This could be the team.
These Governors could be that good.
Seniors T.J. Walker and Josh Madden highlight a William Blount football team that opened spring practice on Monday with one goal in mind come fall.
"State," Walker said. "Thats our No. 1 goal. We can play with anybody if we play as a team and do what were supposed to do."
William Blount dismantled the Class 5A state football rankings with
one blow with a 13-10 upset of top-ranked Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett in
the opening round of last years playoffs. Coupled with a
first-ever win over Oak Ridge and a last-second loss at second-ranked
Ooltewah, it was tangible proof the Governors had the talent to be
mentioned with the
William Blount in Murfreesboro come December?
You bet, Governor coach Scott Meadows said.
"Our goal is to win a state championship," he said. "I feel like this group -- and Ive been around some awfully good 5A teams -- is as good as any Ive had.
"Our goal is to win it all."
Walker and Madden are the crown jewels of a prospect-laden roster, one that could rival some of the best in school history before theyre done. Walker, a sportswriters All-State selection last season, is noticeably bigger from his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame of a year ago.
South Carolina assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. stopped by practice on Monday to talk about the Gamecocks interest in the super-athletic defensive end. Virginia Tech, Alabama and Wake Forest are also coveting Walkers skills as a rush end.
"Theyre after him real hard," Meadows said. "Hes a special player."
Many of the same schools are growing quite fond of the 6-foot-5½, 265-pound Madden as well.
"Army was in (for a visit)," Meadows said. "Theyre going to
offer him, and Auburn is looking at him. Michigan State has
shown some interest."
Madden is the cornerstone of a bigger-than-life sized offensive line, both tackles coming in at around 270 pounds, the center at 260. Guards are normal sized, but then William Blount runs the wing-T.
"Theyre the pups," Meadows said. "They only weigh 240."
William Blount will be without a sizeable part of its offense from a year ago with 1,000-rusher Darran Walker off to college after graduation later this month. Darran, like his brother, T.J., had the size and athleticism to often run over many would-be tacklers. His replacement, rising-junior Darrin Garner, will run by them.
Garner has put on a lot of muscle during the off-season, Meadows said, but its his speed thats turning heads.
Brad Walker, T.J. and Darrans older brother, won the 100-,
200- and 400-meter dashes his senior year at William Blount
two years ago. His sprint times in a football uniform were thought to be untouchable until the Governor coaching staff measured Garner against the watch recently.
"They (the coaches) said its the fastest 40 times since Brad Walker was a senior," Meadows said. "He (Garner) has got incredible quickness and unbelievable strength."
Unlike a year ago, the Governors arent looking for a quarterback this spring. Rising senior Tyler Burstrom became the starter in Week 4 and led William to a strong finish, including the shocker at Dobyns-Bennett and the win over Oak Ridge, William Blounts first in 12 tries. In rising senior Grey Clevenger, the Governors also found themselves a playmaking receiver a year ago.
Offensively, William Blount already has many of the pieces in place, even with Burstrom currently with the Governor baseball team entering postseason play.
"Weve got to develop some depth," Meadows said. "Ive been impressed with some of our young people."
Defensively, the Governors were one of the regions best teams a year ago, a young but physical stop unit surrendering 763 yards rushing combined to its 12 opponents. Along with Walker, the core of the defense, namely twin linebacking threats Cole Lail and Will Irwin, returns. A pair of football-seeking missiles at the position, Lail and Irwin, last seasons top tacklers, are both big hitters. Both, like Walker, are eyeing nothing short of a state berth as this years goal.
The upset of the Indians, Irwin said, was a point of no turning back.
"With them being No. 1 in the state, this year thats going to help us realize we can beat anybody we play, (that) its not a big deal," he said. "We had so many close games last year, were just hungry."
When the Governors began winter workouts in January, Meadows made a point of finding out just how much, he said.
"That (reaching the state championship game) is all we talked about the first day we started working out," Irwin said. "Coach came in and talked to us and said, Weve got just one goal, and thats to make it all the way to Murfreesboro."
Just how serious the Governors are about that goal was evident Monday. Within minutes of the start of practice, the hitting was full speed.
"Were pretty intense out there," Irwin said.
A defensive end of Walkers quality and a pair of linebackers like Lail, a sophomore, and Irwin, a junior, is a lot to build around. Each plays at a fast tempo.
"Its an awfully good group," Meadows said.
William Blount hopes to increase the pace even more defensively in 2007 by switching to a 3-5 alignment. Its the players behind those down linemen and linebackers, though, where the Governors could prove strongest. There, a secondary of sophomore Don Cope, junior Chase Helton and Burstrom returns complete.
A winning football team, one with even better things seemingly just off the horizon, has a noticeable effect on a school. Many faces not with the Governors a year ago are out for football this spring. Its likely finding some depth, as Meadows stated as top priority, will be located.
"Were just going to try and get it done," said Meadows, who directed Alcoa to an unbeaten state championship in 2000. "We feel we are a heckuva football team."
Interest from top colleges is all well and good, Madden said, but
its the least of his concerns at present. The scary-quick
offensive lineman said his top priority is "just finish out this year. Im not too worried about getting to college. Im just worried about getting to state."
Even the trainers are fired up about William Blounts chances this fall.
"You just have to have your goals set high," freshman Cheyenne Lane said.
2007 William Blount Governors
- Key starters lost offense: Darran Walker, RB, Mohamed Baskin, RB,
Ryan McHale, RB.
- Key starters lost defense: Darran Walker, Pete Evans, Zeb
Kasemeyer, Thomas Waggoner, DL, Dominique Brown, LB.
- Key returnees offense: Tyler Burstrom, QB, Darrin Garner, RB, Grey
Clevenger, WR, Josh Madden, OL.
- Key returnees defense: T.J. Walker, DL, Will Irwin, Cole Lail, LB, Don Cope, Chase Helton, Tyler Burstrom, DB, Kase Whitehead, P.