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CAK Preview
Depth biggest concern as new coach Bradley returns quality throughout


Chemistry and experience are in plentiful supply for Rusty Bradley in his first season as head coach of the Christian Academy of Knoxville Warriors.

“The chemistry of this team is just amazing, I’ve never been around kids that love each other and get along so well,” said Bradley, offensive coordinator at CAK the past four seasons who moved up when veteran Knoxville area coach Bill Young stepped down after last season. “Basically it’s really been a smooth transition for everybody.”

Fourteen returning starters provide a solid foundation from a 2006 team that finished third in Region 2-2A before being eliminated in the second round of the TSSAA state playoffs.

While the offensive alignment and philosophy hasn’t changed, the Warrior defense, a 4-lineman, 4-linebacker “cover three” alignment, has made adjustments. “The terminology is new, the scheme is semi-new and how we call things is new,” Bradley said. “But the players are picking up on things really quickly.

“Everything’s are a lot simpler as far as guys knowing what to do,” Bradley added. “The tempo of practice is a lot faster. … there’s not a lot of standing. We get our work done and get off the field.”

Defensively, seven starters return, led by senior linebacker and three-year starter Joseph Bennett. Sought by such major college schools as Indiana, Ohio University, Middle Tennessee State, Marshall and Vanderbilt, Bennett led the team in tackles last year with more than 150 — still below his sophomore mark of 176 tackles.

“He’s probably, overall, our best player, he’s the leader of the team,” Bradley said. “He kinda sets the tempo that everybody else follows. He’s the guy we look to to make plays defensively. A very explosive, strong kid. Every snap is full speed.”

In addition to his team goal of “winning state,” Bennett said his individual goal is to break “my old record” of 176 tackles.

As for improvement, “I’ve gone to a lot of camps this summer, I’ve just pretty much put my heart and soul into this game, “he said

Offensively, senior starting quarterback Chris Cates won the starting job by mid-season last fall. He ended up throwing for 1,865 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“He has a great understanding of what we’re doing,” said Bradley, who remains offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “He’s probably the most competitive kid that I’ve coached. … With our offensive, things run through the quarterback, and he handles everything very well.”

Cates said, “Coach Bradley kinda set a goal for me at the end of the season to have 3,000 yards passing, that’s my only individual goal so far,” As for improvement, “I’m making quicker reads, and I think I’ve improved my release point as well.”

Bennett, Cates, lineman Joe Matlock, defensive back Bo Sanford and receiver/defensive back Billy High are the 2007 senior captains.

“Matlock, a three-year starter at offensive guard, “has been a great player for us,” Bradley said. Sanford is a three-year starter at free safety.

Having lost only seven seniors from the 2006 team, “I think our experience is a little higher than it’s been in past years,” Bradley said. “We have pretty good experience at all positions.

“Depth might be a concern, just because of overall numbers and the size of the school.”

Bradley said linebacker is probably his strongest defensive area. Along with Bennett is senior inside linebacker Wes Stooksbury, “who off-and-on has been a three-year starter for us,” Bradley said.

Junior Keenan Kolinsky, who came on late last season to carry the bulk of the load at tailback, will back-up Bennett and Stooksbury.

Outside linebackers are senior John Glafenhein, a transfer from Farragut, and junior Colt Clark, both first-year starters.

The defensive line features senior Jonathan Berube at defensive end, who is bouncing back after missing almost the entire 2006 season with an MCL tear and finger injury.

Senior Seth Burdette “played a lot for us on the defensive line last year, started a good number of games.”

Senior Austin Ritchie also has experience up front, “and [senior] Matt Huddleston is somebody else that we’re counting on to have a big year inside,” the coach said.

Along with Sanford and High in the defensive backfield is senior Trevor Brown, “a starter for about two-thirds of the season last year at corner,” Bradley said of the team leader in interceptions with four. Senior Jay Scott will see time at cornerback, while junior Taylor Moran provides depth.

Offensively out of the split-back, three wideout, shotgun formation with no-huddle, “We’re up-tempo, we want to attack,” Bradley said, adding, “The past two years we’ve been 64-to-36 [percent] pass-to-run.”

Seven starters return on offense.

About the units, “I think our biggest strength is probably our offensive line,” the CAK skipper said. “Not necessarily because of size, but just because of experience and understanding of our system. Our offensive line does a great job of communicating with each other in terms of how to block the front they see.”

Matlock returns at left guard, while senior returning starter Matt Huddleston is at left tackle.

Senior Wes Underwood is new at the right tackle spot, though “he played probably 65, 70 percent of the time,” Bradley said. Andrew Frazer, a junior, is the new center, as is junior Andrew Pharaoh at right guard. Junior Matt Mabry, “a pleasant surprise,” will be in the mix at tackle.

Kolinsky “has put on some weight” in the off-season, Bradley said of the 6-foot-1, 204-pound tailback who rushed for 504 yards and six touchdowns in 2006. “He’s really done a lot to work on his speed. He’s a very physical runner, a good athlete. … He’s got great hands, can catch the ball out of the backfield [22 catches for 171 yards in ’06]. Sanford could spell Kolinsky at tailback.

Bennett will serve as starting fullback, while junior Ethan Poe is expected “to play quite a bit because we need to keep Joseph as fresh as possible for defense,” Bradley said.

Junior quarterback Michael Fromke, a part-time starter with Cates last season, will serve as back-up. He threw 76 times for 242 yards last season. “He’s really developed from last year.”

Cates himself split time as a defensive back before winning the QB job outright.

Scott, High and senior Jordan Cross start at receiver. Scott had 23 catches for 282 yards last season, while High — a starter last year — suffered a concussion and was slowed for most of the season. Bradley labels Cross [five catches for 49 yards last year] “probably the best athlete of the bunch, he’s got great hands.

“All three of them are disciplined route runners,” the coach added. Junior Ryan Brooksbank could be in the mix, along with sophomores Davis Burton, Blake Houser and Moran.

Placekicker Matt Warren, a sophomore, started as a freshman. “His leg is a lot stronger,” Bradley said. Kolinsky, the Warrior punter, “has been killing it in practice. Plus he’s a lefty, and it’s hard to catch punts from a lefty sometimes. ... The biggest thing is just the hang time.”

Though serving God is the primary goal at CAK according to Bradley, “We don’t just want to be the nice Christian kids, we want to compete and win games. We want to win championships.”

ASSISTANT COACHES

Bradley’s assistant coaches begin with his father, Mark Bradley, who is defensive coordinator, defensive backs, special teams and offensive line coach; Jim Blackwell, defensive line; Chris Hawkins, offensive line, outside linebackers; Robb Wilson, runningbacks, inside linebackers; Fred Hagberg, defensive line; Gary Prince, defensive backs and Chris Jaeger, offensive assistant. Jeff Hall, former All-SEC placekicker at UT (1995-98), coaches kickers/punters.

 

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