Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SPORT STORY >> Numbers picking up at Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

The overall numbers are up and the talent pool for receivers has boomed with a pair of late move ins, neither of which has helped Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow and staff when it comes to filling out the depth charts on the offensive and defensive lines.

Withrow was anticipating the return of a number of incoming juniors to bring some experience back to the interior, but only a few reported back this fall. Now with a large group of skill players and a limited number to block for them, the need to adjust has presented itself.

“A little bit,” Withrow said. “Obviously, when you’re short on linemen, maybe you have to change some of your philosophy, and we are a little bit, but we’re a spread-option team to begin with, so it wasn’t like we were up there to block everybody anyway.”

The first week of August was trying for Withrow with several players held out for pending physicals, as well as some with unknown eligibility status. More turned out for the second week, and now the Bears are starting to look more like a team with good 5A numbers in the third week.

“That’s gotten better,” Withrow said. “We’ve cleared up the physical problems and the eligibility issues, so our attendance is definitely better. Also, we’ve picked up a couple of transfers. I think our numbers are good, I just think we’re young, and we’re going to be short a couple of linemen.”

One area the Bears will not have depth problems is at receiver with the addition of wide receiver and defensive back Alan McNair from North Little Rock and wide receiver Donovan Woods from Georgia. Another move in, Drew Davis, joins the Sylvan Hills team from Naperville, Ill.

“It helps because we can get a better look,” Withrow said of the improved numbers. “The last few years when we go to team offense or team defense, we can’t get a good look. Just getting those extra bodies in there helps.”

Sylvan Hills plays its scrimmage game against Pulaski Robinson on Monday. The Bears will also hold a blue-white scrimmage the following Friday before hosting Vilonia in the season opener on Thursday, Aug. 30.

The situation will require some of the defensive linemen to play both ways, and a few of the sophomores to step up early in their varsity careers.

“Everybody we’ve got is a skill guy,” Withrow said. “We’re just short on linemen. We had about three guys who decided not to play. I think our young linemen are going to be good in a year or two, but a couple of them, they’ve got to play right now. By the time we get to conference, they’ll be a whole lot better.”