The Hinesville Hurricanes semi-pro football team has started practice for its upcoming season, adding some new faces to the coaching staff and preparing for a lot of new opponents in their summer league play.
While head coach James Sharp and assistant coach Michael ‘Ice’ Jones remain as the team’s coaching backbone, Bobby Hawes has joined the squad as the new offensive coordinator and Jade Richards comes in as the new defensive coordinator.
Hawes has coached at the high school level in Europe and said he plans to instill discipline in the players. He also said he wants to build on what the team has done in its previous season.
The coach said he’s run the spread offense and the wing-T but said the Hurricanes would likely benefit more from the spread.
"Right now, we don’t have a person designated to be the starters in all the positions," Hawes said. "Due to so many transitions from last year to this year and being a military town it’s kind of hard sometimes to pick athletes without going through the entire pre-season. Shortly after our pre-season game we should know who will be our starters."
The Hurricanes have planned a pre-season game against the Beaufort Broncos. It is tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. May 16 on Fort Stewart in recognition of Armed Forces Day.
Richards also has coached at the high school level and played at North Carolina Central University. He has coached for the Liberty County Recreation Department as well.
He said he’s watched the Hurricanes play before and plans to adjust their defense.
"They run the 4-4, 4-3 and the 5-3, but I am going to implement the 5-2 defense," he said. "I think that based on the type of players they have that would work more of their strengths."
He said he is looking for no less than 5-6 sacks per game.
"It may sound a little high, but I’d rather set those standards high and try to achieve them instead of keeping it low and going for the overkill," he said.
The Hurricanes are still part of the Southeast Football League, but many of the teams that used to be in the league have moved to different leagues. The Hurricanes will face a host of new teams, mostly from South Carolina.
"We will be traveling primarily to South Carolina and the furthest we have to travel is Dylan South Carolina," Sharp said of this year’s schedule. "We face two teams from Columbus, two from Charleston and one team from Kershaw."
For Sharp and his son James Sharp III, last season was a difficult one. It was the first year in the history of the Hurricanes that mother and wife Mary Jo Sharp was not there to watch the games and cheer on her extended family of players. She died in winter 2007.
"It’s one of those things you never forget but at the same time, this being the second year removed, I think it’s going to be a little easier to focus," the younger Sharp said. "I know last year was the first year that she was not there, but now I already know she is not going to be there physically and it’s easier for me to prepare for the game and easier to focus on the game than it was last season.
The linebacker has dropped roughly 17 pounds and said he wants to get 10 tackles for the year.
"I was a little slower last season but I’ve dropped 15-17 pounds so I’m trying to be a little faster to the football," he said. "I want to be able to play pass coverage a little better. Personally, I want to be a better player all around."
In addition to being the head coach, Sharp was recently named commissioner of the Southeast Football League.
"I thought about it at first but I’m straightforward and folks know that I’m here to get things done," he said. "I guess they knew I would do my best to run the league and get the job done. It’s not just one person. There are other coaches and team managers that come together to run the league. Everyone has some type of ownership and it’s not a one person decision."
Sharp said the early practice has helped the Hurricanes evaluate who they have and what they need for the season.
"Overall, we should be looking pretty good," he said. "We’ve got some players that are coming in from Savannah that we picked up this year, and our big thing was to have a bigger line and it looks like we will have that this year."
Returning strong safety Charles Crossley, like many of the players, has one thing in mind — a championship ring.
"I feel like we’ve got what it takes as a core to win the championship this year," he said. "So we are going to try and get it together, get on the road and win." To do his part, Crossley said he plans to get 10 interceptions for the season.
"We want everyone to be more cohesive and make sure everybody knows what they are doing," Sharp Jr. said. "Make sure the coaches have the players in line and have everyone’s attitude in line to win."
Daniel Sidman, a soldier from Fort Stewart, has played with the Hurricanes off and on between deployments. He said playing with his teammates has some similarities to being in the Army.
"It’s great for us," he said. "Especially when you are just coming right back because you still have that camaraderie and teamwork and that bond. Basically, the same thing you had while you were deployed, but now you get to do something you love and enjoy and not have to carry 75 pound worth of gear in 110 degree weather. Now you get to sit back and enjoy some time with friends that you’ve known off and on for years and play a game you love."
He hopes to be the team’s tight-end.
"Basically, as a team, I want to win a championship," Kentarius Carlisle, a former Savannah Warrior, said. "Individually, it is getting used to playing a new city on a new team but just like the NFL, it’s all business. You might see the people you hang with, train with but when a new challenge comes out, you do what you have to do."
Carlisle played flag football with most of the Hurricanes in the recreation league to get to know his new teammates. He is trying out for the quarterback, receiver and punt return spots.
"I’m trying to do something new this year," he said.
With a new offensive and defensive coordinator, Jones said he will be concentrating on the O-line and D-line. He agrees with Hawes, saying discipline has to be the team’s main focus.
"I think we played 80 percent in every game," he said. "And for 20 percent, we lost focus and that 20 percent cost us most of our games. This year, with more coaches, everybody can see what is going on. We can break it back down into groups and let everybody work for 45 minutes in their groups before we bring it together for the last 20 minutes."
The Hurricanes’ first regular season game is June 6 and the full schedule should be posted within the next few weeks on their Web site, hinesvillehurricanes.freeservers.com.