Heading into the fourth season under coach Doug Wendel, the Ardmore Tigers have the biggest turnout of his tenure for spring football with 53 players suited up at Monday’s first practice.
“We have about 20 more kids than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” Wendel said. “I think we’ll be around that number for the rest of the spring. And, hopefully we’ll bring in 25 or 30 freshman next year and have our numbers up.”
The Tigers defense lost nine seniors and three offensive lineman graduated that need to be replaced. But several sophomores and juniors with varsity experience return with an enthusiastic approach.
“There is a lot of energy, there is a lot maturity on this team,” Wendel said. “I think we’ve got guys that are hungry. We’ve just got to go out there and work on our fundamentals and technique and get better.”
The Tigers had one of the top ranked defenses in Class 5A last season with a fast and talented squad.
“We’re blessed with some talent and speed,” Wendel said. “But, we’re projected to have 15 underclassmen starters. We’re still going to be a young team. The key for us right now is developing depth and finding the right mix on the offensive line. We feel like we’ve got the skill positions on offense pretty much set.”
The offensive line and secondary are the most glaring areas of concern for the Tigers. Departing seniors Rhontrey Burkhalter and Carter Swanson were tough to beat through the air last season and will be hard to replace.
“Getting that offensive line going is a key on offense,” Wendel said. “And we’ve got some competition for playing time on the defensive line. Then developing depth in the secondary. Those are our keys. And we’re challenging our kids, ‘What is their role going to be?’ They have eight more days of spring ball to show us.”
The addition of new players to the roster gives the coaching staff flexibility, but also extra teaching to the spring session.
“We’re learning how to practice and trying to identify and establish roles on the team right now,” Wendell said.
The Tigers had three different quarterbacks start last season, mainly due to injuries.
All three return and should provide leadership and knowledge of the offense.
Ardmore won’t finish the spring with a scrimmage, but plans to attend a team camp that hasn’t been finalized.
The Summer Pride workouts begin on June 16, giving the team a chance to workout together in a non-football setting to build chemistry. The Tigers will also hold 7-on-7 sessions with Plainview during the summer.