Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell has identified some young players this spring that have a chance to contribute early.
Mitchell wants to get his program to the point where the Yellowjackets don't have to count on sophomores so much, but he likes what's developing there.
"We had some kids last year that didn't get a chance to play that are going to have some opportunities now, but for the most part with our upcoming sophomore class, we think there are some really good players in that group," Mitchell said. "We're not going to have to count on many, but there are three or four of those kids that will have a chance to start at the varsity level for us. When you mix those in with what we've got coming back and somehow hold these pieces together, we feel like we're on the right track.
"(The sophomores) were undefeated and won the division championship (last season). There are some good ones that won't get a chance to play early and that's where we want to get with our program. Our program needs to be junior and senior based. That sophomore year should be spent playing junior varsity and getting them ready to play. We're getting close to that."
Starkville puts the finishing touches on spring practice with today's spring game at home against Columbus. The junior varsity gets the action started at 6:30 p.m., while the varsity gets on the field at 7 p.m.
It's Mitchell's hope that the Jackets can get through tonight's scrimmage without any more injuries.
There have been enough of those this spring already.
Wide receiver Jimmy Saulsberry tore his anterior cruciate ligament and could miss next season, while Ladorious Pittman broke his ankle on the first day of spring practice, Rodriguez Norman also broke his ankle and David Fair is still recovering from his ACL injury of last year.
"We've had our bruises along the way, but that's part of the game and you hope that next guy in line is ready to step up," Mitchell said. "I'm really frustrated about Jimmy. That's the injury that scares us because we're not sure he'll be ready to go next year. We've got our fingers crossed for David because he's had two surgeries. We're just not sure about how he's going to return."
Mitchell said seeing players get hurt "really breaks my heart," and questions how much importance needs to be placed on spring drills.
On the other hand, it gives other players a chance to show their ability.
"We've got some new faces that have emerged and some of our upcoming kids that we feel may be able to fill some holes for us," Mitchell said. "Darius Grayer and Matt Fuller comes to mind as guys who have gotten our attention this spring on the defensive side of the ball."
Quarterback Gabe Myles gets to put the pads on tonight after a spring mostly spent on the track.
Mitchell said scouts from Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama will be in attendance at the game to see what Myles can do.
"He has a big ticket waiting on him in football and I think he understands that's going to be big for him," Mitchell said. "State and Ole Miss have both offered him and Alabama has shown a lot of interest so it will be a big night for him without a doubt."