BOONE — When Watauga head football coach Ryan Habich started two weeks of spring practice for his Pioneers, he wanted to replace seven starters on defense and to build some depth on offense.
After two weeks of workout the defense is still a work in progress, while the offense took some positive steps, according to Habich. The clear weather helped the Pioneers get all of their practices in, while in the past the Pioneers missed some sessions because of inclement weather.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on defense,” Habich said. “There are positions where we need a lot of work at the linebacker position and the safety position and creating depth on defense.”
Habich said he doesn’t know who the Pioneers’ linebackers are going to be. Watauga must replace graduating linebackers Eli Suggs and Ben Critcher. Outside linebacker Jake Watson returns, but he also was moved to running back from tight end offensively.
“Linebacker is going to be a big position for us,” Habich said. “Offensively, we still have to find more linemen and finding a tight end is key. We had a really good tight end last year in Jake Watson, but now he’s going to be our B-back.”
Habich is concerned about the tight end position because of the amount of blocking that player is required to do. The tight end’s role in Watauga’s offense is often similar to being an extra offensive tackle because of the volume of blocking he does.
Watson caught just four passes last season, although one of them was for a touchdown.
“We’ll try to develop that position in the summer because of how much we use the tight end in our offense both in our shotgun run schemes and under center,” Habich said.
Habich was happy with how the skill position players offensively developed over the past two weeks. Watauga returns future three-year starting quarterback Anderson Castle, three-year starting wingback Jaiden Bond and returning starting receiver Grant Oliver.
Watauga also returns three starting offensive linemen in tackle Dakota Silvers, guard Adrion Cassidy and three-year starting center Sterling Sauls.
“Offensively, I thought Anderson Castle threw the ball really well,” Habich said. “That was a big surprise in spring ball. Grant Oliver caught the ball really well and Jaiden Bond and Sebastian Best — those guys are really athletic, so we should be able to throw the ball a little bit better next year.”
Backup quarterback Jaxon Harmon could also see playing time at one of the skill positions. Bond has also worked at quarterback to give the Pioneers some depth at the position. Castle injured his wrist in the Pioneers’ first game of the season and missed six game while it healed.
“We have some skill players,” Habich aid. “We have to find some linemen for our offense.”
Watauga will participate in a summer camp that features 7-on-7 workouts. There will also be summer workouts from June 11-July 31, which unlike spring practice, are open to rising ninth graders. Football for the 2019 season officially begins Aug. 1 with preseason practices, and the first game is Aug. 23 at home against T.C. Roberson.