MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon football team hit the field in shoulder pads, shorts and helmets on Saturday. After practicing in shorts and helmets on Thursday and Friday, head coach Mike Turk said the Hawks' third preseason practice was a little more lively.
"When you put the shoulder pads on, it feels a little more like football," Turk said. "The effort was good today. We're still trying to develop some depth at some places, but each day it seems like guys are learning more about what to do, getting comfortable and starting to play faster. That's what we have to have."
One area that seems to be developing quickly is the defensive line. The Hawks return three seniors (defensive tackle D.J. Chappell, noseguard Zach Elkins and defensive end Courtney Moss) that started all 10 games last season. Senior defensive end Brandon Van Camp was also in the starting rotation and played in all 10 games. Junior Zack Davis played in every game and junior Cordarryl Jones and sophomore Blake Lawley played in nine games.
Chappell, a first-team preseason All-American, was third on the team in tackles with 54 and led the team with eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Chappell, Elkins, Moss and Van Camp combined for 123 tackles, 18 sacks and 32 tackles for loss.
"That's really where everything starts on defense," Turk said. "Our defense made some improvement last year in large part because of our ability to play better up front. I expect that to continue.
"The biggest thing this time of year is trying to develop depth. Early in the season, when it's really hot, that is a high-intensity position and you have to have depth. You can't expect four guys to play all four quarters. You've got to have eight, nine, 10, or if you're fortunate, even more to be part of the rotation. The more guys you have, the better off you're going to be in the fourth quarter."
Turk said he is also seeing good things out of sophomores Derick Bothwell, Walker Lewis and some other younger players.
"We're studying our young guys and looking for some more players that we can plug in," Turk said. "We're committed to trying to develop as many of those young guys as quickly as we can."
The Hawks will practice in shoulder pads and shorts again on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Huntingdon will be in full gear for the first time on Monday at 9 a.m. Practices are open to the public.