• 84°

McKenzie keeps it simple for spring training

It’s back to the drawing board for the McKenzie Tigers for two weeks as the team is looking to reassemble for the coming year.

But they’ll do so without a handful of standout players, including graduating seniors Condie Pugh, Jay Womack, Tucker Shipp, Tristan Macks and more.

But McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris is confident in his up-and-coming players, as well as the gradual rebuilding process.

His secret? Keep it simple.

“We lost some key guys on the offensive side of the ball especially, and a little bit on the defensive side,” Norris said.

“Offensively, we’re trying to do some things that help our inexperienced guys out.  We’re just going to be very basic, and very vanilla for the spring to try to get the basics down in what we’re getting done. The good thing about the spring is that you get a look at what it’s like without those guys that you’ve lost.”

The Tigers, who began spring training with two days last week, will continue alternating practice and rest for three days this week, only to shift into full gear next week with five days of practice.

Fortunately, there remains a great deal of experience on the 2016 Tigers roster, including a seasoned backfield in senior quarterback William Brown and senior running back Chris Shufford.

According to Norris, the pair, as well as his other sources of senior leadership, will prove key in helping his less-experienced players make the transition from the sideline to the field.

“Both of those guys will be a big part of it,” Norris said.

“The other thing is we’ve got to get guys that maybe didn’t get called on a whole lot last year to buy in a little bit and make us successful at the end of the day,” Norris said.

“We’ve got a mixture of guys coming back that we’ve relied on in the past two or three years, but we’ve also got to have some of those guys we didn’t have to rely on as much taking the bull by the horns and becoming a part of the team a little more.”

Norris and the Tigers have already skipped a step, however, by virtue of combining the junior varsity and varsity squads’ practices.

The process not only gives Norris a sneak peek at some of the up-and-coming talent among his younger prospective players, but it gets them used to the speed of a game played at a higher level.

“J.V and varsity practices together, so it’s one of those things where the younger guys are getting varsity reps instead of J.V. reps,” Norris said.

“We still average about 25-30 players, so we’re moving right along through spring with that.”

There remain several hurdles for the Tigers to overcome, with not much time to clear them—the countywide jamboree between McKenzie, Greenville and Georgiana is slated for next Friday.

But the largest hurdle of all is also probably the simplest.

“The biggest challenge is learning the basics of our offense and defense, and just trying to understand what we want to accomplish,” Norris said.

“We have to understand that there’s a purpose to everything that we do.”