Youth over experience seems to be the team motto for Tallassee this season. After two consecutive years with all-state players at quarterback, the Tigers are looking to a newcomer to lead its offense into the 2019 season.
After a long offseason battle between Tyler Ellis and Trace Ledbetter, the coaching staff settled on Ellis to take on the starting job while Ledbetter will move into a new role at defensive end. Ellis, a freshman at Tallassee, has never had a full offseason of football before and he said the competition improved his game during the summer.
“(Trace is) a good quarterback and I think he really pushed me to be the best player I can be,” Ellis said. “I felt like I learned a lot. This is a new offense and a new everything for me. I’ve never had a full summer of workouts before so I feel like I’m a much better player now.”
Tallassee coach Mike Battles said he never would have thought his team would be looking to a freshman starting quarterback this season. However, he believes Ellis has won over the offense and fully deserves the opportunity he is getting this season.
“He is very coachable and has continued to improve this year,” Battles said. “He’s going to make mistakes and we know that but he’s going to have to build that confidence to play this position. But I have watched our offense and they have become confident in him and he’s become a leader for us.”
Ellis said his teammates have received him well but it helps the rest of the offense is not too much older than him. With a trio of sophomore running backs joining him in the backfield and a young offensive line in the trenches, Ellis said he is looking forward to working with them this season and building toward a bright future.
“He is going to get a lot of experience this year and when you look down the road two or three years, the sky is the limit,” Battles said. “It’s important to him to be successful and to have success for this team. When you have that, then you’re in great shape.”
There will still be some experience on the offensive side of the ball provided by wide receiver Matt Justiss and tight end Tavarious Griffin. Ellis said they are the players he will be relying on when nothing else is working because he can trust them to make plays in big moments.
“They give him the confidence of knowing they’re always going to be where they’re supposed to be,” Battles said. “He has to come to the line of scrimmage and get the other 10 guys set so having some of those seniors like (Griffin) and Matt rotate in, that’s just less he has to worry about.”
Tallassee has rotated players through several positions on offense throughout the offseason but the Tigers are settling in on their starters with next week’s opener at Montgomery Catholic closing in. Ellis has used the entire summer to learn a brand new offense and the coaching staff is starting to see all the pieces come together.
“They are all becoming one unit,” Battles said. “Beforehand, everyone was only worried about their job and not about anyone else. Now, you can see everyone working more as a machine instead of individuals. Every day they get more reps together, they get more comfortable with each other.”
The first three games of the season are on the road so Ellis may not get the warmest welcome to varsity football but he is not worried about the extra pressure. He just said he has high expectations for the season and he is ready to get on the field for the first game.
“I feel like I’m good with that kind of pressure,” Ellis said. “Some people say they get butterflies before games but I’ve never had it that much. This is the first year of high school so you never know but I just want to get as many wins as possible. We want to get to the playoffs and go as far as we can.”