By Ben Thomas | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eleven coaches will head to Ladd-Peebles Stadium today for the first of two Mobile County Media Days.
This year’s lineup features five new head coaches and several highly recruited athletes, including Alabama commit Jalyn Armour-Davis of St. Paul’s, Stanford commit Jack West of Saraland and top SEC West target Andres Fox of Mobile Christian.
Almost appropriately, Mobile County Dean of Coaches Terry Curtis opens Day 1 at 9 a.m. Check back frequently throughout the day for highlights and photos. The event is closed to the general public.
3:15 PM: That’s a wrap for Day 1: Plenty of more coverage on AL.com later today so check back. And plenty of more action in Day 2 tomorrow.
3:10 PM: Sage advice: What would running back Bryan Hill to say to McGill critics: “They don’t know how hard we work.”
3:00 PM: Hill on QB Sheldon Layman: “He’s had a great summer. He’s been waiting for his time, and now it is here,” Hill said.
2:55 PM: Replacing Carlton: One big question for McGill is who will replace two-time Coastal Alabama Defensive MVP Carlton Martial at LB. “No one can replace him. He was a special player,” Hill said. “He made plays the average football player doesn’t make. When we were in trouble, he fixed a lot of stuff. We have a good group coming back, and they learned from Carlton. They know the defense, but it is going to take some time.”
2:52 PM: Work to do: “If I had to rate our preparedness on a scale of 1-10, I would say an 8 right now, but we are getting there,” Hill said.
2:50 PM: Vacancy: McGill lost 10 starters on defense and nine on offense from last year.
2:48 PM: Last but not least at the podium: The Yellow Jackets are 26-2 in the last two seasons with two state championship game appearances and one state title. DC Earnest Hill takes over for the departed Caleb Ross, now at Opelika. McGill once again will open with a high-profile game at Class 6A power Spanish Fort on Aug. 25. Hill’s son, Bryan, joins him today along with defensive back Eric Garror and kicker Chase Mahler.
2:38 PM: Replacing Cullan: Jacoby Daniel takes over for veteran Cullan O’Shea at QB. Daniel took a lot of second-team reps in the last few years and was injured last season. “It feels good, but I’m ready to get the season started and see how far we can make it,” said Daniel.
2:33 PM: Numbers game: Wilson is excited that MGM has 44 sophomore players and 55 freshmen out.
2:30 PM: Realistic goal for 2017: “I think all the program needs is stability in leadership positions and it will take off on its own,” Wilson said. He said the goal is to “grow” the team, “grow” the number of people that can add to the team.
2:28 PM: Catch 22: “We are extremely talented, but we need to grow up and get that talent on the field,” coach Chris Wilson said.
2:25 PM: Another new coach: Chris Wilson takes over the Vikings for Brian Seymore, who is now at Demopolis. Wilson spent the last two years at Straughn, but made a name for himself in five years at Washington County. He led the Bulldogs to two straight Class 2A state title games in 2012 and 2013. Senior QB Jacoby Daniel, OL Michael Mills and DL Thomas Griffin are with him today.
2:23 PM: Offer sheet: Swift Lyle has multiple college offers, including Louisiana-Lafayette, Akron, Central Arkansas, Georgia State and Tennessee Tech among others.
2:16 PM: The right decision: Alabama commit Jalyn Armour-Davis said he always knew where he wanted to go to college, he just needed to take visits to be sure about it.
2:08 PM: Mask on QB Swift Lyle: “He’s got ‘it.’ I don’t know how you define ‘it,’ but I know he’s got it.”
Bama commit and St. Paul’s CB Jalyn Armour-Davis will lead the Saints defense in 2017. @SPSaintsFBall will open @ Fairhope Aug. 25th. pic.twitter.com/PL5q9BdxMr
— Pigskin Pete (@pigskinwnsp) July 31, 2017
2:03 PM: Mask on Alabama commit Jalyn Armour-Davis: “He’s a great kid and a great corner. He is not Deion Sanders, but he is that kind of player. He can lock one side down and you are not going to throw his way. He’s got to be a lot more physical, and he is working on that.”
1:59 PM: Defensive struggles: Mask said the team had to be better on defense. “It cuts my soul on defense, but it’s true,” he said.
