With two weeks to go before Bradwell Institute takes the field in a preseason scrimmage against Liberty County High School, the BI coaches and players are hard at work while trying to beat the summer heat.
After a disappointing 3-7 season last year, there are two things noticeably different about the 2011 varsity squad — depth and speed.
The Tigers were plagued the past two seasons with a host of injuries in critical positions, forcing head coach Jim Walsh Jr. and his staff to pull from the freshman and sophomore pool to fill in the holes.
Because of that, most — if not all — of the team’s sophomores, juniors and seniors have extensive varsity playing time and most can play more than one position.
“It definitely has given us a lot more depth because we’ve had to fill in, and we had to fill in with young kids,” Walsh said. “My rising junior class is a pretty solid class of players. A lot of those kids got a ton of experience as sophomores.”
Returning starting quarterback Myrese Cobb, a senior, again will lead the offense. Backing him up will be incoming sophomore LeBaron Anthony, who QB coach Frank Troup said is the team’s future leader.
Anthony backed up Cobb last season when he sustained a broken leg against Savannah High. Troup said all of the QB potentials have experience.
“What is good is that everybody has reps under their belts,” he said. “And I don’t see anything I would consider bad. We are trying to keep Myrese Cobb and LeBaron Anthony healthy, and this year we have more than one quarterback.”
Troup said that while Cobb will start, Anthony can expect to get some snaps in each game as well.
“LeBaron has to be more ready than Cobb, Troup said. “Because in all likelihood, Anthony is the quarterback for the Tigers’ future seasons. ... The more game experience he has, the better he will be in the future and in the long run.”
“We feel pretty good and we have four kids working at quarterback,” Walsh said, noting there also are some talented freshmen at QB. “That is a position that we struggled at a little last year, and now it could eventually become one of our strengths going into the season. We have a lot of depth and some pretty good athleticism at the position so we are feeling pretty comfortable.”
Bradwell has several players on the roster who are track standouts, which should give Tigers the speed they need.
“We have not been ultra-fast in the last two years,” Walsh said. “Three years ago we had speed, but for the past two seasons that is just one of those things we were not overly blessed with, and that — coupled with the injuries — has made it a bumpy road for us. This year we are going to be a little blessed.”
Speedster Markell McKee, who qualified for the state meet in the 800-meter run, will come in as a wide receiver. Josh McCulan brings speed, decent height — he’s 6 feet 1 — and the ability to leap for the ball. Tony Britton and Marsalis Jackson likely will play both sides of the ball. Both are returning players and both can run the 100-meter dash in less than 12 seconds.
Speed will play a role on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“In the past, we had bigger lineman, but because we don’t have that this year, we are counting on kids running all over the place, flying to the ball,” BI defensive coordinator DeAndre Davis said. “We installed the 3-5 defense in the spring, and of course some of the kids are already familiar with it, but during the spring the kids really had fun with it and were producing results. The wing defense that we are running now is basically more a gap responsibility — everybody flying to the ball — and we have more speed than anything.”
The Coastal Courier’s annual football special sections will come out Aug. 21 and will provide more coverage of the Tigers. The regular season begins Aug. 26 when BI hosts Glynn Academy at 7:30 p.m. at Olvey Field.