Panthers' skill position players leading the way in summer workouts

Collinsville's Jacob Jones walks to the sideline during a stoppage in play at a game last season.

COLLINSVILLE — The offensive group bringing the most experience and stability has been leading the way for the Collinsville football team this summer.

The Panthers’ skill position players have been providing the proper guidance as the team has started the second half of its summer workout sessions, first-year coach Daniel Garrett said.

“Those guys at our skill positions have been there before, they know how to win, so we’ll lean on them,” the coach said Monday afternoon.

Quarterback Dalton Hughes and tight end Blake Sparks are a pair of returning players with starting experience who have been helping teammates learn the new offense under limited means.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association cancelled summer competitions, leaving teams to prepare without the contact they would normally have throughout the offseason.

“We’ve had meetings prior to summer workouts,” Sparks said. “We pretty much had everything installed. We just had to come out here and put it together. It’s been challenging.”

Prior to the team being allowed to begin summer workouts, players and coaches connected through the popular video conferencing app, Zoom.

“We had a meeting that went over our huddle and plays, but it didn’t come together until we actually got here and running,” Hughes said.

Hughes and Sparks will be tasked with both offensive and defensive duties this fall. While Hughes was a two-way player last season, this will be Sparks’ first year playing both offense and defense.

“Knowing you don’t get to come off the field, especially playing small ball,” Sparks said of the biggest test coming with playing both roles. 

Hughes said taking on roles on different sides of the ball is both a physical and mental challenge. 

“You have to get physically and mentally in shape and get as prepared as you can,” he said. 

Hughes and Sparks are joined by receiver Carson Dennis, quarterback Keaton DeBoard and linemen Bryant Patton, Braxton Wright and Jordan Coker on the team’s leadership council.

Garrett said the council will continue being vital in powering the environment around the program. 

“A lot of coaches blame their failures on lack of leadership on their current teams. My question is: What are you doing to develop the leadership you want?” Garrett said.

Those at the skill positions will be crucial in the team’s success throughout the early portion of the season’s schedule, as the offensive line is rebuilding. Bryant Patton is the lone returning starter among the group.

With some settling left to do on the O-line, Garrett said he’s liked what those players battling for remaining starting positions have shown. 

“We have a young offensive line that has been working hard. I’m excited to see how far they can come throughout the season,” he said.

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