July 31, 2010 10:58:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School''s first fall scrimmage during head coach Jamie Mitchell''s tenure had a little bit of everything Saturday morning.
But the multitude of pre-snap penalties and fumbled snaps were potentially offset by a string of long plays from sophomore skilled players.
The long grind of opening week culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage in front of an estimated crowd of 100 Yellow Jacket fans.
Mitchell expected rust and fatigue to catch up to his players after dealing with heat and two-a-days, but the first-year Starkville coach lauded the effort, execution and most of all, the attendance in the first week of practice.
"(Attendance) was one thing I was worried about all week," Mitchell said. "We''ve got 68 players on our roster that are here every day. All week it''s been outstanding."
As for the play, Starkville''s first and second units scrimmaged for two hours, working around procedural penalties in the early going before first-year varsity players Stanley Higgins and Preston Baker converted long touchdowns.
With every position wide open, the coaches need to identify the program''s future stalwarts.
Mitchell admits the team''s offense is still a work in progress.
"We''re still searching so hard to find what we''re good at," Mitchell said. "Right now, we''ve found a couple of areas where we feel we can be productive. With Preston, we think he''ll be the future at tailback. We''re trying to fast forward him, but it''s a big jump from ninth-grade ball to varsity. He needs a year of JV ball, but right now at the position we just don''t have the depth to let him grow. But he''s definitely going to get touches this fall."
The bulk of the carries were divided between Baker, sophomore Devin Mitchell and senior Jakarta Agnew. Last season, Agnew was shelved with an injury and is keen to make up for missing his junior season. Starkville''s new offense utilizes a fullback with quick hit plays, a role in which Agnew showed potential Saturday, Mitchell said.
"He''s had a good a week as anybody," Mitchell said. "We''re tickled to death with him."
Fellow senior Martavious Foster, whose seen his role change a bit in the new scheme, said the offense''s adjustment to personnel groups has been the biggest hurdle in Week 1.
Added to that are more formations and motions, which has it''s obvious learning curve and benefits, Foster said.
"I''m playing as a flexed out tight end, which I lined up like a lot last year," Foster said. "We''re not sunning as many routes as we did last year, because we had a like a 12-route tree. Now I only have about four or five, but maybe that''ll help more with repetition.
Mitchell was pleased just to have his team handle the heat and limit the "busted formations and motions."
Moving forward, however, Mitchell emphasized the need to clean up mental mistakes. In two week''s time, the Jackets will play Jackson Callaway in a much-anticipated multi-team scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium on the Mississippi State campus.
One area in need of repair is the kicking game, an area in which Mitchell has shouldered the responsibility of fixing. Daniel Fumo and Colby Runnels worked at kicker Saturday, with the former struggling to get lift on his kicks. Runnels appeared more comfortable at kicker and at punter as he got the majority of punts in the scrimmage.
"We''re not going to get beat in the kicking game," Mitchell said. "Fumo is a little green, but we''re tickled to death with Colby Runnells. He''s going to apply some pressure, both punting and kicking. We think he''s got a bright future. Competition will make you better, and Fumo will pick his game up.
"(Kickers) are working with timing, where the snap and the hold have to be right. We''re still struggling with that."
After just one week of practice and one fall scrimmage in the books, Mitchell was elated with the fan turnout at the team''s south practice field. And for a team that suffered a tremendous fan falloff last year, Saturday''s turnout is a great sign of things to come, Mitchell said.
"For us that''s big and it matters to these kids," Mitchell said. "They know who''s over there -- mom, dad, uncles and aunts - and we''re just tickled to death. We understand you''ve got to put a good product on the field before people will come, and that''s our job to do. We hope they''ll stick with us."