By BEN JOHNSON
Pads and other football equipment were checked in early on in November for all Tahlequah players. No playoff appearance equaled no more practice time.
Luckily for head coach Brad Gilbert, when the pads and helmets were handed out this week to begin spring practice, he could pick up right where his team left off following a Week 10 loss to Collinsville in the fall.
“Last year, we were learning. We were implementing a lot,” Gilbert said Tahlequah’s difference between now and a year ago. “This year, we were able to keep doing stuff we were doing in Week 10. That was really nice.”
That was the scene when the Tigers embarked on a two-week venture through spring drills. Tahlequah, now a week into spring practice, will continue in pads next week before diving headlong into summer workouts.
After losing only a small fraction of last season’s roster, Gilbert said there was very little need to reintroduce the players to plays and techniques.
“The flow in practice was much smoother,” Gilbert said. “The tempo will continue to pick up.”
One noticeable absence for Tahlequah during this year’s spring practice is Mason McMillan. The Northeastern State signee set the school’s all-time, single-season rushing record with 1,241 yards during the Tigers’ 1-9 campaign in 2012.
Trying to fill the void at running back now is Brandon Conrad and Colton Wright, who missed all of last season with a leg injury.
“Colton Wright is coming back from torn ACL surgery, and he looks good,” Gilbert said. “And they’re both going to be full-time starters on defense, so we’re looking at them both getting 12 to 18 snaps, offensively, per game. Of course, we could have somebody else step up.”
The quarterbacks handing the ball off to both Wright and Conrad are back from last season. David Dick and Will Carlile split snaps during the Tigers’ first spring practice, and will likely continue to do so once Tahlequah begins the 2013 season.
“They’re going to continue to compete for the position,” Gilbert said. “They’re embraced it and they know it’s competition.”
Tahlequah will be off Friday through Sunday and will resume spring practice Monday. The Tigers will go four days next week before putting a bow on spring drills.
Spring practice coverage
The Tahlequah Daily Press will continue spring practice coverage through next week. An inside look at Sequoyah’s spring practice will be in Sunday’s Daily Press, with another look at Tahlequah and a glimpse at Keys in editions of the paper next week. Also, check our blog (www.tahlequahdailypress.com/sportsblog) for position analysis for local school.