1:56 PM Hungry again: “I hope we got our appetite back. I didn’t feel like we were very hungry last year,” Mask said.
1:51 PM: St. Paul’s is next: For the first time in three seasons, St. Paul’s isn’t coming to Media Day as the reigning Class 5A champ. Steve Mask’s Saints lost to Jackson in the quarterfinals a year ago, leaving them even more focused to try for a return trip in 2017. He is joined today by Alabama commit Jalyn Armour-Davis as well as quarterback Swift Lyle and kicker Wilson Beaverstock. Mask is 58-12 in five seasons as head coach at St. Paul’s, including a 17-3 playoff mark.
1:49 PM: Offer sheet: Murphy TE/WR Anthony Lewis has offers from Mississippi State, Kentucky and South Alabama, among others.
1:46 PM: LB John Patterson on replacing 2 stars: “I feel like we are going to be some Dogs on defense. We are going to be tenacious. Tough to lose Neil (Farrell) and Kendric (Haynes), but we can’t look in the past.”
1:41 PM: Barnes on Anthony Lewis: “He’s going to be a hybrid for us. He reminds me of Evan Engram from Ole Miss. He is going to create positive mismatches for us whether a corner or a safety tries to cover him. We’re going to ask him to do a lot.”
1:38 PM: Barnes on Maurice Robinson: “He’s an exceptional talent. The sky is the limit for him”
1:35 PM: Strengths, weaknesses: Barnes said the team’s strength will probably be at the skill positions with guys like Lewis and QB Maurice Robinson returning. He said the offensive line is young but should be good when it comes together. He said defense is about heart, and he thinks “we will be alright once we get started.”
1:33 PM: Learning from Saban: Barnes played for Gerry DiNardo and Nick Saban at LSU. Asked what he learned most from Saban — “How to overcome adversity,” he said. “He talked about that a lot.”
1:27 PM: New to the scene: Muskingum Barnes is the first of several new coaches to have his chance to address the media. Barnes, a former Panther assistant, took over for Rick Cauley in the spring. Murphy also is represented by seniors Anthony Lewis, John Patterson and Norman Weaver. Murphy opens the season – and Class 7A, Region 1 play – at Baker on Aug. 25. The Panthers have made the postseason in 12 of the last 13 years.
1:19 PM: Tough enough: West said he believes this team is tougher than the one that went 6-5 a year ago.
1:15 PM: Stanford entrance: West, who already has been accepted to Stanford, said he had to write 12 essays for his entrance exam, ranging from 250 to 1,200 words.
1:10 PM: Differences between Kelly at QB and West: “He throws it a lot harder than I did and he can see over the line of scrimmage better,” Kelly joked.
1:08 PM: Kelly on QB Jack West: “There are probably not a lot of secrets. You’ve heard about him since eighth grade. It’s special when you have a guy who can control the huddle and control the game.”
1:06 PM: Ready out of the gate: Saraland opens against Heard County, Ga., on Aug. 26, but Kelly said the “most important” game is the second week against LeFlore. “We have that high-profile game in Week 1 and then play Daphne and Blount in Week 3 and 4. We’ve got to be ready for that second game. Last year, LeFlore almost got us.”
1:00 PM: Getting re-started: The Spartans have made the playoffs in each of Jeff Kelly’s six seasons, including a run to the Class 6A title game in 2015. Saraland went 6-5 a year ago, losing to Park Crossing in the first round of the playoffs. Senior Stanford QB commit Jack West enters his final year. He and Kelly are joined today at Ladd by senior free safety Randale Hinton and senior left tackle Hunter Mason.
11:39 AM: Six down: It’s break time. We’ll be back with Saraland at 1 p.m.
11:32 AM: No focus: Phillips said last year’s team wasn’t focused, but this year’s team has bonded. “We feel good about where we are,” he said.
11:29 AM: A.J.’s take: Phillips has played since the eighth grade. “My expectation is high. We’ve come too far to lose,” he said. “We’ve made a name for ourselves. People talked down about Chickasaw, they said we couldn’t get recruited. We’ve changed that.”
