While there’s plenty of rust left to shake off, there was enough energy buzzing around Jackson County’s first football practice for coach Billy Kirk to give his team a passing mark for the afternoon.
“It was a great first day because we’ve got kids that were flying around and making a lot of plays … Overall, if I was to give us a grade, it would be a B+,” Kirk said.
Jackson County kicked off preseason practice Monday with a two-hour workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.
The Panthers, 4-6 last year, have 23 days to prepare for their Aug. 27 opener with Johnson at home.
Kirk noted several first-day efforts, including that of sophomore running back Dustin Scott, who’s returning from a broken leg, transfer wide receiver Michael Lewis and senior defensive tackle Alex Nanigan.
Kirk also pointed to those who normally set the tone in practice, like senior cornerback Nick Oney and senior linebacker Kelly Moates.
Jackson County’s offense has a little catching up to do at this point, but that’s to be expected early on. When fully operational, the Panthers, who run the spread, will look to throw the ball all over the place – stretching the field both horizontally and vertically, Kirk explained.
“It will be a lot of fun for our fans to watch and for our players,” he said.
As for the triggerman of the offense, that’s yet to be determined.
Junior Jalen Banks, who finished last season as Jackson County’s starting quarterback, and sophomore Kyle Daniel are locked in a heated competition for starting job.
Kirk said the competition should be fun to watch, calling the race a dead heat right now.
“At this point, we don’t have a starting quarterback right now,” Kirk said.
Competition is also brewing at spots at linebacker and running back.
Regardless of how the depth chart plays out, those listed as second-teamers won’t be relegated to the sidelines, Kirk said. Some backups could come in as early as the second series he said.
“The kids are going to get their reps … It’s not like it’s a draw back,” he said.
Meanwhile, participation continues to be strong for Jackson County, whose four wins last year were the most in 12 seasons. Seventy-six players dressed out for the first practice after having 91 compete in spring ball. Kirk said that slight dip is due to natural attrition.
“Some kids go through the summer and realize that it’s not for them,” Kirk said.
For the others, they have the season opener against Johnson to look forward to.
“We tell them if we can get you through August when we have our first game, that’s when you get your payback,” Kirk said.
NOTES: Jackson County scrimmages Athens Christian Aug. 20 at Panther Stadium.