Friday, May 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> SH Bears breaking in all new backfield

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills wrapped up its spring practice sessions with an intrasquad game on Wednesday, and head coach Jim Withrow was pleased with what he saw from a largely inexperienced team.

“I think we have some talent there, we just need to clean it up,” said Withrow. “We’re young, but I like them. Some of them are very athletic. We just have to learn the little things and learn them well.”

One of the most exciting things about this year’s group is how many of them there are. There were 73 players out for spring practice, with another five to 10 expected to join the team for summer workouts. It’s been 10 years or more since the Bears have approached those numbers.

“You want 75 for our level,” Withrow said. “We flirted with it my first year or two here and then a few years ago we had 35 for spring and added about 10. We’ve been building back up since then and we’re finally at a good number. It’s manageable for our coaches. It might be a few too many bodies, but it’s manageable. And it’s a good number in each class so you have a chance to develop some depth.”

The Bears are set up well at quarterback. Last year Withrow had one in each class he felt very comfortable with, and a freshman he was excited about. The senior-to-be quit, but junior Jordan Washington and sophomore Ryan Lumpkin are impressive so far. Also, Mills transfer Dai’Kyon Armond has worked out under center and hasn’t looked bad.

“Washington has looked really good,” Withrow said. “he’s a big time athlete. He played some last year after (Tra) Doss got hurt, and he started for us all year at receiver. So he’s used to varsity football and he knows what we’re trying to do.

“Ryan Lumpkin – He was fantastic with his group. He looked really, really good. Armond is an athletic kid who has done well. He’s a little bit behind the other two because he’s new, but he really wants to play the position and he’s working hard.

“Whoever the winner is, we feel like the other two can do really well in other places. They’re all athletic kids we need to find a spot for.”

The Bears have two offensive linemen back on the right side. Sam Perez returns at guard and Tekiah Zobair at right tackle. The middle and left side of the line will be all new.

“We lost about as good of an offensive line as you’re going to have from last year,” Withrow said. “But the ones we have are coming around. They’re working hard and they’re going to get better through the summer. You can’t just replace a line like we had last year just all at once. But again, I feel good about them.

“Right now we’re making mistakes young guys are going to make. That’s going to get better with drills and reps.”

Withrow says the same thing about his defense. He’s very pleased with the athleticism shown so far, but inexperience has shown at times as well.

“I’m actually excited about the potential we have on defense,” Withrow said. “Last year we had a great offense and tried to piece together a defense. I think this group has a chance to be pretty good. I’m hoping we have the depth so we don’t have as many guys going both ways. And I think this group has some athletes.

“Now it’s just like everything else we’re going through right now. They’re going to get torched in 7-on-7, but if they can just hang with it. They can run and jump and there’s some good size and strength out there. They’re going to be just fine.”

Jonathan Hicks is the only returning full-time starter at the same position as last year. He will start at inside linebacker. He led the team in tackles last season and looks even better this year to the head Bear.

“Hicks is strong and he moves well,” Withrow said. “He looked a little faster than he did last year, too.”

Brandon Bracely, who played a lot on offense last season, has played well at corner. Practically everyone else on the projected starting defense will be new, including four sophomores in the secondary.

“Like I said, it could be rough early on in 7-on-7,” Withrow said. “We just have to clean up all the things young guys screw up. But I like those guys. I’m excited about them.”