Imagine walking onto a practice field, being told to play a position once held by a player who signed with a Division I, nationally ranked football program and having that player stand on the sideline watching your every move.
That could very well be how Beachey Sutton’s varsity career at Midlothian begins. And in many regards, he’s not alone.
While Eric Agbaroji, a defensive back who signed with Boise State, might be the most high profile name gone from the Panther program the laundry list of slots to fill is no less important. Six all-district selections are gone not to mention the emotional team leaders.
“Really it’s really hard because a lot of guys, a lot of seniors that were really important last year like P-Nut (Victor Gonzales) and Eric and Gage (Windsor) are gone,” Sutton said. “Right now they’ve got me filling Eric’s spot so I’m trying my best to fill his spot the best that I can. Trying to play it as hard as I can.”
Other defenses across the Metroplex are gearing up for spring practice as well. They’ll address some areas of need, plug in some holes and begin working on the defensive scheme they plan to employ this fall.
Midlothian defensive coordinator Chris King wishes that’s what he was doing.
With 33 seniors gone from last season, King isn’t worried about schemes and play calling. He’s worried about depth charts and starters. When practice opened Monday, the only players on the defensive side of the ball with prior varsity experience who were able to suit up were Slater Gravens, Michael Glenn, Kendall Jackson and Tre Peace.
“Usually when you go into a spring you kind of have a new scheme or something that you want to look at that you may have picked up somewhere and see how it fits. We’re not really doing that this spring because we don’t know who is where,” King said. “We’re playing a lot of people at a lot of different positions and just trying to see who can play the game and who can’t.”
The good news for King and the Panther defense is that those new faces will be coming from the sub-varsity level where they experienced some success last season. Not only that but they’ll hit another teenage growth spurt in that 16-17-year-old range meaning some players will get bigger, stronger and faster over the summer.
Ultimately, it leaves a lot of sorting out to do. And it leaves players like Sutton with a big opportunity to grab ahold of.
His biggest hope is to get in game shape quickly and impress the coaching staff enough to earn a slot on that varsity roster. It’s a tough challenge but he knows he’s not alone.
“You’ve just got to go out there and have the mindset to do it, do your best at it. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Sutton said. “Everybody’s out of shape. I’m out of shape and they’ve got me playing a lot. It’s a lot of running I’ve got to do so I’ve got to get back in shape. Once I get back in shape I’ll be able to get the flow for it again.”
A golden opportunity
Since Wiginton’s last spring, the coaching staff has instituted motivational tools as a way to get players excited about doing their job. Last season, helmet stickers after practice were awarded in recognition of a job well done.
For the spring, there will be a competition for a gold jersey awarded at the end of each practice to the most physical player that day. The jersey can be won by anyone on the field and can be won by the same player multiple times. Rising senior Michael Glenn won the first jersey given out after the first practice.
Midlothian’s depth will suffer in the spring due to injury recovery from several key players. Linebacker Jarmon Jackson had off-season wrist surgery to fix ligament damage dating back to two seasons ago and will not be available again until the start of two-a-days this fall.
Joining Jackson on the injury list due to surgery are defenders Will Marks and Jesse Rios. Marks had surgery on his arm in the off-season but was at the first practice in a jersey and helmet but did limited work. Rios continues to rehab from knee surgery and wore ice on his knee at practice after working the knee out earlier in the day.
Offensive lineman Myron Hanson is sidelined with a shoulder injury but hopes to return to action before the end of spring practice.
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