STARKVILLE — The areas Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell thought needed work at the end of spring drills are being corrected in the summer.
Mitchell, embarking on his first season as the coach of the Yellow Jackets, wasn”t happy with the play of the secondary in April and May.
A heavy dose of 7-on-7 in June has the Jackets on the right track, according to Mitchell, who admits pass defense was atop his list of areas to sew up heading into the fall. The Jackets gave up a region-worst 324 points last season.
The Jackets participated in Mississippi State”s passing camp and East Mississippi Community College”s camp.
For three weeks in June, the Jackets hosted an area 7-on-7 camp with Columbus High School, New Hope, West Point, Noxubee County, Louisville, and West Oktibbeha. The Monday games provided the Jackets four games each night and Mitchell is breathing easier following the extra reps.
“I don”t know if you could have put a group of more talented schools together,” Mitchell said. “The route running has improved and we understand coverage, leverage, positioning and a lot of those things we just didn”t have time to get taught in the spring.
“It”s just been an ongoing process, continuing to teach and our guys continuing to learn. Seven-on-seven is just an awesome thing for your skill players. Of course, your linemen kind of get left out of that mix and you send them to the weight room where they need to be anyway.”
The Jackets” offensive line, the thinest group on the team last year, has an unquestioned leader in senior Jarrod Atterberry. But Mitchell has been impressed with Eric Rogers and sophomore Jawon Johnson, who figures to fill out the the remaining starting spots not filled by Atterberry and Chris Prater.
Mitchell”s goal is to increase the unit”s strength and the Jackets have been on a four-day program this summer in an effort to solidify both fronts.
Each player has received a notebook with assigned workouts. For 60 minutes each workout period athletes lift before hitting the field for 20-25 minutes of speed drills.
“It”s hard to pick the most needy area right now,” Mitchell said. “The more we see of Johnson, the more we”re going to throw him in the mix and let him grow up as he gets there. Eric had a good spring, not a great spring, but we”ve certainly seen him grow during the summer. The offensive line improving is vital to us moving forward.”
Above the strength gains and emergence of players looking to unseat upperclassmen, Mitchell is using the summer months to build bonds with players he”s known for just three months.
To Mitchell, building relationships is twofold. He understands the team went through a minor shock with his up-tempo style of running practice and he”s keen to have the acclimation process complete once August rolls around.
“Summer”s not a slow time by any stretch, but it is away from the practice field,” Mitchell said. “It”s not quite as intense and hectic as their first experience with me was, which was spring practice. It gives us a chance to get to know each other. We”ve been to some camps and been on the bus together and those bonds are beginning to be built. You”ve got to have that. These guys have to feel they can trust their coaches and that we”re going to be there through the good, bad and the ugly. “
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