Football season is fast approaching, but East Robertson is still dealing with more offseason change.
First-year coach Atlee Pond and the Indians must find a new quarterback after expected starter Cameron Swift tore his ACL in a scrimmage against Creek Wood.
“It’s tough to suffer a loss like that,” Pond said. “We’ve got a couple of kids that we may be able to fill in that spot. They know our offense pretty well. I think we’ll be okay.”
Pond declined to name candidates for the open job. But the good news for whoever plays quarterback is that he’ll have plenty of experienced weapons to work with, including receivers Drake Alsup and Taylor Groves.
“We’re not going to look any different,” Pond said. “We’re going to be the same East Robertson that we’ve been the past four years, if not better.”
Groves has been the story of the offseason so far. After a stellar 2018 campaign that included 776 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, Groves has picked up offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee. He’ll also play free safety in addition to catching passes.
“Pretty much every SEC school knows who he is and where he’s at,” Pond said. “He’s going to have the ball in his hands, and he’s going to have opportunities to make plays.”
But for players like Groves to be effective, the Indians must win battles in the trenches. Pond said much of the team’s fate lies in the hands of its offensive and defensive lines. Those groups will be anchored by Jalen Bravo and Lucas Osborne, among others.
“We have some new faces [on the lines],” Pond said. “They busted their tails learning everything we were trying to teach them this spring. I think their attitudes are right, but it’s going to be up to them.”
According to Pond, defense was a highlight in the team’s two spring scrimmages against Houston County and Creek Wood. He’s especially excited about the senior linebacking corps that includes Jaden Crouch, Corey Lewallen and Aden Miller.
“The defense is going to be a high point for us,” Pond said. “It’s hard to tell from scrimmages, but as long as my kids are playing with passion, that’s all I’m looking for. I just want to see them play hard and be physical.”
Pond previously served as the defensive coordinator before taking the head coaching position in April after the departure of Chad Broadrick to Gallatin. Assistants Joey McClung and Shane Trotter, along with a few volunteer coaches, will help Pond manage the offense.
The early returns on the redesigned staff have been positive. Swift said the Indians are thrilled to have a familiar face at the helm.
“He’s a great coach – we couldn’t ask for anyone better,” he said. “He’s always had that head coach [mindset] in him, and I’m just glad he got the chance to show that he can lead a team in the right direction.”
East Robertson is participating in summer workouts ahead of the TSSAA dead period, which runs from June 23 to July 6. The Indians open their season against Forrest at home Aug. 23.