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Spread offense, defensive quickness keys to 2007 Admiral success

Farragut hopes its new spread option offense and quick, stout — if not big — defense will carry the program deep into the TSSAA state playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Offensively, “We felt good in spring, that’s where we wanted to experiment with it to just see if our kids could handle that,” FHS head coach Eddie Courtney said. “It’s been real good to us, and we’ve tried to polish it up a little bit in flag competition.

“We’re able to get more guys on the field and spread the defense across the field,” Courtney added. “We think some good things will happen to us in this offense.”

With All-state tailback Andre Sterling in the backfield, plus the running ability of senior quarterback Andrew Martland, most plays will be quarterback options.

“It’ll be a combination, ’cause we’ll motion from the other side [receiver] and bring another pitch guy around,” the coach said. “It’ll be a multiple option game.”

The main objective? “It’s to keep people from just jamming up in the box, playing so many guys just on Andre. So now they’re going to have to cover the whole field with their defensive backs and linebackers as well.

“And it gives us a chance to get Andre open in space out there.”

However, “We’ll still be in the I-formation some and still run some tight-ends,” the FHS skipper said.

Through the adidas 7-on-7 passing league in addition to camps and normal work, “Our receivers have really gotten better this summer, it’s something we’ve really been working on,” Courtney said. “Most of ’em had already gone to receiver camps to work on their fundamentals.”

Senior Zach Allen is the most experienced wideout, and joins junior Brady Evans and sophomore Sam Mowery. Tight-ends Ty Canan, a senior, and junior Derek Harper are capable of splitting out wide, Courtney said. Also in the mix is junior Cody Harvey.

Though apparently lacking blazing speed at wide receiver, “By placement on the field, and the motion stuff we do, hopefully we’ll be able to get some spacing,” Courtney said. “They don’t have to have great speed if they run good routes and read the coverages.”

Route running and recognition of coverages are strengths of these receivers, the coach added.

Allen said he’s improved his understanding of the offense, “how everything works, everybody working together. Knowing everybody else’s job makes my job easier.”

His goal. “Having no drops, that’s number one to me.”

Courtney did express concern about the wide receivers’ abilities to get physical and block on running plays.

Courtney said Martland has improved his mechanics, arm strength and understanding of the offense. Martland, a starting safety most of 2006 who was back-up quarterback, saw action in, of all situations, the TSSAA state quarterfinals at Ooltewah after starter Michael Lawrence went down the week before.

Martland “wants it so bad,” Courtney said about the senior’s opportunity. “He’s trying to do all the little things right. He’s trying to be a leader on the football team.”

Martland said, “Our confidence as a team is high right now. ... We’re adopting this new team thing, too. We’re trying to stay really close as a team. If someone gets detention or is late to practice, the whole team runs for it.”

The senior QB said his Ooltewah experience “really helped me because I got to see what the big games are like.”

Improvement? “The accuracy of my arm has gotten better, and just reading defenses,” Martland said.

Courtney said Reese Browning, sophomore back-up quarterback, is “very strong, got a good arm, can throw the deep ball very well. He’s got a good football mind, good football savvy about where to get the ball to.”

Among the all-time great runningbacks in FHS history, Courtney said Sterling, a senior, ranks “in the top three” with former standouts Mike Stone and Hunter Rigsby.

What makes Sterling special? “He has great vision and great balance,” Courtney said. “He can see something and hit the hole real quick and cut across the field, or he can just turn it on.

“He also seems to be a runningback that the more carries he gets, the more he’s involved in the football game, the stronger he gets as the game goes on,” the coach added.

Sterling said despite getting several letters from major colleges recruiting him, including “Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State ... I’ll read ’em but I won’t take to my head, I’ll just keep my head on straight and not pay attention to that right now because I need to be focused on football and school here.”

Improvement? “I’m trying to be a better all-around player, like blocking and faking and giving my teammates other opportunities,” he said. “During linemen’s practice, paying attention to what they’re doing, see how they block and learn how they quick they move.”

Offensive concerns? “We lost some pretty good offensive linemen,” Courtney said, “but what I’ve found out in the [early] days here is we feel we have about eight guys we can trust.”

It will be built around Dylan Young, senior center and returning starter, and junior Will Jackson, the other returning starter. Brett Courtney, Alex Johnson and Evan Pittman join 300-pound senior transfer James Harrill as the main men up front. Also in the mix are juniors Ryan Galyon and Andy Koonce.

“And all those guys are just playing in the offensive line right now,” Courtney added.

“Will has really worked fundamentally on his blocking and is certainly going to be a really good offensive lineman.”

As of early August, Young was the only Admiral offensive lineman with a set position.

“Since they’re only playing offensive line, we want to make sure they can play both guard and tackle,” Courtney said.

Young said, “I like having a leadership role, I’ve got to be the one working the hardest, showing by example just what it takes to be a champion.”

Out with a knee injury during spring practice, “I was out about two months, but I’m back to full speed now,” Young said.

Because plays are being called at the line of scrimmage in the no-huddle attack, “We’ve got to be smarter than last year,” Young said of the O-line.

In addition to duties at linebacker as the team’s leading returning tackler, senior Micah Devan also returns as punter; plus, as of press deadline, he was penciled as new placekicker. However, “we’ve got a couple of sophomores we’re looking at,” Courtney said, adding that “open tryouts” at FHS could be held before the season begins.

As compared to the 2006 Admiral defense that was bigger, “We feel like we are a little bit stronger, and certainly a little bit quicker up front,” Courtney said, adding he has plans to utilize depth.

The men up front are the strongest of the three defensive units, the coach said. “We’re going to play five or six guys at those three down [linemen] spots,” Courtney said. “And we’ll play four linebackers at the three linebacker spots inside, and we’ll probably play four guys at the Admiral Bandit [outside linebacker]. And probably play three corners and two safeties.

“So we’ll play about 19 or 20 defensive guys.”

Individually, “Jeff Jamison has come on at defensive end,” Courtney said about the senior. “Josh Morrison [senior] has really come on at the other defensive end. Senior Kent Rinehart is anchored at Nitro, or nose guard, with Johnson in the mix there. Canan was an All-Region defensive end in 2006.

Devan and Will Pearman, also a senior linebacker and returning starter who is the second leading tackler returning, highlight the team’s experience in the middle.

Although acknowledging the strength and ability of graduated defensive lineman Adam Wigren, a school record weightlifter, Pearman added, “All the guys are a whole lot stronger and a whole faster than last year.”

As opposed to last year, “my stomach, I guess, was in knots because I didn’t know how the season was going to be because I guess I wasn’t ready, but this year I’m excited to get started,” Pearman said. “The coaches are really pushing leadership.”

J.T. Doucette, a junior, will also see extensive time at linebacker with fellow junior Austin Bolen. “Bandits” will be Alex Encarnacion, a junior returning starter, along with juniors Jonathan Moskal and Danny Vest, “which has had a good off-season,” Courtney said.

Defensive backfield is the least experienced defensive unit, which concerns Courtney. Allen will start at safety, with senior Brandon Hylton and juniors Trevoris Bogan, Ben Danchak and Cody Harvey battling for the two cornerback spots.


Courtney’s assistant coaches are David Sweetland, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach; Rusty Partin, offensive line; Ryan Shoup, wide receivers; Brad Watts, runningbacks/kickers; Trace Pate, defensive line; Tom Doucette, inside linebackers; Patrick Cox, outside linebackers, Mark Battle, defensive backs; Ben Lyle, freshmen head coach, and his assistants, Alex White and Danny Gosnell.


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