After not being able to play spring football last year due to COVID-19, Port St. Joe head coach Tanner Jones is excited about the Tiger Sharks’ return to a sense of normalcy this year, and that things were “so far, so good.”
Jones saw “a lot of potential, a lot of promise from the great group of seventh and eighth graders” along with the return of up to 16 varsity players from last season, including eight rising seniors.
Spring football “allows the coach to see the kids,” and especially to note the positive changes that players have gone through. Jones raved about a number of players who had tremendous off-seasons in the weight room, including rising junior Gavin Lee, rising sophomore Joseph Glenn, and rising senior Aiden Gainer.
It also gives the coaching staff time to fill gaps caused by graduation. Although the Sharks return 11 offensive veterans, seven key defensive players will need to be replaced. Jones is implementing a 44 defensive scheme for next season to compensate for the loss of defensive linemen.
“We have got to find our right tackle, and that sixth guy on the (offensive) line,” said Jones. In addition, the team must find a replacement for Jacob Hopper, who was “our Ironman. He could do anything we asked him to do.”
Besides being head coach, Jones serves as the quarterback coach. Assistant head coach Toney Powell is the offensive coordinator and calls the offensive plays.
Other coaches are Darion Wilson, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach; Tracy Browning, interior defensive line coach; Bobby Alexander, offensive line coach; Kenny Parker, in charge of conditioning and defensive backs; John Simpson, head junior varsity coach; and Rock Quinn, junior varsity skills coach.
Although “we just don’t have depth,” a common problem in 1A schools, Jones said that the Sharks have “quality, not quantity, and I’ll take it.” By Florida rules a player can participate in up to six quarters per week. This will allow JV players to get varsity playing time “and that can help us get through a game.
“With a low number of guys, you’ve got to win the first quarter,” Jones emphasized. “You’ve got to be the storm with that initial hit. Knock them off the field.”
When winning the coin toss, “we want the ball to start the game off. Go down and score, get a stop, score again,” Jones said. “(The) defense doesn’t have to make every stop, just make stops at the right moments.”
The Sharks will host Jay High School on Friday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. “They’re going to run the ball at us,” Jones said, just as Baker and Blountstown did last year resulting in two of their three losses.
On defense, Jay will “run a 3-4 scheme, which 90 percent of the teams we play run that. Our line will know how to block, and this will give our receivers a chance to make plays in space.”
With senior quarterback Colin Amison throwing the ball to a talented bevy of receivers that include All-Staters Dakota Quinn and Nick Jefferson, plays in space are a definite likelihood for not only the spring scrimmage, but for the 2021 season as well.