Stanhope OTAs

T.J. Jackson (94) and the Stanhope defensive line were one again a force during Monday’s OTAs at home.

The Stanhope Elmore football team has participated in multiple 7-on-7 camps throughout the summer but coach Brian Bradford admitted those events do not help his team prepare for the style of play it will use during the season. The Mustangs turned their focus to more football-focused activities this week when they hosted Lamar County and Park Crossing for a session of OTAs on Monday.

“This is more football related than 7-on-7,” Bradford said. “You actually get to see team concepts and real football. It’s good to see our guys get after it as a team because that’s what you need to do.”

Players from all three teams showed their competitive side during Monday’s OTAs. Bradford said his players usually take it a little more seriously than the 7-on-7 camps and they had a little more bounce during Monday’s practice.

While the Mustangs have gotten plenty of looks at 11-on-11 plays but this was the first time they saw time against other competition. Bradford said the players start slowing down when they see the same players every day in practice so the coaching staff was happy to raise the stakes.

“We just wanted to see kids get after it,” Bradford said. “You want to see the players execute at a high rate of speed. We wanted to do everything at a fast pace to get them out of their comfort zone and make them think against other competition.”

Jalen Walker got his first look at different competition during full team play as the team’s starting quarterback. Walker said the transition has been a little tough but he just wants to be a leader and Bradford said he believes Walker has been progressing well.

“I thought he did very well today,” Bradford said. “The more he can see this before Friday nights, that’s always a good thing for a first-year quarterback.”

Walker said getting to participate in the 7-on-7 camps first made the transition a little easier. It helped prepare him in the passing game while getting his timing and reads down. He also credited the other players on offense with helping him feel comfortable as the team’s signal caller.

“They’re always motivating me and telling me to keep my head up,” Walker said. “They don’t let my mistakes be my downfall. They just keep pushing me and tell me they’re always going to be there to rely on.”

Stanhope also got to show off its strength on the defensive line. William Whitlow Jr. and TJ Jackson terrorized the opposing offensive lines and often had to be called off the rush to allow quarterbacks to get passes off in practice.

“They did great like always,” Bradford said. “They are the strength of our team so as they go, we go. They really got after it today and they still stayed under control and were disciplined as you should during these things.”

Bradford said the Mustangs got 66 total snaps on both sides of the ball and he was happy with the improvements he saw from the team. With less than two weeks to go before the first official day of fall practice, Bradford said he wants to see an improvement in the team’s mindset more than anything else on the field.

“We need to grow mentally and come together as a team,” Bradford said. “We want to get more mentally sharp in our schemes and tactics. We’re in great shape but we just need to become better in the head.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.