Woodland gets another look at young players during spring ball

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The Woodland High football team has a number of young players who the ’Cats will be counting on next season to step up into bigger roles.

The coaching staff got a good look at those players and what the team will look like in the 2016 season during its 10 days of spring practice, which concluded Friday.

“We’ve had a couple of new guys that came out and stuck with it. They’re going to be able to help and contribute for us. Mostly, it’s those smaller, younger groups that we’re waiting on,” Woodland head coach Tony Plott said. “Our biggest group next year is going to be our sophomores. That class should be close to about 30 kids. Some of them are still going to be JV for another year, but there will be a couple that will have to play on Friday nights. That’s that group that we think is super athletic and really kind of what we’re building around.”

Plott and his staff got a look at the candidates to take over at quarterback during spring practice, where one player will have to step up after the graduation of Grant Robinson.

“I think, right now, the leader would be Brody Williams. He’ll be a junior next year,” Plott said. “We also have Titus Jones. He’s a rising sophomore who is also very capable of leading the team at quarterback as well.”

Titus’ older brother, rising senior defensive end Emmanuel Jones, missed much of last season due to a health issue, but was healthy during spring ball and displayed why he should have a big season for the Wildcats.

“He’s unblockable out there with us,” Plott said of Jones in spring practice. “We’ve yet to block him. He looks very impressive. Actually, we ran him some at running back this spring and he looked really good there, also.” Plott said the offensive line is looking like it could be a strength of the team as well.

“We have guys that have been solid for us over the years. Hunter Hardin over there at guard, Cody Costlow at guard. Both of those guys had good springs,” Plott said. “Probably one of the guys who had the biggest improvement was Dustin McCelwee. He’s a guy that came to us as a freshman as a quarterback, but he’s grown into a really super athletic offensive lineman for us. He’ll be a senior. I think once he embraced the idea of playing offensive and defensive line, the light came on and he really started playing very well.”

Behind the offensive line, Woodland also has to replace several of its running backs, including Jarvis James, Brandon Allen, Phelan Philpot and Jonathan Applin. A candidate has emerged to take some of the carries during spring ball.

“Justice Carter is a guy that played a little bit for us at running back as a freshman. He’s had a really good spring,” Plott said. “He runs the ball extremely hard, low to the ground, runs behind his pads and he’s hard to tackle. He’s coming out of spring as one of our starting running backs.”

Finding multiple running backs will be important as the Wildcats will run the wing-T again like last season. However, Plott said he is hoping to open the offense up a little bit this year.

“We do plan on spreading it out a little bit more right now,” he said. “We’re a wing-T team, but there’s different aspects of wing-T. Everything is going to be from two tight in the T to spreading it out a little bit.”

The focus this spring, though, was working on the basics.

“We just wanted to work on the fundamentals. We always want to get better at blocking and tackling, our assignments on defense, alignment, those type of things,” Plott said. “It was a real successful spring. Every kid got reps, which is always a goal for us. We don’t like to have kids standing there watching. We want every kid involved and they were. Each one of them got better at some level throughout the 10 days.

“We had no major injuries. That’s always good. The kids had a positive experience being out there. We try to make it fun for them. We try to teach them the fundamentals. We’re just trying to basically get better without getting hurt in the spring time. The goal is to get to the fall healthy.”

Woodland will continue to work in the summer and will take part in the FCA team camp, as well as camps at Kennesaw Mountain and Ridgeland in June and July.

“We have three team camps that we’ll go to. So we’re excited about those. We’ll have at least one 7-on-7 basically each week throughout the season. So we’re trying to give the kids lots of reps throughout the summer, put them in situations where they have to compete. We’re still trying to learn how to compete for a full four quarters. So it’s important to us that we get as much time as we can get competing against other people.”