Tigers still assessing going into Sweet Water jamboree

It will be a football game. The officials will officiate it like a game. The players will play it like a game. The fans will remember the win or the loss. But when Demopolis travels to Sweet Water Friday night for a jamboree contest with the Class 2A’s newest Bulldogs, the game will have very little to do with the final scoreboard or any perceived bragging rights attached to the results.

Demopolis head coach Tom Causey watches practice from the sidelines.

For Demopolis, that contest will be all about assessment. The Tigers are fresh off a season in which they lost more games than they would care to remember and graduated more players than they would care to count.

“Really, we’re trying to find out about us, where we’re short, where we’re strong, what we have to go back to working on, what is not going to be good for us, what is going to be good for us. Really just trying to find out about our football team,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said of the focus of Friday night’s exhibition contest. “There’s a lot of unknowns on every team. I think everybody in the state is looking to do that right now.”

The departure of last year’s large senior class leaves the Tigers with wholesale changes in the secondary and much of the linebacker corps as well as a rebuilt offensive line and a largely inexperienced set of skill players.

The offensive line remains somewhat fluid as nine different players have been getting considerable snaps in practice. Skyler Browder, Jake Freeman and John Anthony Morrison headline the group as the players with the most experience from a season ago.

They will be blocking for a running game that has consistently featured a primary back. The identity of that primary back has yet to be solidified after the graduation of James Wilson left a hole in the backfield.

Roderick Davis has seen most of the first team snaps over the course of the offseason. Still, Causey said the door remains open and players such as Demetrius Kemp, Tyrelle Barnett, Drew Jones and Tyler Colburn have been getting touches.

The wide receivers and A-backs, hybrid players that stay primarily in the slot in Causey’s offense, have impressed during summer workouts. However, the group still returns very little production from a season ago.

“Rodney Harper and Brock Montgomery got a lot of snaps at receiver and Kemp got a lot of snaps at A-back. We’re going to be looking at those guys too. They’ve been pretty productive in practice, but it has been practice,” Causey said. “You look at the guys we’ve got coming back, the guys that made plays for us last year, they’re done other than Demetrius Kemp, Tyler Oates and Tucker Jones.”

Oates, who finished the 2011 season as the team’s starting quarterback after Jones sustained an injury in the fifth game of the year, has seen some practice time at A-back when he has not been battling his counterpart for the first string signal-caller job.

The most experienced position group for the Tigers going into the season is the defensive line. Led by Kessy Bell, the Demopolis defensive front returns Hollis Bright and Lane Hawkins, each of whom saw starter’s snaps in 2011. The line will also feature standout athlete Tyler Merriweather, who moves down from his outside linebacker position to put his hand on the ground in 2012.

“I think Tyler Merriweather can help you anywhere,” Causey said. “He’s such a strong leader on our football team. He’s always motivated to practice well and do the right things. He’s worked extremely hard this summer. He has been a real strong leader on our defense and I see him growing into a strong leader on our team.”

Backing up the line will be a group headed by returning starter at inside linebacker Wesley Anderson. Other key players in the linebacker corps are Jack Kerby and Keishaun Scott in the middle as well as Peyton Pearson, Kevin Wheeler and Barnett on the outside. Freshmen Drew Jones and Matt Dauphin has also logged significant practice time.

Likely the most intriguing position group on the roster, Demopolis’ secondary offers no familiar faces from 2011. Kemp moves from outside linebacker to safety and will be joined by a cast of unknowns that includes Mason Rogers, Tommy Wilson and many others.

“We don’t know how good we are. We’re athletic back there. We still lost a second team all-state in Justin Durant back there you’ve got to replace. We’ve got a lot of guys playing back there that I think can be good. But we’ve yet to prove it. We’ll find out as the season gets cranked up where we’re good and what we’ve got to work on,” Causey said. “Our depth chart in the secondary, not one of them ever has played in the secondary at Demopolis High School. We don’t have a clue what we’ve got back there.”

That secondary will likely get tested in run support plenty Friday night in Sweet Water before seeing a different style of offense in next week’s regular season opener against American Christian Academy.