Despite missing its returning starting quarterback, who was involved with our state playoff baseball team, the Thomson High offense made some significant improvement during its two weeks of spring football practice. Furthermore, progress was not totally impeded by the injury bug.
Aaron Johnson, who missed the entire 2010 season with a catastrophic knee injury, was able to participate in drills but withheld from contact. Halfback Demarquez Lampkin and fullback Chris Jordan were slowed by ankle injuries. Lampkin was unable to participate in either scrimmage. Jordan was limited to only a few plays. That allowed younger players to receive more repetitions in practice and led to the decision by coach Milan Turner and his staff to take a look at some defensive starters on the offensive side of the ball. They liked what they saw. Defensive backs Kentrell Reynolds and Billy Felts made some big plays on offense in the second scrimmage, held May 14 at the Brickyard. Felts, who transferred back to Thomson High after spending his junior season at Westside in Augusta, will be a great addition to the Bulldogs. Coach Turner and offensive coordinator Tucker Pruitt particularly cited his blocking during the scrimmage and mentioned that Torrie Battle made some fine runs.
With last year's quarterback, Josh Jones, playing third base, quarterback was a major question for spring drills. The coaching staff decided that two backup quarterbacks from last year could best serve the 2011 edition of the Bulldogs by playing receiver. That allows two more good athletes on the field. That left a rising freshman, Chris Tutt Jr., to work with the first team. He has the potential to be a great one. His father, Chris Sr., was as fine a defensive lineman whom I coached in 23 years at THS. His uncle Danny Verdun-Wheeler was a great linebacker who played on the 2002 state champions and had a good career at the University of Georgia.
In the first scrimmage, not surprisingly, Tutt looked shaky. There were several fumbled snaps, bad pitches and awkward handoffs. However, he made huge strides in the next week. My former players will tell you that I'm not easily impressed, but this kid looked like a different player in scrimmage two. The mistakes were minimal, and he threw several impressive passes and had a long run on a zone read out of the shotgun.
According to offensive line coach Brad Smith, his charges also improved greatly in the two weeks. An All-Region center last year, Sebastian Hargrove has been moved to offensive tackle. Kendell Reynolds has been moved from defensive end to guard, where he is joined by returning starter Demarco Brown. Jawaun Tucker returns at the other tackle, and Trevor Johnson ended spring drills as the starting center. Jordan Davis received most of the work at tight end.
Still, the preseason practices promise to be filled with competition for playing time at all positions, and our skill positions may be manned at times with two-way players.
I liked the energy and enthusiasm the Dogs displayed in both scrimmages, and I saw improvement between the two as a new offensive system was installed. Next week, I'll take a look at the defense. I see good things. Go Dogs!
John Barnett has played, observed and coached Thomson athletics for 45 years. Contact him at B122792@comcast.net.