Flashes finding depth at skill positions

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

One by one, St. Aloysius’ running backs and receivers lined up for their turn to catch a pass. Each one streaked down the sideline for a 20-yard wheel route, then repeated the process.

The drill took about five minutes, which put a smile on coach BJ Smithhart’s face. Taking that long to get through the group means his 2016 Flashes will have depth, and depth means plenty of options for the offense to continue its explosive ways.

“We might not have DeMichael Harris, but we have a lot of competition,” Smithhart said, referring to the two-time Vicksburg Post Player of the Year who graduated in May. “You’ll see everybody getting better, because somebody is pushing them. We’ve got a lot of good skill guys.”

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This week marks, roughly, the halfway point of St. Al’s summer schedule. Preseason practice begins July 25. The next four weeks will include more 7-on-7 and conditioning work, while the last three have focused on fundamentals, evaluation and team drills.

The first half of the summer, Smithhart said, has been promising. The Flashes have averaged 3,630 rushing yards per season over the past three years and seem to have the talent to keep that going even with a new quarterback and primary running back.

Junior Connor Bottin, who saw significant playing time the past two seasons, will become the featured back in 2016. The quarterback situation is more up in the air. Brandon Teller was the heir apparent, but could wind up splitting time with Vicksburg High transfer Brandon Thompson.

“He’s going to play somewhere back there in a skill spot,” Smithhart said of the 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore Thompson. “He’s too good of an athlete not to be on the field.”

It’s the second consecutive summer that Teller, a senior, has been part of a quarterback battle. Last year he wound up being the backup to Will Pierce.

Teller, though, is OK with both the competition and the possibility of splitting time. He’s also on the cusp of becoming St. Al’s all-time career leader in receiving yards — he would have gotten the record last season if not for a midseason knee injury — and will likely play receiver if not quarterback.

Teller said he’s worked hard to improve his arm and passing ability, but if catching passes instead of throwing them makes the offense better he’ll do it.

“It’s good to have (Thompson) in. Very good to have him in. We have comfort in the quarterback position,” Teller said. “I’ve been going to some quarterback training to get my arm right, so I think I’m ready for it.”

While the Flashes are optimistic for this season, Smithhart said there’s still some shuffling to be done in the coming weeks. St. Al will face Brookhaven Academy in a scrimmage on Aug. 5, Porters Chapel Academy in a jamboree on Aug. 12, and then Cathedral in the season opener on Aug. 19.

Considering the team hasn’t done any work in full pads or with full contact, there’s still time for players to move into more or less prominent roles. There’s also enough of them to push others up and down the depth chart.

“There’s a handful of guys I haven’t seen put on a helmet and pads,” Smithhart said. “Until we get out there, there’s going to be some moving pieces. We just have to get them to where we think is the best spot.”


July 25: Preseason practice begins

Aug. 5: Scrimmage at Brookhaven Academy

Aug. 12: Jamboree vs. Porters Chapel

Aug. 19: Season opener vs. Cathedral

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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