Tuesday, August 02, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans have young team, new staff

Leader sports editor

The first official day of football practice for the new Jacksonville Titans saw fewer players than the total number of athletes participating in summer workouts. Between 50-55 had been reporting for summer workouts, but only 38 were on hand for practice on Monday.

Head coach Barry Hickingbotham wasn’t surprised by the turnout, and is eager to get started developing what will be a very young team in 2016.

“Most of the ones here have been the core group that’s been committed all summer,” said Hickingbotham. “Overall, we’ve had anywhere from 50 to 55, 56 guys here. But we’ve had about 40 that have been committed to being here consistently. Those core kids we have, I’d go to battle with them any time.”

Of the total number of players, almost half are sophomores, to go along with 13 seniors and 14 juniors.

“We probably have 25 to 28 sophomores, something like that,” Hickingbotham said. “When your that young, you have to do some things outside of the box. Moving up to 6A, we’re going to be younger and smaller than just about everybody we play, so we’re working on some things to try to offset some of the advantages other teams are going to have.”

The team is going into the first year as the new JNP school district with an almost entirely revamped coaching staff. Gone is assistant Jerry Wilson, who took over as the new district athletic director. Former offensive coordinator Jim Stanley surprised the staff when he left after spring practice to take over the ninth-grade team at Sylvan Hills, shortly after Hickingbotham worked through administrative red tape to secure Stanley a P.E. teaching job in the new district.

Former offensive line and weight-lifting coach Brian McDermott was not retained by the district and took a job at Sheridan. Assistant Tirrell Brown was also not retained, and moved on to take a job at Camden Fairview.

The new staff members include defensive coordinator Bryan Eagle, who was recently an assistant coach at Warren, and a graduate of Cabot High School.

Correy Muldrew joins the staff from Watson Chapel. He was a wide receiver for Houston Nutt at the University of Arkansas, and will coach receivers this year.

Bobby Evins is the new offensive line coach. He was most recently at Camden Fairview. He started his career as a graduate assistant for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, and was the tight ends coach for Bill Keopple at Southern Arkansas University.

Zach Sloan is coaching the defensive line. He helped Hendrix College get its football program started and has been at the Conway Division III school the last three years.

Matt Boeving moves into Brown’s old spot as primarily an assistant for Donny Lantrip and the freshmen squad.

Larry Burrows is still coaching defensive backs, and Hickingbotham is taking over offensive coordinator duties.

Practice in shorts and helmets continue this week, and full-pad, full contact work begins next week.