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By JOEL COLEMAN
In the 2010 football season, Starkville Academy learned how to be competitive.
With preparations for 2011 beginning with the start of spring practice Wednesday, second-year head coach Jeff Terrill says it's time for his Volunteers to strive for more than just the ability to compete.
"For Starkville Academy, the spring is more important to us than a lot of schools because we took some positive steps last year," said Terrill. "But we've still got a lot of work to do. We've got to continue to not just be competitive, but learn how to win this spring."
Judging by last year's results, SA appears to already be headed towards achieving Terrill's objective. Just one year after a winless campaign, the Vols rebounded to go 3-8 in 2010 with wins over Winston Academy, Lee Academy and Magnolia Heights.
Yet, despite making positive strides last fall, a new year presents new challenges.
Coming into the spring, arguably the Vols' primary goal is to replace quarterback Kyle Henson. Henson was a centerpiece of SA's option offense during his senior season, but Terrill says there are several candidates who could emerge to fill Henson's old post this spring.
"We'll be running the same offense so there is some carryover there," said Terrill. "The strength of it is, we've got some experienced offensive linemen coming back and experience at the skill positions. So the big question altogether is finding that trigger-puller to replace Kyle."
Among the candidates named by Terrill who will get snaps under center this spring are Drew Pellum, Ryan McKell, Jake Goodwin and Starkville High transfer Brandon Sharp.
Pellum actually saw time at quarterback for the Vols last season.
"We'll look at (Pellum) awful closely," said Terrill. "He's a young man who played quarterback in junior high. Last year, he served more as a wide-out and defensive back for us, but certainly he has the tools."
Still, Terrill plans to give McKell, Sharp and Goodwin hard looks as well.
"Last year, we took the guy who we thought needed the ball in his hands the most with Kyle and just kind of moved him to quarterback," said Terrill. "Likewise, (McKell) has skills and we'll take a look at him.
"(Sharp) was actually in our junior high program and is a young, skilled athlete with some speed. He'll provide us some depth that we didn't have last year, and we've also got (Goodwin) who we'll work some too. We're excited to see what they all can do."
Terrill hopes to settle on a quarterback by the end of spring drills.
While finding a quarterback is SA's primary offensive focus this spring, not much has changed on the defensive side of the ball for the Vols, save for the presence of new defensive coordinator Bubba Davis.
The veteran Davis, whose career has included coaching stops at West Point and, most recently Columbus, will be guiding a defensive unit that welcomes back nine of last year's 11 starters.
"We're excited about (Davis) leading our defense and putting in his defensive system," said Terrill. "He brings such a wealth of experience. The kids have taken to him and respected him right from the start. He started by having a great impact in our weight room, but just having that kind of experience on the defensive side of the ball just kind of frees me up so I can focus and help more on the offensive side of the ball and not be stretched as much."
Among the returnees Davis has at his disposal on defense include linebacker Ryan Mann and defensive lineman Angus Catchot.
According to Terrill, everyone on both sides of the ball are ready to get back on the gridiron and try and build on the momentum that started accumulating just a few short months ago.
"I think the kids are real excited," said Terrill. "We went through a really good weight program in the spring so we're a lot bigger and a lot stronger. I think everyone's excited to build on the way we finished up last year."
Starkville Academy will conclude spring practice with a scrimmage at Washington School on May 14.