Flashes shuffle lineup, gain experience in spring practice

Published 12:39 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

Because of commitments to other sports, St. Aloysius football coach BJ Smithhart didn’t have every player available for spring practice this year. The ones he did have, however, gave the team a good head start on the 2016 season.

St. Al wrapped up its spring drills with one last practice late Friday afternoon. Among the 25 or so players on the field were next season’s starting quarterback, a number of key offensive linemen, and a slew of underclassmen who got valuable practice time as they transition from the junior high to varsity rosters.

“We got some things done,” Smithhart said. “We’re trying to move some kids to new positions and get a head start on the summer. You’re never as good as you want to be, but we had a good effort this spring.”

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Among the players moving around is Brandon Teller. The junior-to-be is switching from receiver to quarterback, and also coming off a torn ACL he suffered midway through the 2015 season.

Teller is the school’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and needs 26 yards to set the record for receiving yards. Teller is close enough to the yardage record that Smithhart said he’ll find ways to make sure he gets it, but also made it clear Teller will throw more than catch this year.

Teller played some quarterback early in the 2015 season before graduated senior Will Pierce took over full-time under center.

“He did good in the spring. He couldn’t have contact because he tore his ACL, but he handled it well,” Smithhart said of Teller’s position switch to quarterback. “It’s more him getting comfortable there. He’s a good athlete. We knew what he could do.”

Helping protect Teller will be a deep offensive line anchored by left tackle Ben Brown. The rising senior has already committed to Ole Miss and is among the best linemen in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools.

The Flashes have a lot more than the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Brown, though. Smithhart said eight players are vying for starting spots and playing time heading into summer and preseason workouts.

Caleb Larson, Cole Yearwood, Matthew Cross, brothers Garrett and Tyler Breithaupt, Dylan McBride and Andy Robinson will all get a chance to break into the lineup.

“I feel good about our line. We have depth,” Smithhart said. “We just have to figure out who the starting five are. It might not get settled until September.”

St. Al will not play a spring game. Smithhart said schedule conflicts with other sports and not having a full roster led him to decide against it. The three weeks of practice have been invaluable, however, especially for his younger players.

This is St. Al’s first spring practice session since moving to the MAIS from the Mississippi High School Activities Association. The MAIS has more liberal practice rules regarding younger players, so St. Al’s eighth- and ninth-graders have been able to work their way into the varsity workouts.

That, Smithhart said, will pay dividends down the line.

“We’re really going to see the benefits of them getting snaps and playing,” Smithhart said. “They’re going to play as sophomores instead of riding the pine all that time.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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