There are specific areas of the Starkville High School football team that coach Jamie Mitchell looks to improve as it works through the heat and humidity of early preseason practice.
The Yellowjackets are focusing on getting better in the kicking game and finding players who will be productive on offense.
After the shortcomings in the kicking game last season, Mitchell said SHS can't afford not to pay attention to detail in that area of the game.
"We were just terrible in our kick coverage last year," Mitchell said. "That's something we're working hard on and have got to improve on.
"In losing all of our skill people on offense, you wonder who is going to step up as far as who will be a go-to guy on offense. We're trying to answer those general questions."
Junior running back Preston Baker said Mitchell can count on him.
Baker missed the majority of the 2010 with an injury so he's eager to help the Jackets succeed.
"I'm going to try and do well this year and take our team to the playoffs," Baker said. "I'm going to do the best I can to help my team win."
As far as the quarterback situation, Starkville has been working Gabe Myles, Michael Newman and Princeton Jones at the position left vacant by the departure of Jaquez Johnson.
Mitchell said all three signal callers bring their own set of strengths to the table, but Myles secured the starting spot coming out of spring practice.
"Gabe had a solid spring and a really good summer," Mitchell said. "Right now, he's probably got the starting nod, but you never know.
"Michael is a solid player and one we are certainly proud of. He's going to be our punter as well and carries a huge responsibility in that area. Princeton Jones is our No. 3 guy. He's a freshman and started for our 9th grade team last year. He's got a chance to be a good one for us as well."
This will be the second season for Mitchell with the Jackets and he has noticed a comfort level that wasn't there last year.
"It's just amazing what a year makes with just their attention level," Mitchell said. "Last year, we were starting over from scratch and had to only rely on our spring. Now we are one year invested in it.
"We can go to practice and not have to explain a lot of drills and not have to explain a lot of schemes. They've got a pretty good idea about what we're doing. The overall general knowledge is so much better. Being here for a year makes a big difference."
Starkville practiced twice on opening day and went once on Tuesday. The team will scrimmage on Saturday at 9 a.m. and will also scrimmage for 30 minutes during "Meet the Jackets" on Tuesday.
Mitchell called the heat that SHS faced during workouts "smothering," but said it's necessary for the squad to press on.
"To me, it was hotter (Monday) morning than it was (Monday) afternoon," Mitchell said. "Our guys have been in it all summer.
"We could choose to make it an excuse or make a choice to work through it. We don't talk about it a whole lot. It's just something that you've got to deal with it."