With just over two weeks left until the Knights are able to put on the pads for full-contact practices, Upson Lee welcomed LaGrange and Westside-Macon to Thomaston for an 11 vs 11 competition.
The event took place on a ULMS practice field last Thursday, with team participating in many different skills competitions. The three teams took turns going against each other in pass rush/pass protection drills between offensive and defensive lines, and they also competed in one-on-one drills between wide receivers and defensive backs.
While interior lines worked some inside running drills, the perimeters players from each team competed in some 7 vs 7 drills. At the end of the day, the three teams competed in some 11 vs 11 drills with a running clock. In those drills Upson Lee was the only team to score offensively.
“I thought it was a great day for the Knights,” said UL head coach Tommy Parks. “All three teams really got some good work in for their players, and each team will benefit from this when they are able to start their pre-season camps in a few weeks.”
This was the second of three 11 vs 11 competitions for the Knights this summer. Upson Lee participated in a 11 vs 11 competition over in Jones County last month, and they will host another here in Thomaston on Thursday, hosting Jones County and Lamar County.
Coach Parks stated he feels the Knights offensive line has made the most progress since their first time out in Jones County.
“Coming into the season the offensive line was a main concern for us,” said Parks. “We are really young up front and not very experienced. However, I also feel that our offensive line has made the most progress over the last month. Offensively the line is the least experienced group of players returning, but as is the case with most teams, as the offensive line goes, so does the team. Coach Jeff Wheeless has really done a god job with those guys and they just need to keep improving.”
On the other side of the ball, Parks feels that the Knights defensive line has some experience returning and he expects them to a key to the Knights success in 2015.
“We are running a little bit of a different scheme defensively this season,” said Parks. “We really have some players on that side of the ball that can change a game. We have moved some players around to different positions, but we have players who can play multiple positions defensively, which gives us a chance to do some different things schematically.”
There have been a few different players that have stepped up to really shine since the Spring Game back in May. Offensively Mikey Smith has shown he has ability with the ball in his hands, whether as the back-up quarterback or at wide out. Defensively, Karl Drake, Erik Foster, and Donovan King have looked good in the secondary.
“Coach Stegall and Coach Johnson have made sure that everyone competing for the jobs in the secondary have gotten adequate reps,” said Parks. “By doing that, every player has really shown improvement. The secondary is the last line of defense for any football team. Those guys have embraced the fact that they will be challenged, and I think they are up to the challenge.”
“Offensively Kalen Puckett has been the starting quarterback at Upson Lee for two years now, and he is continuing to get better,” said Parks. “At the back-up QB position Mikey Smith has shown the ability to run our offense without missing a beat. Mikey is such a good athlete, that we have to find a way to get him on the field. It’s our job as coaches to get the best 11 players on field at any time. Both Kalen and Mikey fall into that category.”
Upson Lee will host Jones County and Lamar County on Thursday on the practice field behind the middle school. The event starts at 10 a.m. and is open to the public for anyone who wants to come.