Editor’s Note: This is the first piece in a series of six articles looking at the top players for each area football team.
It is clear Wetumpka will have to replace plenty of its offensive production again and without having a spring evaluation period, the coaching staff is still trying to figure out which positions they’ll get that production from this season. However, there are still some returning players who will be relied upon on both sides of the ball despite final positions still not being set in stone.
Brandon Bowman, senior athlete
After two seasons of being used as a slot wide receiver and a backup quarterback, Bowman is expected to become a crucial weapon in Wetumpka’s offense as a senior. His speed and agility will make him a threat with the ball in his hands but he has also shown off an ability to distribute the ball through the air, throwing three touchdown passes on trick plays last season.
“His skill set can do so many things,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “He can play quarterback, he runs great routes and has great ball skills. He can play a multitude of positions. Our challenge is going to be finding out where he we can make the most of his skill set.”
Perry said Bowman is currently competing for the starting quarterback job with Robert Rose but whether he starts in the backfield or out wide, Wetumpka will be looking to get Bowman as many touches as possible.
Stone Minnifield, junior wide receiver
Minnifield was at the bottom of a crowded wide receiver depth chart but he pushed his way to more playing time and was crucial in Wetumpka’s playoff appearance last season. Minnifield is now trying to make a bigger impact with the team’s skill positions depleted and Wetumpka hopes he can provide an extra boost to the offense.
“We’re very proud of the progress he’s made,” Perry said. “He’s another one of those guys we could tell who put in the work on his own and he has had the benefit of another year’s experience. He has retained the routes and he’s always had great ball skills. If we get it around him, he’s going to catch it.”
Perry said Minnifield may not be limited to lining up at wide receiver though. The coaching staff has already explored adding Minnifield to the backfield to take handoffs and be available for more screens.
Ben Barker and Colby Golson, senior offensive linemen
While the starting skill positions may be more open this year, Wetumpka knows who will be anchoring its offensive line. There will be three starters returning this year including Barker at center and Golson at left tackle.
“That takes pressure of the younger and less experience skill players and it takes pressure off of us as coaches,” Perry said. “With those guys up front and the confidence we have in them, if they can control the line of scrimmage, we know we can have success.”
Barker has been starting at center since he was a sophomore and his experience may make him more vital to the offense this year than he has ever been before.
“He makes all of the run block and protection calls to the offensive line,” Perry said. “We’re really depending on him. He’s really comfortable with it and he understands the offense. Having that kind of experience up front, in the shotgun offense, it’s arguable he is in the most critical position on the offense.”
Avery Thomas, junior defensive back
Not all of the key players are on the offensive side of the ball but there are still some positionless players who are looking to make an impact this season. Thomas started all 12 games at safety last season and while he seems to be a lock to start in the secondary, it’s still unclear whether Wetumpka will use him as a safety or one of the team’s top cornerbacks.
Wherever the coaching staff decides to put Thomas this fall, expect him to play a key role in limiting opposing passing attacks.
“He’s bigger and he’s stronger,” Perry said. “He’s put a lot of work in especially during the time we were out of school. I don’t think he missed a Zoom workout and he was doing extra work in the evenings with his dad. It’s evident to us the progress he’s made and we’re excited about it. He’s a lot more comfortable in the coverages and he’s playing more confident.”