Cooper trying to construct a winner with Seymour football team
When the polar vortex hit Ohio this winter, Jerry Cooper had some time off.
Stuck at home, the new Seymour head coach started breaking down the Eagles’ 10 games from last season. He watched them all in two days and left with the impression that his new team had some athleticism at the skill positions and an excellent kicker in J.J. Jerman.
He also saw where the big issues lie along the interior of the team’s line
“The way you’ve got to look at it is, ‘Hey, you’re not just going to come in and just flip a switch and instantly be good,’” Cooper said. “You’ve got to build it.”
Building Seymour’s proud football program begins right away, particularly along the line. The Eagles’ lone senior lineman is Dakota Liedel, who is playing defense.
In 2014, there may be some growing pains but Cooper’s long-term approach has injected some energy and excitement into camp. The Eagles are optimistic a seven-game losing streak from last year won’t hang over their heads for long.
“I feel like we’re getting better every week,” said junior Ryan Louallen, one of the more veteran members of that line. “We’re definitely getting more physical every week. It’s just something that’s got to improve every week in our steps and coming off the ball. We’ve just got to get better every week no matter what.”
While the line is young, there’s some talent at skill positions and Cooper said his modified Wing-T offense actually fits the personnel well. The offense will be one based on finesse and athleticsm rather than overpowering the opposition with a guiding principle of having four vertical routes on every play while creating gaps at the line of scrimmage.
The system is a significant move away from the spread and drop-back passing the Eagles employed last year with All-Sevier County offensive player of the year Nick Sexton at quarterback. Cooper’s offense moves the quarterback from the shotgun to under center and promises a lot more 2-on-1 matchups.
“The offense does fit us because we’re not real big up front,” said wide receiver Blaise Rooney. “We like to do a lot of double teaming because we’re not big enough to man up. If we can double team, that makes it easier on everybody.”
Running the offense will be quarterback Clayton Ogle, who is getting used to playing closer to the line of scrimmage in the new offense. Cooper said the junior is built like a Wing-T quarterback with good speed and is most comfortable throwing playaction. Ogle is displaying some leadership, too, on a team with very few upperclassmen.
“I just kind of put it on my shoulders,” Ogle said. “If they’re down, try to pick them up. If they’re lagging around, try to get them in a drill, try to push them to get out there. You can’t have one person do their position for the whole game. They’re always going to need a break.”
Ogle has a couple of exceptional receivers to toss to in Rooney, who Coooper said could be the best athlete on the team, and Luke Sharpe. There’s plenty of speed and athleticism from the team’s other offensive options in tight end Jaylen Minefield and the trio of Devante Farmer, Cameron Sullivan and senior transfer Tyler Woodard at wingback.
All those names — and their individual talents — should help create offensive balance. Cooper said he doesn’t want teams to be able to focus on a single individual.
The Eagles may return the most experience on defense. Rooney, Minefield, Cody Huff, Jordan McBrayer, Louallen and Daniel Hinson all have significant experience on defense coming back. Unfortunately, Cooper said, the defense struggled in 2013 and he wants to see the unit make some strides forward this year.
Part of that improvement will be an offensive game plan where Seymour tries to run the ball a little more and give the defense a little more rest. When the Eagles are on defense, Cooper said he wants to line up in more two and three-deep zone schemes with an emphasis on avoiding big plays.
“Secure the perimeter, secure the back end,” Cooper said. “Try and keep those guys from gashing us.”
The most important component, as it often is in football, will be that line play where guys like Jacob Patterson, Alex Shields, Louallen, Reid Taylor, Trey Grayson, JC Cogan, Gavin Blyte, Mataj Grycz, Dallas Woody, Zach Williams and Spencer Bailey are all competing for time. Not one of those lineman will graduate in the spring, leaving Cooper with some tantalizing prospects in 2015 and 2016.
“We’re going to be young but it really stands out for building the program for the future,” Cooper said. “It’ll be a nice thing: We’ll come back at this time next year and every single offensive lineman will be back.”