Editor’s Note: With the end of spring football practice, focus turns to the fall, but how does first-year Crestview High School coach Tim Hatten assess his team?
Today, in the first of a two-part series, we will focus on Crestview’s offense. We will break down the defense in Saturday’s edition.
Next week, Baker School coach Matt Brunson will break down the Gators.
CRESTVIEW — It was a fast and furious May for Crestview High School’s football team under new head coach Tim Hatten’s direction.
Hatten ditched former coach Kevin Pettis’ power running game and installed a spread offense.
"I thought we had a really good productive spring and it's a good way to lead into summer workouts," Hatten said. "You always want to leave spring feeling like you progressed from day one. And we have progressed light years from day one.
"Any time you play a game and you have fans in the stadium, you like to score more points than the other team, but if you are going to be on the wrong side (of the final score) it needs to be in a jamboree or Kickoff Classic."
Hatten said the spring jamboree against Escambia High School and Navarre was a learning tool.
"That was our first time against high school defenses in this area to see what they are running and the adjustments that they will make," he said. "You've got to learn a lot as coaches and players. You have to look at the way they try to defend different formations."
Hatten said most of the Bulldog completions in the jamboree came on short passes, and he hopes to throw it downfield more in the fall.
Here's a breakdown of the offensive positions and some of the players expected to man the positions.
Khalil Foster — who emerged from spring practice as the first string quarterback — is the guy to beat heading into the fall.
"He did a good job for us," Hatten said. "You figure you've got a kid that has never started for you at quarterback and the first game he went 28-for-37 for 300 yards, no picks (interceptions), no turnovers and that's a plus.
"There's a lot of fundamental improvement to be made. He's a great athlete and a good receiver. He's probably going be offered at receiver (to play college ball), but he's got to play quarterback for us."
Foster handled the pressure well in his first game as the starting quarterback, and should only improve with more experience, Hatten said.
Foster is joined at quarterback by Troy Smith and Corey Armstrong. Armstrong missed spring practice with what Hatten described as a slight knee problem, but he'll have a chance to battle for the starting job in the fall.
"He's going to come in at quarterback and he's going to compete," Hatten said. "He's going to play other positions on offense too.
"I think Corey is going to come in there and provide us with an adequate backup. I can't say that he's not going to come in there and beat him (Foster) out. He may beat him out, but Khalil Foster will be on the field somewhere."
Alex Maxwell will probably be the junior varsity quarterback.
Emmanuel Reed and Jaylynne Robinson are the top two running backs, but there are plenty of good players to help out at the position, Hatten said.
"We have to get the ball in Emmanuel's hands by whatever means necessary," Hatten said. "I think that's (nine catches in the jamboree) the most balls he has caught in a game by any means.
"Jaylynne, he's a project, in terms of never playing offense before, but he still had a great night on the offensive side of the ball. Jaylynne's problem is it took him about a half to buy into, 'This is the way we are going to do things.' He figured that out in the second half."
Darian McGee, Cyrus Daniels, Malique Studevan and Demtrius Smith are the other running backs.
“We've got about six guys that can carry the ball; of the six guys, two of them will be seniors: Jaylynne and Demetrius," Hatten said. "All of them are good players.
"Emmauel's just going to be a junior and Stud (Studevan) is just going to be a sophomore. They are a really good bunch."
"I thought they did a good job," Hatten said. "They are still learning just like the rest of us. We have to shore up some things in our pass protection, and that comes with repetitions.
"I thought we handled the blitz really well in the jamboree."
About eight players will be in the mix along the front. He said Rocky Longman, Chance Owens, Spencer Singletary, Nathan Gerrod, Trevor Vaughn and Justin Abdo are among those players.
The offensive linemen’s average size is about 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Hatten said.
"We are not big enough to be bulldozers, he said. "We are a zone blocking team, and that's what we are going to be."
Perhaps the spring’s biggest surprise was the play of Ronnie Baylark.
Baylark, a three-year starter on the Crestview basketball team, turned heads with his play-making ability at receiver and impressed Hatten with his toughness and willingness to work.
"Ronnie Baylark will be a great wide receiver," Hatten said. "Ronnie, of all people, is going to hang out with you and he's not going to think about quitting. Ronnie hasn't missed a practice.
"He doesn't know a lot about the position of wide receiver, but he does know how to use his body like in basketball. Once the ball is in the air all it's time for him to be is an athlete. That part of it is basketball because when the ball goes up, those guys (basketball players) know how to use their bodies to get to the ball."
Other receivers are Matt Gillis, Jamal Coleman, Devin Siler, Studevan and Daniels. Hatten said all of the running backs will line up in the backfield as some sort of slot receiver so Robinson, Reed and the other running backs also can be considered receivers depending on the formation.
Gillis is the kind of player who is often overlooked, Hatten said.
"Matt Gillis is a solid little kid, a solid little player," he said. "He's going to block and he's going to be where he's supposed to be. There's nothing more important for a quarterback than being where you are supposed to be.
"Most quarterbacks find comfort with guys like that."
Hatten's spread offense probably won't use the tight end a lot, but when it does, Lucas Lee will be the go-to guy.
"We got to use him a little more effectively and run behind him," Hatten said. "With him, you should just get the linebacker to come up on the play action, pass and get the ball to him because of his size (6-foot-7)."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.