Tigers head into spring practices loaded on defense
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 by David Tuma
The Tigers will be predicted to make the playoffs in football again and compete for a district championship by just about any publication you will find come this fall. For Belton in the spring it is more about how they can fit the pieces to the puzzle to have a long playoff run come November.
The only disappointment was when the Abiline game had to be cancelled because the Eagles ended up in a nine team district.
Belton only returns three starters on offense. "I've lost seven or eight every year since I have been here so this year won't be any different. The players have been running this offense for years now. At each level from junior high we expand what they do. The base knowledge is there. The biggest thing is the speed on varsity is different and younger players, no matter how talented, have an adjustment to make. We have more depth than we have ever had since I have been here," said offensive coordinator David Brewer.
Austin Farr is the only returning starter on offense. Belton had some really big underclassmen on the junior varisity that won district last season and those players plus a couple of freshman will move up. "Coach Rice changed some things and our season in terms of weight gain and strength greatly improved this spring. We have some bigger kids than we have had in the past coming up," said Brewer.
Tightend is where it becomes a serious challenge for defenses and this spring it only got harder. University of Texas verbal commitment Durham Smythe has continued to grow and he is listed as 6'6", 230. Bo Vaughn a gifted basketball player has come out for football and Vaughn is 6'5". Andrea Ewing will play tightend and wide receiver is 6'5".
Shane Stafford and Malik Jackson will back up Peter Shelburne. Stafford and Shelburne will run the offense with Jackson out this spring.
The starting running back is Rayshun Jones 5'10" , 200, 4.6. Jones is one of those rare players, a nose guard last year and a running back with soft hands this year. Not many athletes can do that and in Belton's long history it might be the first in the one platoon era.
Kyle Adamson 6'1', 205 has gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason and will see significant playing time this year. Brandon Rhoads, a freshman, is a future starter on offense will be tested this spring.
Wide receivers are Derrick Bates and Chase Thornall with Andrea Ewing, Anthony McCosham and Bryce Thomas competing for that third spot.
"We need to find eight starters on offense. It is just the mental part of it that they need to improve upon. The spring will be about finding out what we can and can't do with the players we have. We have more depth at the offensive line position and that will allow us to run more two-back sets. In the past we had to throw it," said Brewer.
You can't hide the fact that Belton's defense is loaded. Gone are the days of Belton fielding those 180 defensive ends. Belton returns seven starters and 13 letterman overall on defense of which four were first team all-district selection and two were second team picks. Their biggest need is finding two safeties and from the looks of things they seem to have found them, but it will take time. Belton graduated two safeties who played three years on varsity.
Nate Mitchell 5'10" 170 and Kyle Battle 6-1, 190, 4.6 are the corners. Battle may be the best corner to come out of Belton in a long, long time. Battle will play on the opposing teams bench side.
Hard hitting Ben Munoz and the surprise move of the spring, Garrett Curry, are the safeties. Belton was so deep at corner last year, Munoz who could have started for many of the teams in district. Curry was named second team all district at linebacker and at 6'1' 192 is a physical safety for those passes over the middle. "Ben is a leader and he will light up," said head coach Rodney Southern.
The defensive line is where the work has been put in. Rodarious Birks is the starting nose guard at 5'11' 242 and he can move. Cody Caswell 6'3" 237, Brandon Sullivan 6'3" 237, James Murphy 237 all return from last season and they all played significant amounts of time. Colby Priest 6'3" 236 moves up from the junior varsity.
The stings will be Jonathan Quigley and Cameron David. Starting linebacker Ryan Stinson and Tyler Santellina are both big and combined for over 200 tackles in 2011. They are first team all-district selections and it will be a battle between Chase Kern, Chase McCosham, Luke Boren and Chandler Curtis for the third spot. The change in the team is this...not a single defensive lineman under 235 and six of those top linebackers are over 200. It is a size and speed change that has taken five years to develop. Come fall they will have eight that can play near that magically 240 number on defense.
In the Tigers three losses last season they had 15 turnovers in those games. The biggest concern heading into the spring was that seven of those were fumbles. "You're going to have some interceptions as much as we throw the ball but you can't fumble against good teams and win. We have four corners that can play and we are working on packages against teams with a spread offense and a mobile quarterback," said Southern.
Biggest issues heading into the spring is: find the two-deep offensive line group, safety, a punter and work on overall team speed. There are 42 seniors heading into the fall a large, large group and in the spring the goal is to find the top 44 players.
Spring practices start Friday with the Spring game May 25th. Furniture is being put in the athletic complex and the Tiger on the wall inside the opening doors can be seen from the stands. To give an idea of how big sports are in Belton there are 320 players on the football team and 180 just in soccer.