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Barnett doesn't mind fuzzy roster for next year's Bucs

There have been more questions than answers this spring surrounding the Briarwood Academy varsity football team.

bucs_football.jpg

Quarterback David Russell waits for a snap in last week's scrimmage.

But that's just fine for Head Coach Jimmy Barnett.

The second-year head coach said he likes the fact that for the first time in years, several key positions are up for grabs at Briarwood. While it may be difficult for the coaching staff to choose who-goes-where, it does mean that the team will have something it didn't really have last year: depth.

"For the first time, we've got people battling for positions. We've got a lot of competition," he said.

Gone are starters Bob Wills, Scott Wills, Josh Gardner, T.J. Mimbs, Andrew Brown and Barrett Wills. Potential replacements have been battling each other through spring practices and will continue through the summer. Coach Barnett said the fact that he's experimenting with seven different players at quarterback and around eight or nine along the offensive line speaks to the battles being waged over open positions.

How can Coach Barnett afford to tinker with so many players and positions?

Because he's got the numbers: thanks in large part to Briarwood's region championship last year, a whopping 31 players came out for the squad this spring.

That's the good news. The bad news is that many of them have never competed athletically at all, much less on a football team.

"I've got a lot of kids that have come out for football that haven't played a lot. This spring, we've concentrated on basic football," he said. "A lot of these kids have never been in a contest with another school."

His team's inexperience showed in a scrimmage against Nathanael Greene Academy last week.

"It really was a learning scrimmage. We played every person that dressed out that day and got a little experience under the belt. I felt like it was very successful...A lot of inexperience showed up on both sides of the ball for us. I felt like that would happen, and it did," he said.

bucs_football2.jpg

Briarwood players tackle a Nat Greene runner.

Coach Barnett said his team's strengths -- the power running game and linebacker play -- were evident during the scrimmage, but question marks on the offensive line, where there are two gaping holes at tackle, will continue to linger until someone steps up.

Over the summer, Coach Barnett said his coaching staff's greatest challenge will be balancing the need for the younger, inexperienced players to learn the fundamentals and the progression of the starters and more experienced players.

"We've got probably some of the most intense coaching I've had in a long, long time in my career that's to go between now and when I open up next year. I can't let the tail wag the dog; I can't spin myself forever down there teaching basics to these young kids and not progress up top."



Web posted on Thursday, May 20, 2004


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