As we reported yesterday, the number one, preseason, ranked football team in Kentucky’s 4A classification scrimmaged yesterday at Thornton Field on the campus of Hopkinsville High School. We were there and thought, post-scrimmage, we would provide some insight into what we observed as well as interview a member of the coaching staff for a more expert analysis than we are capable of composing. Foremost to the eye of any observer there, especially if that observer had seen any of last year’s spring scrimmages, it appeared obvious the Tigers are going to be much better pounding the ground this year than last. Now observers weren’t treated to a view of the line which is forecast to take the first snap against Class 5A semi-finalist, South Warren, on August 17, 2018.
One starting tackle was at track & field practice and the starting right guard, Keone Mumford, hasn’t been fully activated from off the injured reserve list; but the unit which was scrimmaging got good push in a very productive ground game and protected well in the passing game. QB Jay Bland, who wasn’t particularly sharp (though we do know the level of play of which he is capable), will have much less pressure in his face this upcoming season, something for which he is, no-doubt, grateful. The play up the middle of the offensive line was quite good and a credit to the center and the two guards. At running back, Junior (Senior to be) Jordan Hopson was, at times, fantastic. He is both way faster and more explosive than anyone watching the Tigers last season will remember. Ventrial Baker also had some nice runs and the freshman (sophomore to be) will be able to contribute carries next year in our opinion.
With an apparent offensive emphasis on running the football, from a defensive standpoint, learning much about how our back four covers was something for which I couldn’t get a very strong feel. Probably a good thing because the Tigers top cover-corner, JeVon Leavell, was running track yesterday. However, the play of middle linebacker, Denarius Barnes, was both impressive and noteworthy as he flowed to plays well and delivered hits when he got there. For that matter, once Barnes learns how to secure a hand-off, his play at fullback will be particularly punishing. Barnes would get a lot of carries, when he gets better acclimated to that side of the ball, if I were calling plays. Maybe the hit of the day was delivered on an isolation play run right at Barnes where he came up and destroyed Hobson, who had the iso-block on the play. I suppose Hobson had the last laugh because Ventrial Baker, a freshman RB (rising sophomore) cut off the block and gained 15 yards on the play. Hobson sacrificed himself for Baker’s gain, and Barne’s hit required a full measure of physical sacrifice. Kiren Palmer had a very good day defensively and made quite a few plays.
We were able to reach Coach Dustin Lopez who had some comments about what he saw, both from his unit as Defensive Coordinator and the offense he was trying to counter. Here is what D-Lo had to allow…There are some things we need to clean up, like our run-fits on the back side with the LBs, and our D-Line which tended to crash a bit. Our play left us vulnerable on boots and sprints outs, at times; but overall, a very productive 50 play scrimmage. When we inquired about what the D-coordinator thought of the offensive production D-Lo said that…offensively, even with some starting linemen out, and some backs out, the offense ran the ball very well. We asked D-Lo specifically about William Long’s move to center from guard and the coach remarked…for one thing, the center-quarterback exchange was flawless, which you don’t see much in Spring ball in the first live action. The Long to center experiment appears to better fit Long’s skill set. Center is his best position, and the best way for us to deploy him. William uses his elite strength, power, and explosion, together with his football savvy, to quarterback the o-line; for which he appears perfectly suited.
Switching back to his unit, the defense, we asked Coach Lopez whether there were some players whose performance stood out to him. He said...the guys that really popped were Erick Grubbs (DE), Connor Lackey (LB), Jackson Davis (LB/SS), and Tyrese Pratt (transfer from Todd at corner). Tyrese is a good player with a lot of upside and could be the fastest player on the team. Tayshaun Head, who hasn’t played since middle school, made quite a few plays and showed he is really going to help us. Overall, as a coaching staff, everyone seemed pleased.
The Tigers, whom are being picked in the top of its classification in every preseason prognostication to be presently published, appeared, to this eye here, to be capable of being, every bit, the team it is forecast, and perhaps, destined to be. Good luck to the Tigers from your friends at your locally owned, hometown, G1NBC-Christian County. #WereBehindYouAllTheWaySoGoTigersGo!