We talked with Head Coach Jeff Traylor in his office at the Gilmer Field House Thursday afternoon and asked for his assessment of how things are going early on with his team.
“We are better than we were last year at this point, but you have to remember that we were terrible at this point last year too, so it wouldn’t take much for us to be better, but we are better. We’ve got a lot of kids returning; our quarterback’s returning and we have a lot of skill kids returning to handle the ball, so we’re a lot more advanced that we were this time last year, no doubt.”
“I think we had about 96-98 kids with the varsity and JV, and our freshmen will be right around 40. We lost Brady English, Dillon Sampson and Jackson McQueen off the line, so we’ve got to find three offensive linemen. The padded workout will be big to see if we find three offensive linemen to replace them. We lost Pat Finch and Slade Morris at receiver and Trey Washington, so you need three receivers to step up. Defensively, you lost Xavier Fluellen, the big nose guard, you lost your two safeties in Trey Washington and Dylan Bowman, so you need two replacements for there, so that’s what we’re really looking for. We’re not looking for a lot of things, but we are looking for some, so it’s kind of in between. We’ve got 7 back on offense and 6 back on defense, so out of 22 starters we lost 9 of them and probably lost 24 seniors, so there’s still some holes to fill.”
“The first three days we’ve been really, really good conditioning-wise. We’ve had a few cramps, but not many. They reported back in great shape, they’re strong; a lot of kids played (last year) so they are a very mature group and everything’s good so far.”
We asked Coach Traylor who the leading candidates were to replace the departed seniors.
“The kids competing for those spots, you’ve got Colin Hardin and Johnny Perez competing for the center job, you’ve got Blake Rice and Lucas Garrett competing for those guard jobs and we’ve got Mitch Lange returning as a starter and we’ve got Dylan Adkinson returning as starter. Colton Hendrix is competing for a starting job on the line. At safety, you’ve got Ardarius Johnson moving back there who’s filling in at safety; you’ve got Nick Smith and Blevin Burns and Charles Williams competing for that safety job. Defensive line, you’ve got to replace C. J. Williams, Dakota Fluellen and Xavier Fluellen, so there’s three defensive tackles we’re replacing, but Garrett Parrish played last year, Harrison Foster played last year who are in the mix; DeMarco Boyd is back in the mix. A new kid who is doing real well is Jamaal Wheeler, and Dustin Olivares and William Harrison are all competing for those jobs. At receiver, you’ve got Nick Smith has come on, Desmond Pollard is coming on and Quin Fluellen to replace those three kids we lost. The bad news is we’ve got to replace those three, but the good news is that we’ve got some kids that we’re pretty excited about that are looking pretty good in practice so far.”
We also asked about any changes this year in the way the coach is handling practice. “We’re trying to stay onto the clock better. We’re trying to really be more efficient. I think we’ve probably practiced too long through the years, to be honest. (We’re) Not breaking any rules, we’re just not as efficient as we could have been. We’re trying to be more efficient. We’re trying to give our kids certain goals they meet and we’re rewarding them by giving them more breaks instead of just pushing them on through, so I guess you could say maybe I learn to work smarter as I get older and not be so inefficient.”
NEW ENTRANCE on the home side to Buckeye Stadium. The Gilmer Buckeyes will be scrimmaging the Whitehouse Wildcats here on Friday, Aug. 16, beginning at 5 p.m. with the varsity scrimmage beginning at around 7 p.m.