With Thursday’s scrimmage against New Albany finished, spring football practice has ended at Oxford; head coach Johnny Hill liked what he saw.
“I’ve been pleased with spring practice,” Hill said. “Most of our kids showed up every day and it wasn’t a ‘come when you want’ party.”
The consistency attendance at practice was especially important this spring, as many positions have lost key players.
With starting receivers Stan Ivy and Robert Liggins graduating, the 2012 Chargers receiving corps is very young, but wide receivers coach Chris Cutcliffe was impressed with the group in the spring.
“They looked good,” Cutcliffe said. “A lot of these guys, like Joey Walden, Connor Davis, and Noah Pillault, haven’t played much, so there’s a lot of learning going on, but they worked hard and I’ve been proud of that.”
The only two returning members of the receiving corps are rising senior Toler Presley and rising junior Conrey Meagher. Presley, who missed all spring due to a back injury, is expected to be the leader for the group this season.
“We should have him back for next year,” Cutcliffe said about Presley. He’s no longer wearing his back brace, so that’s good.”
Meagher, who plays both defensive back and wide receiver, is expected to split time just as he did last season.
“He will split time for sure,” Cutcliffe said. “We just don’t know right now how much time he will split between offense and defense.”
The group has also recently added two new players; seniors Nick Brown and Justin Hill who are also members of the Oxford basketball team.
“Nick and Justin are both good athletes,” Hill said. “We need them at receiver, and I’ve been pleased with them.”
The running back position will be one that will be tough to fill. With Oxford single season leading rusher Mont Dean graduating, the position had some competition in the spring and the competition will continue into the summer.
“We’ve got to find the next Mont Dean,” offensive line coach Jason Russell said. “We do have several running backs that look poised to fill Mont’s shoes.”
Those running backs include rising seniors Deun Coleman, Jarquis Adams, and rising junior Jarius Barnes.
Other than quarterback, the offensive line is the most consistent position on offense as all of the starting members of the line are returning this season.
“The group I had walking onto the field first day of spring practice, started at the end of the season last year,” Russell said. “Any time you’re able to do that, you have a consistency and those guys work well together, so I didn’t have to re-teach a lot of things.”
The guy “anchoring” that group is rising senior Clifton Smith.
“Obviously our leader is Clifton Smith,” Russell said. “He’s just a man-child, he’s 320 pounds, mostly muscle.”
The quarterback position features rising senior Parker Adamson. Adamson, who missed most of the spring with baseball, is getting back into his groove.
“He’s a little rusty but he did a good job considering everything,” Hill said of Adamson.
Adamson’s absence gave rising sophomore Michael McGhee some reps at quarterback in the spring.
“We got a chance to put McGhee in there in the spring,” Hill said. “McGhee will get a shot in there at times to see what he’s learned.”
Other than the safeties, defensive line is the only position defensive coordinator Steve Herring is extremely comfortable with.
“D-Line’s probably the strength of our defense,” Herring said. “You’ve got Xavier Pegues, Joel Forrester, and the rest of the big boys with game experience.”
Herring feels like the linebackers lack some depth but expects them to play at their highest potential.
“We gotta run, and we gotta make tackles,” Herring said of the linebackers. “With the D-Line doing their job, the linebackers should look like Parade All-Americans.”
The cornerback position is one with quite a few young guys, but according to Herring, “a position with tremendous potential.”
“We have a couple of sophomores that have a chance to be something special,” Herring said.
Herring was most impressed with his safeties in the spring.
“Safety wise, we’ve got Ethan Holmes and Conrey Meagher,” Herring said. “Those two played in every game last year, and have gotten better. If you went out there and looked at them you’d notice those two flying around doing what we want them to do and how we want them to do it.”
Rising junior Cody Mills will headline this group as kicker and punter. Kicking off and punting were not practiced in the spring, as Mills only practiced field goals and extra points.