The opening kickoff is still five months away, but the two weeks of spring practice for Thomson High School's football team answered some questions about next year's strategy and lineup, according to the coaching staff.
Both sides of the football lost key players, but there are younger kids waiting to step into those roles. Several of the spots are spoken for now that spring practice has come and gone.
"Spring practice is always going to help a little bit when you have to replace seniors," said Thomson Head Coach Luther Welsh. "The kids that played a little bit last year, I thought they improved a little bit from last year until spring."
One of the main questions about next season has been who will replace graduating quarterback Dan Ivey. Coach Welsh said, no question, it will be Anthony "Pooh" Erwin who played several downs at the position last season.
There had been speculation that Erwin -- who averaged 10.1 yards per carry last season -- would start at running back during his upcoming junior season. Coach Welsh said Erwin's abilities are too valuable behind center to play him solely at running back. Last season's freshman junior varsity quarterback, Jarell McNair, will back up Erwin.
LaBrandon Hudson will start at fullback, filling the shoes of Demarcus Wilson. The second string fullback will be Carlton Martin. Tim McCord returns to next year's squad as a running back along with newcomers to the varsity squad D.T. Brown and Nathaniel Jones.
Spots on the offensive line are yet to be solidified. Martell Winfrey and Greg Minor will be vying for Pat Finnerty's left tackle spot. As for left guard, Michael Paul should be taking over for Ray Cummings.
"We've just got to wait and see if they're going to really progress and come around like they're supposed to," Coach Welsh said. "But I think they have the talent, if they've got the right attitude and the want-to."
Thomson's running game has always been dominant, hence the importance of a hole-producing offensive line. But with Erwin at quarterback and opponents stacking the box, the line may have to change duties on occasion to protect a passer.
That all depends on the emergence of quick receivers with good hands, something Coach Welsh said needs a good deal more work.
As for the other side of the ball, Defensive Coordinator John Barnett said unanswered questions still surround the coming season.
"I was, however, pleased with the attitude, enthusiasm, and how physical we were," he said of his group's performance during spring practice. "If we play hard and hustle every play, we may be able to cover up areas in which we may have less talent than in years past. Several positions are still up for grabs at this point."
The defense will lose many of its heavy hitters, such as Dan McNair, Antonio Martin, Stanquan Rogers, and Rico Murray. A key part of the defense that is returning from this past season is defensive lineman Kelcey Neal and linebacker Montrell Walker.
Also, punter Clay Dent and place kicker Vincent Scott will both return to next year's roster.