11:26 AM: Numbers game: Beverly said Chickasaw has gone from 37 to 46 players this year. He said he thinks this is the year the team will get over the hump. “We’ve got a good group of guys who have bought into what we are doing,” he said.
11:23 AM: Questions: Beverly said the team needed to find senior leadership. He said the Chieftains will use the opener against McIntosh on Aug. 25 as a gauge to see what might happen this year.
11:21 AM: State of the program: “I feel like we’ve had a progressive move forward,” Beverly said. “We are making some headway. I think we are in a good place.” Beverly said he had eight starters back on defense, including six seniors. “It’s the heart of our team.”
11:19 AM: Getting started: The Chieftains are 6-15 in two years under John Beverly. Chickasaw went just 2-8 last season, dropping their final six games after starting the season 2-2. They open 2017 at home against Williamson on Sept. 1. Joining Beverly today for Media Day are juniors AJ Phillips and Paul Lewis and senior Dorian Jones.
11:15 AM: Offensive mindset: Lee said St. Luke’s will employ the single-wing offense with a spread element to it. “We run the same plays a lot of other schools run, we just do it with a bit of deception,” Lee said.
11:11 AM: Change in attitude: Floyd said, “We want it this year. We want to improve.”
11:05 AM: Back to health: RB/LB Kendarius Floyd was cleared last week. He suffered a dislocated shoulder last season.
11:02 AM: Best year yet: Coach Lee seems to indicate this could be the best of his three years at St. Luke’s. A lot of returning starters and more depth than normal. Injuries will be the key.
10:56 AM: A long wait: The Wildcats will play their first regular season game against Luverne on Sept. 8. They will play a jamboree Aug. 25 with Millry and Excel.
10:53 AM: Next up: Veteran coach Ronn Lee enters his third year at Class 2A St. Luke’s. The Wildcats have won just two games each year but did score 351 points a season ago and have higher expectations this year. St. Luke’s is represented here by seniors William Brandyburg, Lincoln Hammons and Kendarius Floyd.
10:46 AM: Plenty of offers: Senior WR Collins Woods has more than 20 college offers, including South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette.
10:43 AM Great expectations: Senior safety Kelsey Hill: “I expect us to be great. My teammates have the mindset and passion to be great. I know nothing is impossible for us.”
Blount coach Lev Holly feels Sr QB Jacoby Davis will be #1 on the depth chart to replace Florida signee Kadarius Toney. pic.twitter.com/8qet9LPFUs
— Pigskin Pete (@pigskinwnsp) July 31, 2017
10:36 AM: The strengths: Holly said the team’s strength should come at WR, OL, RB, S and DL.
10:29 AM: Championship talk: Don’t expect any of that at Blount. “We talk about process at Blount, and we believe if we handle that and build from within, championships take care of themselves,” Holly said.
10:25 AM: The heir apparent: Holly said Jacoby Davis, who played safety last year, will likely succeed Florida signee Kadarius Toney at the quarterback position this year.
10:20 AM: Leopards in the House: Lev Holly is joined at the podium by seniors Collins Woods (WR), Kelsey Hill (S) and Jarious Bush (c). The Leopards went 10-3 in 2016 behind Florida signee Kadarius Toney. They lost at Park Crossing 54-51 in the Class 6A quarterfinals. They host Vigor on Aug. 25 in the annual Battle of Prichard.
10:18 AM: The transition: Powell said in his first year he would just “get the ball and throw it and try to make it look good.” A lot of laughs from the media on that one.
10:12 AM: One of the best: Stone said athlete Nicholas Safford is one of the best in Mobile County if not the state. He’ll play a lot on offense and defense for the Red Raiders.
10:09 AM: Rare breed: Noseguard Carlos Johnson is the only sophomore coming to Media Days.
10:03 AM: QB growth: Cliff Powell, though only a junior, is ready to start his third year at QB. “His growth has been exceptional,” Stone said. “We can send him to the line with two plays and he can choose the best one. When he was a freshman, sometimes he didn’t even run the one play we sent in.”
10:01 AM: “Let’s clock in:” “We want to put our program where we are respected each Friday night,” Stone said. “Clock in and put in the work and get paid with a W on Friday night.”
