Cyclones off to positive start in preseason drills

By Ivan Sanders
If the Elizabethton Cyclones needed a theme song for the opening few days of practice leading up to the kickoff of a new football season, a prime candidate might be the early '80s song by Kenny Loggins entitled, I'm All Right, Don't You Worry About Me.
Many have already written the Cyclones off for the upcoming season as they lost 10 seniors, including Vince Redd, Walter Brown and Ryan Curtis, who anchored the Cyclones on both sides of the ball over the last four seasons. Yet, if the opening two days of practice have been any indication, the Cyclones will once again be challenging for the top spot in the Watauga Conference title chase.
"Attitude -- that has been the best thing about these kids during the first two days," said Cyclone head coach Tommy Jenkins. "These kids are a blue-collar group of kids that haven't griped about it being too hot or having to go through all the drills. They just keep working and working."
With Jenkins and the Cyclone coaching staff pumped and ready for a new season, 64 players have been going through every phase of the game, including an early session for special teams. The varsity team appears it will dress out between 45-50 strong, with the rest being freshmen players.
The quarterback situation has seemed to ironed itself out much to the delight of Jenkins, who was concerned about losing Curtis, who had guided the Cyclones for the last two seasons.
Said Jenkins: "Right now we have two guys, Jake Berkley and Charles Peters, that have practiced exceptionally well. Weston Jeffers has been sidelined with a bad toe that hasn't allowed for him to throw the way he normally can. I am really pleased with the quarterback situation we got because to be honest I have really been worried about it."
Walter Brown has taken his talents to Southern Georgia, so the Cyclones are hoping that a talented bunch of new legs will be able to carry the mail all the way to the playoffs. Anchoring that group is Ben Fields, who is a capable player, according to Jenkins, that will have first dibbs on the slot if he proves he can handle the task.
If Fields falters, players like Brad Osborne, Jordan Bray and Ernie Bray are already pushing to get their names etched into the depth chart to showcase the talent each brings to the table.
"Ben Fields has been our backup and will have the chance to prove himself as a starter," stated Jenkins. "It's a real battle back there right now because all these guys can get the job done."
Both sides of the line also appear ready to go with the offensive unit carrying the beef while the defensive side will be smaller weight-wise, but will possess so much speed that opposing offensive lineman will have to be on its toes to keep people like Justin Grace, Clinton Vannoy and Frank Hardy from creating havoc for its offensive backfield.
The defensive backfield and secondary have worked hard in the offseason in the weight room and conditioning. From the two practice sessions the Cyclones have participated in, the conference teams are going to have nightmares about people like Adam Turley, Lester Bailey, Peters and Nathan Bishop.
Jenkins pointed out that his team will not open until the last week of August, so right now the skipper just wants to make sure each unit gets the reps it needs, and that the team paces itself to prevent having injuries.
"Having a little more practice time will benefit us greatly," quipped Jenkins. "We may not be world beaters this season, but overall I am really pleased with our practice in shorts. We were talking the other day that if these guys hit and tackle as aggressively as they are practicing now, we will be okay when the season rolls around."
Notes: Elizabethton has two scrimmages scheduled during preseason. The first one will be Friday Aug. 8 at Volunteer and then the Cyclones will square off at home against William Blount on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
The Watauga Conference jamboree will be at Sullivan South on Aug. 14, with the Cyclones tangling with the Blue Devils of Unicoi County. Action starts at 6 p.m.