As summer practice winds down, coaching staffs across the state are beginning to finalize their starting lineups for the first week of the football season in August. Meanwhile, Tallassee coach Mike Battles continues to weigh his options as an abundance of riches has appeared right when the Tigers needed to fill several holes on both sides of the ball.
Battles said the Tigers have rotated a lot of guys in at multiple positions which has helped build depth across the board. However, the coaching staff is still trying to find the best mix at each position, specifically on offense where plenty of young talent has stepped up during the offseason.
“We’re still trying to figure out what kind of offense we will be,” Battles said. “We’re really young at the offensive line but if we were older there, we would probably be more of a downhill, run the ball kind of offense with the guys we have in the backfield. But we’re not so I know we’re going to have to be multiple, spread the field and play to our strengths which could change each week.”
A trio of sophomores have been the focus for Tallassee’s rushing attack during the offseason. Zavion Carr, Jaylin Daniels and Marciano Smith have all impressed in their own ways but Battles is still looking for one to stand out as the go-to back entering the season.
“It’s going to be about experience,” Battles said. “Jaylin and Zavion have a little bit of varsity game experience and Marciano is really athletic but what it’s going to boil down to is them getting out there and playing in the game. They have to understand the game and what we need from them on every play.”
Battles admitted it was a good problem to have as no matter who is listed as the first-team running back, all three will all get carries while staying fresh and being used as needed. The Tigers will likely use a running back by committee while running sets with two or three of them in the backfield on any given play.
Tallassee is also trying to decide who will be the starter handing the ball off to those running backs when Aug. 23 arrives. The competition between Trace Ledbetter and Tyler Ellis will continue into the first week of fall practice and Battles said they are not any closer in naming a full-time starter.
“They both do some things really well,” Battles said. “Right now, I don’t think anyone has separated themselves enough for us to say he’s our starter. It will probably be this week when we sit down and either commit to one quarterback and get the other one involved somewhere else or we will commit to a two-quarterback system. It’s just a decision we have to make.”
After again making the jump to Class 5A in 2018, Tallassee will welcome all extra depth at any position to help counter the bigger rosters it faces in region play. Building that depth has been a focus for the Tigers in the offseason and Battles has been happy with the effort he has seen from everyone on the team.
“That can be tough to overcome,” Battles said. “We have tried to get as many kids as possible involved when the pressure wasn’t on this summer. You’re not going to get any better if you won’t get playing experience against other team’s No. 1s. If we can find those kids who can go in and play on Friday nights, then it’s all worth it.”
Most of the players being rotated into different positions are younger players who are new to the varsity level and Battles said he has been pleased with their response so far. He also credited a lot of the improvement to how the upperclassmen have handled the situation with so much uncertainty surrounding the depth chart in the summer.
“We’ve got some good senior leadership,” Battles said. “We speak to them all the time about being a leader for our team but the one point I always make is the rest of those guys will go as hard as you do. If you’re constantly hustling and showing effort, they will jump right in line. Those actions are more important than my coaching.”