GHS has to replace number of starters

Published 3:38 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last season Greenville head coach Ben Blackmon knew he had the pieces in place to field a successful football team: A three-year starting quarterback (Ryan Smith), a playmaker at wide receiver (Mikwese Claybourne), and an all-state defensive lineman (Kenneth Carter). Couple those three with a wealth of experience on both offense and defense and the Tigers had all the ingredients to make a run for the state title.

The Tigers came up short in those regards, (losing to eventual state champ Demopolis in the second round of the playoffs), but posted an 11-1 record and won their first region title since 1997. Along the way Smith, Claybourne and the offense scored 459 points to set the school record.

But graduation will take its toll on the Tigers in 2010. GHS loses 20 seniors and many of those played significant roles on both offense and defense a year ago.

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“We’re dealing with a lot of inexperience right now,” said Blackmon following the Tigers first day of spring practice Tuesday. “It was a typical first day…we’re waiting around to try and find some leaders because we lost a lot of leaders from last year.”

The Tigers will have 16 seniors this year. Two of those, Patrick Bedgood and Michael Watts, saw a significant amount of playing time at skill positions last year with Bedgood at running back and Watts at wide receiver.

Kent Riley is the expected starter at quarterback, said Blackmon. Riley, who will be a sophomore in 2010, possesses tons of talent (he scored three rushing touchdowns in the Tigers’ first round playoff win over Moody last season), but it will be hard to replace Smith’s grasp of the offense.

“We’re trying to get Kent to be more effective and we’re trying to find someone who can push Kent,” said Blackmon, who said rising freshman Harper Vincent and Brandon Smith would play quarterback this spring as well. “The learning curve is great. What we’re trying to do is shrink it (the playbook) down and make sure they’re working on their fundamentals in the spring. We’re trying to get them confident in what they’re doing and putting them in the right spot.”

Blackmon said there are 97 players out for spring practice this season.

The Tigers will scrimmage on Saturday at 9 a.m. GHS will play Luverne in a jamboree on May 14 at Tiger Stadium.