(FILE) â€“ Randy Brooks and the East Oktibbeha High School football team ended spring practice this past week. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Coach Randy Brooks knew there was going to be some changes for the 2012 East Oktibbeha High School football team.
The Titans finished 2011 with a 5-6 mark and lost 13 seniors who were all starters. Five of those seniors went on to sign junior college scholarships.
East Oktibbeha just finished up spring drills on Saturday and Brooks finally had time to collect his thoughts and feelings from the spring.
"A major concern for us in the spring was to see how the young players would react to game-type situation," Brooks said. "I pretty much knew what each person could do."
With so much turnover, Brooks decided to keep the spring drills simple and get back to basics.
"I wanted us to be good fundamentally," Brooks said. "That was what we stressed this spring, blocking, tackling and things of that nature."
Brooks did catch a break when Steve Bell decided to suit and play for the Titans for the upcoming season.
The tight end and defensive tackle took a year off.
"Steve Bell didn't play last season but I knew he was a veteran player that played the year before last," Brooks said.
East Oktibbeha ended their spring practice with a couple of games on the campus of East Mississippi Community College. The Titans played Clarkdale and West Lowndes.
Those games gave Brooks a good gauge of which players he more than likely will depend on during the fall.
"Second string quarterback Curtis Randall Junior did good on offense," Brooks said. "Julian Gillespie did a good job running the ball. Freshman Travion Arnlold did a good job on defense playing nose guard."
Gillespie is a senior who transferred from Starkville this year.
Like most of the football teams in the south, Brooks believes it will be the defense that is the difference maker for the Titans.
"I think it is going to be our defense," Brooks said. "We weren't scored upon on Saturday. West Lowndes had four downs inside the 1-yard line and didn't get it in."
The Titans open the 2012 season with a jamboree in August in Philadelphia.
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(Editor's Note: This story is the first in a series recapping spring practice for various high schools in the area. Other teams will be hightlighted in the next week.)