BAKER — Now in his third season at Baker School, his alma mater, Gator head football coach Matt Brunson is convinced that familiarity between the coaches and players has never been better.
"They know how we are going to play and they are already talking about how we are fixing to get out there and get after it," Brunson said. "It's been fun to watch, and I think these guys have bought into what we are trying to do.
"I think the main thing is knowing how we are going to do it and what speed we are going to do it and what we expect of them. Now they understand all that."
‘Ready to get out here’
Brunson expects close to 75 players on the field today, when the Gators open spring football practice.
“We've been looking forward to this day," he said. "Our kids have been working hard in the weight room and I think they are ready to get out there and do some things.”
Baker enters the spring needing to fill a few holes in the lineup.
Last year's starting quarterback, Adam Crowson, is a senior. The battle to replace him is between Crowson's younger brother, Ben, and Jon Beck.
Beck, who was the junior varsity’s starter last year, picked up some valuable playing time with the varsity when the Crowson brothers were out with injuries.
The rest of the Gator backfield is in good shape with the quartet of Brandon Engler, B.J. Thomas, Austin Martin and Richard Stroheker ready to lead the way.
Thomas, a rising senior, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season. Thomas should have another big year running the football.
Winning the line of scrimmage
The Gators have never been more solid in the backfield in the last three years, Brunson said.
Perhaps the biggest concern facing Baker is replacing several offensive and defensive linemen. Cody Chunn, Logan Nixon and Taylor Brown were seniors last fall, and finding their replacements will be the key to success.
"We graduated several offensive linemen and several defensive linemen and we've got to be ready to be good up front," he said. "This spring is going to be about winning the line of scrimmage, being physical and getting behind our pads."
Brunson thinks the returning linemen are more than capable of doing the job.
"The guys right now that will probably anchor our offensive line will be Dakota Campbell and Kody Nixon," he said. "And listen, those two guys are just as good of starting points as you could ask for.
"We've got some young guys coming up that are going to be battling their way into the lineup, and I think we are going to be as deep as we've been since I've been here."
Spring practice can sometimes be a time for surprises. Every year, the coaching staff looks at as many players as possible in different positions to ensure they have the best 11 guys on the field at all time.
"In the spring, we try to work as many people we can in as many situations and positions we can," Brunson said. "Hopefully, we will end up with the best 11 guys. But definitely we are going
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.