Columbus, Starkville begin practice with new coaches

July 26, 2010 10:27:00 AM

David Miller -


Hours of summer workouts, 7-on-7 games and time spent at college camps culminate today with the start of practice for area high school football teams.  


For the coverage area''s two largest high schools, Columbus and Starkville, today''s two-a-days mark the start of new coaching regimes.  


Jamie Mitchell had the spring to acclimate to his players at Starkville, while his Class 6A counterpart, Tony Stanford, made the transition of Bubba Davis'' sudden retirement easier by being promoted from defensive coordinator to the top job on July 2.  


Stanford''s championship pedigree from his days as an assistant and head coach at Louisville give the Falcons their second straight coach to take over with a state title on the mantle.  


Still, after winning just four games the past two years, Stanford admits the jury is out on his young team that played just four seniors last year.  


The playoffs, however, are well within reach, Stanford said Sunday afternoon.  


"I think with the junior class we have right now, we can make it to the playoffs," Stanford said. "Seven or eight sophomores are going to play again, so we''ll be a young ball club. The main thing is that basically our staff together remains together. It makes our players feel more comfortable." 


Comfort is a satisfaction Mitchell''s squad enjoys at the moment, though the coach warns the motor shifts to a higher gear with today''s camp opener.  


Mitchell, who was hired from Itawamba Agricultural High School, has stressed the substance of working at a winning tempo -- from the practice field and beyond. 


"Our guys have got to understand we have to practice and play at that speed," Mitchell said. "We''re still learning in that area. Our work ethic goes into that and we''ve got to continue to find a way to beat adversity. We struggled with that in the spring, dropped our head a little bit and had to fight twice as hard to push through." 


Starkville''s two assistant hires from Itawamba, defensive coordinator Brooks Oakley and offensive assistant Preston Leathers, have completed their moves from Fulton.  


Leathers and his wife Kala welcomed a new child, Presley, three weeks ago. 


Stanford''s two weeks in charge haven''t been so much about getting used to running a program or scrambling to complete a staff as it''s been about finishing summer workouts with a bang.  


"Our players have worked hard and had some tough conditioning," Stanford said. "They''ve gone through it and tried to do it right way. It''s been really smooth and the guys are excited." 


Stanford is hopeful the seamless transition carries over to the field, where practice routines will take on a different look.  


The Falcons will dedicate more time to special teams and now will open practice with those units. Increased individual periods also are in the plans. 


Columbus began two-a-days at 7:30 a.m. today and will return to the field at 5 p.m. The Falcons will practice twice a day Monday through Wednesday and will have one session on Thursday and Friday. The team scrimmages at 9 a.m. Saturday.  


Starkville will practice at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and once Friday at 7 a.m. 




Another new head coach 


Joining the list of new coaches in the area is East Oktibbeha''s Randy Brooks, who replaces new Noxubee County assistant Anthony King. Brooks served as King''s defensive coordinator in each of the last two years and also is the head coach of East Oktibbeha''s girls'' basketball team.  


Brooks led the Titans boys'' track team to a third-place finish at the Class 1A state track meet. 


Brooks previously coached football at East Oktibbeha when the school was named B.L. Moor. 


The Titans enjoyed a resurgent 2009 season, going 4-7 with three losses coming by a combined 12 points. The improvement followed a one-win campaign in 2008.  




Articles of swagger reduced 


Some coaches call football fashion accessories unnecessary, while players prefer to jazz it up for game day.  


The Mississippi High School Activities Association has opted in favor of the coaches, limiting accessories to wrist bands and gloves. The thin elbow bands, arm sleeves, knee bands and decorated belts are out.  


"I think MHSAA and the nationwide committee is just trying to get things cleaned up," Mitchell said. "Kids are kids, and if you let it go they''re going to push it. I think it''s fair for everybody involved."