Spring football practice was an exciting and new kind of experience for the Starkville Academy Volunteers.
The Volunteers are coming off a MAIS Division II South championship and a loss to Washington School in the Class AAA, Division II State championship game.
SA head coach Jeff Terrill did not have all of his players due to the fact that the baseball team played into mid May in the baseball playoffs.
"The attitude was great," Terrill said. "We started spring practice on time but we were missing a lot of our skill athletes with their great season in baseball. We were really able to do a lot of quality work with the offense, defensive line and linebackers. They just showed a great attitude. We got a lot done."
The baseball players did get an opportunity to participate in the last few practices.
The good thing for Terrill and the Vols is most of the baseball players who play football are skill players. Terrill can work with those guys in the summer.
"It would have been difficult except for the fact that coach Terrill's personal philosophy is spring is all about the lineman," Terrill said. "You can do so much in the summer with your skill athletes to prepare and work them. You only get a little window that you can put those shoulder pads and helmets on and take the right stuff. Our focus has always been on that anyway so having those lineman the whole time really did us some good."
The Volunteers are losing some big pieces. Offensive and defensive lineman Angus Catchot and fullback Ryan Mann have graduated.
Catchot was a force in the middle and Mann was the workhorse for the offense.
"Those are two exceptional high school football players," Terrill said. "Angus was the first All-State player that I have had here. Ryan Mann rushed for over 1,200 yards."
Two candidates to step up on the offensive line will be Trip Jennesson and Cole Phelps.
"We have a junior from Ackerman, Trip Jennesson, who I think is going to be one of the best we've ever had," Terrill said. "Great quickness and great speed. Cole Phelps, who is two-year starter and going to be a senior this year, just looked like a different player. We do think we have some great offensive lineman coming back."
For the offense, senior quarterback, Drew Pellum returns.
Pellum played baseball so did not get a whole lot of work in the spring, but Terrill is excited about him.
"With our quarterback (Pellum) coming back, I think we will be able to do some additional things on offense and throw the ball a lot better," Terrill said. "He looks like a different guy being a senior."
The SA defense was solid all year long so Terrill doesn't look to change that.
"We want to be able to play great defense, we want to be able to run the football first and we want to be able to be a physical team a blue-collar team," Terrill said. "That is the kind of atmosphere we try to create in practice and I think our kids buy into it."
The Vols play in Jackson Academy's jamboree on August 10 and open the season on the road at St. Andrews on August 17.
(Editor's Note: This story is the fourth in a series recapping spring practice for various high schools in the area. Other teams will be highlighted in the next week.)