EAST JACKSON is certainly putting in its time on the summer seven-on-seven passing league circuit.
The Eagles, coming off a 3-7 year, hosted a seven-on-seven passing league session this past Tuesday. It travels to Athens Christian Thursday for its seven-on-seven tournament.
“Right now we’re at a point where we’re kind of settling in on who’s playing what position,” said second-year coach Brian Smith, who added that he still isn’t certain who all the starters might be.
Following the mandatory dead week during the first week of July, East Jackson will get a heavy dose of the Palmetto state in the second week of the month. The Eagles will host Walhalla, S.C., July 10, for a seven-on-seven session. It will then travel to Seneca, S.C. July 12-13 for a two-day seven-on-seven event. The second day at Seneca will feature a double-elimination tournament.
Smith said the Eagles are really thin at wide receiver and defensive back right now “which is making it a little bit harder.”
“The main thing is that we’ve got to be healthy,” Smith said. “I know everybody says that, but really and truly, we are so thin.”
That’s not to say that the receivers the Eagles do have aren’t playing well. Smith pointed to players like Deangelo Moore, Casey Reed and Dreshun Upadhyay who have impressed the coach so far.
“They’ve done really well,” Smith said. “Those are kids who play a couple sports for us, but we’re really counting on them.”
Smith said that, overall, the team seems to be understanding the offensive better, while the quarterbacks are progressing. The Eagles are dividing reps between three signal callers: Caleb Hill, Patrick Chastain and transfer Brodie Strong.
Hill, injured last year, has the best understanding of the playbook, according to Smith. Chastain is “raw” but working hard, the coach said. Strong has a good understanding of the game, Smith said, but is still learning East Jackson’s offense.
“We’re just giving them all a chance right now,” Smith said.
East Jackson ran the ball almost exclusively last year, amassing just over 100 yards through the air the entire season, which runs counter to Smith’s offensive philosophy.
Make no mistake, Smith would love to put the ball in the air — a lot.
“As I tell our kids, if you’ve got somebody that y’all will catch a throw (from) and protect, heck, we’ll throw it 50 times,” Smith said. “That scares me zero.”
Smith acknowledged that, based on last year’s offense, that statement might sound funny. But he said the Eagles ran the ball out of necessity in 2011. He wants to get back to being a passing offense.
“At some point, we’ve got to bite the bullet and do the things that we want to do,” Smith said. “I think we’re at that point right now.”
Which makes these seven-on-seven sessions all the more important.
“It gives you competition and it gives you the chance to see who can do some things,” Smith said. “It teaches. We’re ahead of where we were last year and you can tell it, and that’s a big thing.”