EAST JACKSON is still searching for a starting quarterback and deciding on a number of other spots with the Eagles set to open the Brian Smith era Friday at White County.
One of the few areas that’s fairly set is the offensive line, where East Jackson is already developing depth.
“So that’s a luxury we have there that we don’t have at other places because we’re still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be,” said Smith, who enters his first year at East Jackson.
Running back is perhaps the only other spot where there’s a clear-cut starter. Senior tailback C.J. Allen — who romped for over 100 yards in the Eagles’ scrimmage — returns for what East Jackson hopes is a big year.
“He’s done a good job for us, and we’re excited about the season he can have,” Smith said.
As for the rest of the lineups on each side of the ball, questions abound.
Senior Tyler Collins, who is vying for the no. 1 job, was questionable heading into the week with a foot injury. How well Collins will be able to run in workouts this week is uncertain. Collins and junior Taylor Saulters are competing for the starting nod.
East Jackson may have to find another linebacker as well. Dependable senior Caleb Hardy, an all-region selection last year, sustained a high-ankle sprain in practice last week. He’s on crutches and will not practice all week.
“If we were the NFL, he’s in the doubtful category I guess,” Smith said. “But if he can play and it’s not going to harm him, he’s going to play.”
East Jackson gets no breaks with its opening night opponent either. White County went 9-3 in 2010 and advanced to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. But that’s fine with Smith.
“You don’t get better playing bad people,” Smith said. “I want games the kids are excited about playing in. This is one they should be excited about playing.”
Smith describes White County as a very athletic, physical team under first-year coach Bill Ballard.
The Warriors operate out of the Wing-T and run some option, a style similar to what East Jackson saw in its scrimmage against Johnson Aug. 11.
“That’s a positive for us, that we actually had the Johnson scrimmage and will end up having two weeks to prepare for the option,” Smith said.
But what jumps out at Smith during film review is White County’s blitz-happy 3-4 defensive scheme.
“The big thing that stood out to me is defensively, they run to the ball and they attack and they’re physical as a unit, which is coach Ballard’s M.O.,” Smith said. “If you know coach Ballard, he’s a defensive guy and they play doggone hard on defense.”
Smith added that White County does plenty to try to confuse an opposing offense.
“They’re moving those guys up front,” Smith said. “They’re always moving both ways and it makes it a little harder for our OL to know what’s going on — or any OL.”
Entering his first game at East Jackson, Smith said he has the normal questions a coach has with a new team. He’s ready to find out how this group responds on Friday nights.
“I think the big thing is just trying to understand your kids,” Smith said. “It’s weird because you want to find out what makes them tick on game day. Are they ready to play? Are they not ready to play? Are they in a mental state to where they can play? And that’s the big thing. That’s the biggest thing. Until you’ve gone to battle with them, you don’t really understand their mindset.”