For the first time in the Mike Battles era, the Tallassee football team did not make the postseason in 2018. With the arrival of spring practice last week, the Tigers have started the process of building back to that level of competition and the players are ready to fight to get back in the playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Battles said. “There’s a level of excitement and anticipation about the season because they want to get into the playoffs. Tallassee expects to be playing during Week 11 and when you don’t, you better have some hunger. That’s what I’ve seen from this group.”
After five months in the offseason, the Tigers returned to the field last Monday to begin the spring period. Battles said his team has come out with some fire in the first few days of practice and Tallassee has the numbers to make sure there is no down time with the fatigue starts to hit.
“There is a lot of excitement right now,” Battles said. “We have a lot of new faces out there and we’re looking at the biggest team we’ve ever had. We’re right at 70 players.”
After moving up to Class 5A last season, depth became a clear issue for the Tigers against their new competition. Battles hopes to see that number carry into the fall but with that blessing comes a problem of finding a beneficial spot for each player.
“The biggest thing we try to do during spring training is to find position,” Battles said. “We’re not focused on how much offense or defense we have but our goal is to have everyone in the position that will benefit both the team and the player the most.”
Entering the spring, a lot of those positions will be open after Tallassee saw a class of 15 seniors graduate. It was not just the number of players the Tigers lost but the production those players provided on both sides of the ball.
Kalvin Levett was an ASWA all-state athlete for two consecutive seasons and he will be playing at Tuskegee this year. Running backs Markevious Mathews and Trent Cochran-Gill will also have to be replaced along with defensive leaders Andy Baker, Cody Gilson and Jake Justiss.
“We just want to see some of these new guys play football,” Battles said. “We have to fill in a quarterback spot and you have to juggle players getting the same amount of reps so you can evaluate that. We have a lot of kids that have the opportunity to get some playing time.”
With the numbers the Tigers have at spring practice, Battles feels confident the team can find some talent to fill in those roles. Tallassee had 35 underclassmen on last year’s roster and those are the ones the coaching staff will look at to lead the team early in the season.
“We have some really good young players,” Battles said. “They’re going to be real good by the time August rolls around and we’ll still have them for one or two more years. It looks real positive for us right now.”
Tallassee will cap off its spring period with a game at LaFayette on Friday night. Battles knows his team will make some mistakes but he said his priorities are on the team’s intensity.
“I just look for effort,” Battles said. “If you can do that, we can correct the mistakes you make on the field. That’s what coaches do. But we can’t correct a lack of effort.