Tigers start new Osteen era
Coming off a disappointing 4-7 campaign, the Marshall County Tigers appear to have a more physical tone in practice this year under new head football coach Thomas Osteen when they donned full pads for the first time this season on Monday.
Osteen served as an assistant coach at Giles County High School under David O'Connor from 2007-12, and helped the Bobcats achieve an unprecedented run of success on the gridiron. During that span Giles County posted an impressive 64-15 record and captured the 2009 Class 4A State title while reaching the semifinals of the playoffs on two other occasions.
Although the Bobcats were led by a pair of talented quarterbacks during that time in current Ole Miss starter Bo Wallace and 2012 Mr. Football finalist Al Cobb, Giles County also featured a punishing ground attack and a hard hitting defense that often wore opponents down as the game went along. Osteen hopes to ingrain that same physical mindset into Marshall County's football program.
"I think one of the things we're trying to do in practice is set a good tempo," said Osteen. "You don't inherit an attitude you have to create an attitude. I think we've taken a step in the right direction so far."
After opening practice with stretching and position drills, the offense went through plays and formations while maintaining a fast tempo. The Tigers then began to ramp up the intensity of the practice, as they went through tackling and one-on-one blocking drills before competing in a spirited session of Pride Alley, which simulates running between the tackles and pits an offensive lineman and a running back against a defensive lineman and linebacker.
"Football at the end of the day is still a game of blocking and tackling," said Osteen. "We want to make the games easier than our practices and in order to do that you have to be physical in practice."
Following more position drills, Marshall County ran full contact 7-on-7 passing drills while the lineman and backs practiced running against various defensive fronts.
The first offense then ran plays against the starting defense before the Tigers ended practice with a session of 40-Yard Fight. With each drive starting at the 40-yard line of the defense, the offense won the first series by scoring on two out of their three possessions, which resulted in the defense having to run sprints.
The defense, however, evened the score and won the second series of 40-Yard Fight by stopping the offense on two out of three drives thanks to an interception and a dramatic goal line stand.
While the Tigers have several talented skill position players to choose from this year, Osteen singled out senior wide receiver/defensive back Chris Walker, quarterback Ashton Posey, and running back Bennielle Hill for the progress that they've made during practice so far.
"Chris is the leader of the team. The young kids really follow him and look up to him. He's a done a great job of setting a good example for his teammates," said Osteen. "Ashton has embraced the role of quarterback. He has a long way to go, but he's working hard to get better. Bennielle Hill has set the tone at running back. He has a lot of ability and brings a physical presence to the position."
MCHS football fans will get a chance to check out the Tigers before the start of the season when Marshall County takes on Lipscomb Academy in the Pigskin Preview on Friday, Aug. 15, at Preston Hopkins Field.