Ty Proctor; Senior Marterius Senior LB Matt Youngblood
10:14 AM: After just one
win last season, Brent says, “I think this could be a playoff team. We had one
win last year, but I think this team is very capable of sneaking into the third
or fourth spot.”
10:12 AM: Smith says
before he got to Shelby County, the kids didn’t even kick extra points, which
is something he’s changed.
10:08 AM: Smith said
moving to the spread/pistol last year took some getting used to. As for the
defense, Smith says the Wildcats will be smaller than last season, but faster.
The team is also changing from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, which the players have
adapted to well.
10:07 AM: Smith is in
his second season at Shelby County. Linebacker Matt Youngblood says the biggest
difference in having a year under his belt with the new coach is, “This year we
know what to expect and know how everything’s going to go. I think in the
middle of the season (last year) stuff started to click. We’re not having to go
through the fundamentals now.”
10:05 AM: The biggest
area of concern for head coach Brent Smith is the Wildcats are still relatively
young, with just 13 seniors of 71 total players.
Guests: coach Chris Elmore, ATH Austin Washington; LB Micah McLaughlin
9:48 AM: The modern world of the football player still
includes a part-time job and other sports. Chelsea has about 15 members of the
team that holds part-time jobs and a full third of the team plays another
sport. The Hornets have 60 guys on their varsity roster.
9:45 AM: Chelsea will
have 28 seniors this year. Elmore thinks the running back-by-committee this
year can be just as effective as it was with Troy signee Julius McCall was last season.
Aki Coles (6-0, 205) is the between the tackles back. Jones and Washington are
the speed guys. Coles ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.
9:44 AM: Elmore looks to the run game as the strength of the
team heading into fall camp.
9:43 AM: He looked at
the Prattville film from last year and sees last year as a hiccup. He expects
the Lions to be right back next season.
9:42 AM: Elmore really doesn’t know the answer as to the
team to beat in the region. He’s played in a different region. The only team he’s
had a lot of experience with is Pelham.
He noted the quality of coaches in the region as a big strength.
9:40 AM: Senior DB/RB Austin Washington points to 4-5 guys on the team as
Hornets to watch out for. Marshall was one of those. He’s also
expecting big things out of himself. Rising
junior DE/OLB Darrell Foster (6-2, 195) is great at rushing the passer and
getting into the backfield and making things happen.
Sophomore-to-be RB A.J. Jones
(5-10, 180) is another player to watch for this season.
9:38 AM: OT/DT Troy
Marshall (6-3, 285) holds South Alabama, UAB and Western Kentucky offers right now. He’s
expected to play on both sides of the ball, but his future appears to be a
guard on the next level.
9:37 AM: Expect a similar system and some of the same formations as last year. Look for more zone blocking in the run game.
The Hornets will shift
from a 4-3 to the 3-4 front this year. It just puts better players on the field.
Why? They feel that Chelsea is a little deeper at linebacker than it is on the defensive line.
9:37 AM: Elmore thinks the game isn’t as physical as it used
to be. It’s a lot faster, though. Nobody ran the no-huddle years ago as they do
now. He noted more distractions this year on players these days with recruiting
websites and other aspects of social media.
9:36 AM: Elmore wants the team to practice at a
high rate of speed.
9:36 AM: One goal for next year: Work on the
9:35 AM: The new coaching staff saw no need for a complete
overhaul. Elmore said the previous staff was already doing a lot of good
Elmore tried to build off the things Wade
Waldrop had working in the program. There are tweaks. He wants the team
to work faster and smarter.
9:34 AM: The players
describe the Elmore era as very energetic. Very uplifting and he’s always
working to help the team improve.
Got a question you’d like to hear answered at Media Days? Feel free to share those thoughts in the comments below. We’ll do our best to make sure the best ones are heard.
The full schedule for each day appears below:
9 AM: Minor
9:16 AM Briarwood Christian
9:32 AM Chelsea*
9:48 AM Calera
10:04 AM Shelby County
10:20 AM Hueytown*
10:36 AM Pelham
10:54 AM Montevallo
11:10 AM Vincent*
11:26 AM Thompson
11:42 AM Hoover
11:58 AM Pleasant Grove
12:14 PM Spain Park*
12:30 PM Oak Mountain
12:48 PM Clay-Chalkville
1:04 PM Fairfield
1:20 PM Mountain Brook
1:36 PM Shades Valley
1:54 PM Vestavia Hills
2:10 PM McAdory
2:26 PM Shades Mountain Christian*
9 AM: Mortimer Jordan*
9:16 AM: Corner
9:32 AM: Fultondale*
9:48 AM: Gardendale*
10:04 AM: Pinson Valley
10:20 AM: Oak Grove
10:36 AM: Center Point*
10:54 AM: Leeds
11:10 AM: Midfield
11:26 AM: John Carroll*
11:42 AM: Hewitt-Trussville
11:58 AM: Homewood
12:14 PM: Huffman
12:30 PM: Jackson-Olin*
12:48 PM: Ramsay
1:04 PM: Wenonah
1:20 PM: Parker
1:36 PM: Carver-Birmingham*
1:54 PM: Woodlawn*
2:10 PM: Bessemer City*
2:26 PM: Tarrant
*–Indicates a new coach in place for the 2013 season