Spring practice leaves Hampton coach unhappy

By Jamie Combs
Sports Editor

   The way a wolf might feel after devouring a tainted leg of lamb, Hampton head football coach J.C. Campbell was quite unhappy.
   Why? This year's spring practice didn't go nearly to his satisfaction.
   "Horrible," said Campbell, describing the Bulldogs' two-week session, which was held earlier this month. "It was very frustrating for me. It got my blood pressure up and everything else."
   The problem, according to Campbell, was the unavailability or semi-availability of numerous players.
   "We had three or four that had injuries last year, and we couldn't let them practice, and we got two or three hurt a little bit along the way, and they missed," Campbell said. "Others were gone on school trips, were at the doctors, etcetera, etcetera and so on.
   "We couldn't get any continuity. We were ready to quit practice before we looked like a team."
   Absolutely no chances were taken with end Sean Moody, back Zack Crabtree and interior lineman Eddie Lance. Due to the fact they were cut down by injuries this past season, these three key players were kept from participating in the team drills.
   Dinged up during the spring were star quarterback Mitchell Morton and starting defensive end Donny Singleton. Toss in the other absences and it's easy to understand why Campbell chalked up the latest chapter of Bulldog spring football as a major ordeal.
   In spite of the pitfalls, the Hampton effort wasn't a total lost cause.
   While the 'Dogs, the reigning Watauga Conference champions, may have failed to get much accomplished in terms of functioning as a team, Campbell acknowledged that Hampton scored a few small victories.
   "We had some young kids that we're depending on next season who learned quite a bit and made some development," Campbell said. "We got to work with our backs some -- Cody Farmer and Jacob Moss. We might have found a fullback there in Justin Waycaster. He did a good job there."
   Although it doesn't seem likely that one tailback can fill the shoes of Michael Peterson, the starter at that position the last four seasons and a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago, Campbell sees potential in both Farmer and Moss, a pair of small runners.
   The Hampton skipper thought that Farmer, who is known for his outside-running ability, did an adequate job between the tackles.
   "Farmer runs real good outside, and he runs decent inside," Campbell said.
   Besides gaining merit at fullback, Waycaster, a senior (to be) who's started on defense most of his career, looked like the No. 1 prospect at linebacker, where major voids were left by Jimmy Sarrett and Josh Nave.
   From an overall standpoint, Hampton saw its ends and interior linemen, two groups in need of slight rebuilding, turn in a combination of hard work and promising performance.
   "Of course, for our regulars such as Brandon Bolling, Adam Potter and Dustin Crumley, it was more or less repetition for them," Campbell said. "Seth (Clawson) got to work quite a bit at center, even though he hurt his back while hauling fertilize.
   "We got to work some with Ian Miller at guard. Nick Dugger and Cody Walsh made some progress. Our younger guys, Donnie Davis and Jonathan Price, made a lot of progress in the spring."
   Martin Winters, Matt Largent, Johnny Guy and Travis Mizzell, four other players slated for some type of line duty, didn't damage their chances of garnering playing time in the fall. Lucas Roark, Jonathan Potter, Chris Morgan, Gene Sanchez, Brandon Barnett and Curtis McKeehan -- a transfer from Elizabethton -- earned good marks in the backs and receivers department.
   In addition to Peterson, Sarrett (who also started at FB) and Nave (who also started at TE), Campbell lost rock solid performers in Robby England (C/NT), Pat Murphey (G/DE), Brad Hodge (G/DT), Kevin Harrison (DB/WR/RB) and Corey McKinney (WR/DB) to graduation.
   Furthermore, Hampton faces a 2003 schedule that now includes perennial power Gatlinburg-Pittman, which joins the conference after dropping from Class 3-A, another Watauga newcomer in Cumberland Gap, and Knox Catholic -- meaning the 'Dogs may not find an easy game during their upcoming season.
   With those things in mind, Campbell said his team had better be in shape and ready to work hard when practice resumes in August.
   "We've talked pretty hard about lifting (weights) this summer," he said. "It will be tough if we don't. We've got a big, hard schedule -- and no breathing room whatsoever. You just do the best you can."
   Hampton plays its first game, at Cloudland, on Aug. 22.