WALESKA — The Reinhardt football program began the third phase of its offseason program last week with the beginning of spring practice.
After an offseason full of weight training and a week of early-morning field drills, the team was finally able to put on pads and run through different schemes and plays.
“It’s been great,” coach James Miller said. “We had a really good offseason. I’m proud of the kds. They spent a lot of time in the weight room. They’re a lot stronger. They’ve really bought in. We’ve done some things to try to change the culture here in more of a positive manner, and the kids have bought in.”
Position battles are also underway as Reinhardt looks to replace 13 seniors from last year’s team.
Miller said players’ performances during spring practices are only an indication of what the team will look like in the fall, but it is their first chance to separate themselves on the field.
“We’re trying to see who really wants to step up and earn a starting spot,” he said. “We want to see what the weight room has done. Who is going to be a leader. Who is the alpha male on both sides of the ball? You earn your job in spring camp and keep it in the fall. We have some really good competition out there.”
Billy Hall is back at quarterback, but that does not exclude the position from competition.
The 6-foot-5 Matthew Holt enters the spring as the backup, and once Allatoona product Hunter Arters is back from injury, Miller said he expects to see all three in the mix for playing time.
“You’re always evaluating and trying to get better,” Miller said. “Matt is a very good prospect. He’s a big, strong guy. He has a great arm. He has to go out there and compete with Billy and try to take that job. You always want a competitive environment, and we always try to have that here.”
There are also battles along the defensive line to see who will compliment returners J.T. Graydon and Teon Burroughs.
Bryce Burgess and Ahmad Barron are making waves at Z-back, and at tight end, Quantavious Williams and Nate Johnson both arrived at practice with added size for what could be an increased workload.
“We’re going to try to get them more involved in the passing game,” Miller said. “Quant and Nate are two great looking kids. We have to get them more physical, but they look the part. They’re both 250-plus, and they can move.”
Josh Chastain and Jake Brock are battling for the starting center spot, while Malik Ransom and Pebblebrook product Mike Collins fight for time at linebacker while Dawson Mitchell is out with an injury.
Omari Debose, River Ridge product Chris Long and Aaron Brown, who is back from an injury, battle it out at corner.
“There’s just a lot of players who look like they can get on the field,” Miller said. “This is where we see who worked hard in the offseason. It looks like most of our guys did, so we just have some really good battles going on.”
Besides replacing production on the field, Miller said this is also an important time to find out where this year’s leadership will come from.
Hall has been more vocal this spring, and while running back will once again be by committee last year’s leading rusher Montralius Mosely has taken on a leadership role.
Defensively, Miller said Burroughs and Graydon, a returning all-American, have filled in for the graduating Tevin McCoy.
“We’re still working through that,” Miller said. “They have to find their voice and their leadership style. They may not be a talker. They may be a guy who has to lead by example. They have to find their style, and we have to help promote them.”
The Eagles will have six more spring practices before their spring game April 11.
Miller said he knows the team will still be a work in progress at that point, but he does want to at least see the potential for a national championship-contending team by then.
“I want to see us become a team,” he said. “I want to see us take steps to become a team that competes hard against each other but is also picking each other up and being good to each other. I want to see us mold and gel into a good football team.”