9:59 AM: Key questions: Just one offensive lineman returning. “I tell those guys we will go as they go,” Stone said.
9:57 AM: The strengths: Coach Stone said there are more veterans on the team who know what to expect. “Leadership and skill positions should be the strength,” he said.
9:53 AM: Red Raider Time: Head coach Tellis Stone and the Red Raiders hope to return to the playoffs in 2017. In its first year in Class 6A, B.C. Rain went 5-5 in 2016 and only a loss at Saraland in the final game of the regular season cost it a playoff berth. Stone, entering his fifth year at the school, is joined by sophomore noseguard sensation Carlos Johnson Jr., junior quarterback Cliff Powell and senior athlete Nicholas Safford.
9:48 AM: Andres update: Fox said Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Stanford are now his leaders. He doesn’t know when he’ll make a decision.
9:44 AM: Recruiting notes: Safety Keith Gallmon has offers from Southern Miss, Navy, Purdue, Yale and Tulane, among others.
9:37 AM: Return trip: Cottrell said it might be even tougher to return to the championship game for a second year in a row. “Following a great season is a huge task,” he said.
9:33 AM: New QB again: Cottrell said 6-3 junior Alex Moore will replace Horne behind center this year. He led the team to a 7-on-7 tournament win in Daphne this past weekend.
9:32 AM: Hot prospect: Senior DE Andres Fox visited both Stanford and LSU this weekend. Auburn and Alabama also are among his top choices.
9:29 AM: Replacing talent: Mobile Christian lost nine starters from last year’s team, including Arizona signee Troy Young, QB Cam Horne and LB Carter Buzbee.
9:24 AM: Another run? Ronnie Cottrell is 23-4 entering his third season at Mobile Christian. Cottrell was co-head coach with Tommy Wasden in 2015. A year ago, he led the Leopards to a 13-2 record and their first state championship berth. They lost to Piedmont in Auburn. He is joined today by seniors Andres Fox, Keith Gallmon and Sam Ladner. Mobile Christian opens the season at home Aug. 24 against Lighthouse Christian of Pensacola.
9:18 AM: Goals don’t change: Chapman said the first goal is to win the region, second to beat St. Paul’s and third to make a deep run in the playoffs.
9:16 AM: No sign of retirement: Coach Curtis said he still gets plenty of enjoyment out of the profession. “I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t know what I would do if I retired,” he said.
9:12 AM: Who replaces Michael Matthews at RB: Curtis said it will be a committee that includes Simon Smith, Russ Myers and Dylan Casstevens.
9:10 AM: Front line concerns? Curtis’ biggest concern at the moment is on the offensive line. “We don’t have a lot of big guys or a lot of depth at this point,” he said.
9:05 AM: QB Will Chapman’s dad coached with current Ole Miss coach coach Matt Luke’s dad, Tommy, at UMS.
9:03 AM: Curtis is joined at the podium by linebacker Russ Myers, fullback/defensive lineman Will Courtney and QB Will Chapman – all seniors. UMS went 9-3 in 2016, losing to eventual Class 4A state champ Handley in the second round of the playoffs. For the second straight year, the Bulldogs open against Class 7A opponent Mary G. Montgomery, this time Aug. 25 in Semmes.
9 AM: Two decades of success: Terry Curtis enters his 19th season at UMS-Wright in search of his sixth state title. Curtis also is sitting on 200 wins at the school. His record with the Bulldogs is 199-47. His overall record, including stints at Murphy and Shaw, is 276-83.
1st 2 head coaches at Mobile County media days: Terry Curtis and Ronnie Cottrell combine for 84 years of experience. #hsfootball
— Lance Crawford (@Lance_WPMI) July 31, 2017
9 a.m.: UMS-Wright
9:25 a.m.: Mobile Christian
9:50 a.m.: B.C. Rain
10:15 a.m.: Blount
10:40 a.m.: St. Luke’s
11:05 a.m.: Chickasaw
11:30 a.m.: BREAK
1 p.m.: Saraland
1:25 p.m.: Murphy
1:50 p.m.: St. Paul’s
2:15 p.m.: Mary G. Montgomery
2:40 p.m.: McGill-Toolen