With spring practices now coming to an end, it was time for Paris Eagles Head Coach Bryan Hutson, returning to his former duties, to showcase the potential of the Paris squad this upcoming season.
When asked, his first comments were about the speed on this team. After watching the split-squad scrimmage last week, there is no doubt they have enough speed to fill two offenses. They can both hit the edge with ease or, as Da’Kovan Wise now shows, they can make people miss between the tackles. In the backfield, Wise may be the most improved. Last year fans saw his straight line speed, but in the scrimmage they saw the shifty hips that make defenders tackle air and grass. He was extremely hard to get a solid lick on, taking five yards when it was there, or showing much improved field vision and making the cut for larger gains.
Gone is the spread base offense, and as was showcased last Wednesday evening, the Pro I formation was commonly used with motion to, as Hutson stated, “put the ball in the hands of their best athletes and let them make plays.”
They did not disappoint. With competition on both sides of the line, it will be a younger group up front. The incoming sophomore class will play a major role on this team. The defense was at a disadvantage, have fewer practices while the new offense was installed and they were forced to stay in their base set. However, they were not afraid to step into the gap and pop the first person coming through.
Maybe the most improved player is quarterback Kris Graham. After being forced into the role last season, he has matured, stepping into the throw and completing with much more accuracy. Hutson complimented his development and it showed on the field, both in passing and decision making. He is a true speed threat that can now throw on the run. Not to be left out, Matt Ezell looked like a different player. After seeing very limited snaps at quarterback a season ago, he led his team down the field equaling the white squad play for play.
Hutson used the spring to focus on ability and not conditioning. Though they have conditioning as part of their regimen, installing the offense and finding the playmakers was the task at hand, and it seemed to work.
Incoming junior Travis Bryant has been a standout on both sides of the ball, playing offensive and defensive line, but also has the ability to move back one level on either side, playing in a skill position. In 3A football and smaller rosters, talent like that is valuable. Incoming sophomores Isaac Brewer and Blaise Woods looked well prepared to contribute. Brewer hauled in several passes, one in traffic over the middle through two defenders, blocked on the edge, and made good decisions on the defensive side. Woods is a bruiser, and he was never brought down on initial contact. With all of the speed around him from returning players, he may well be the guy you give the ball to move the pile. Returning contributors on defense will include Alex Flores and Justus Lee, both who could likely play both ways. Ezell will also start on the defensive side as he did most of last season. A familiar name to Eagles fans, incoming sophomore Luke Trusty made a nice catch down field playing from his tight end position.
This Paris Eagle squad is young up front, but will likely have unmatched speed in the conference. If the defense continues to develop, look for Hutson and the Eagles to make a playoff run with a lot of young talent on the field this year in an offensive set Eagle fans will be pleased to see.