So far this summer, Muskogee offensive coordinator Chris Risenhoover has seen glimpses of the progress one would hope for with a new system and a lot of young faces.
Seven-on-7s aren’t complete offenses, though, but it's a peek at what could be.
“In some of these tournaments we’ve played in it came down to the end and we lost them all, so we might have to be more lucky in good considering how some of those went,” he said.
A better look is underway this week with two days of team camp separated by an off-day on Wednesday. The first was Tuesday with Sallisaw, Spiro, East Central and Tahlequah Sequoyah, in full pads and with the offensive line not present in the passing league activities that represent 7 on 7.
“We’re right where I kind of hoped to be. I’m happy with their progression and understanding of what’s going on. The kids are willing to work and we definitely have some talent out there,” said the former Stigler head coach.
How those pieces fit, he hopes, will start to take shape.
“You’d like to be a little more set at this point, but there’s a lot of interchangeable parts and some considerations on who plays defense and what not,” he said. “If I look back on putting this in my first year at Stigler, I think we’re ahead of that and about even with where I was before that when I was at Miami.
“Even last year I switched our tight end and H-back late. We’ll soon have a better feel for how it all comes together. Once you have a good understanding of the overall offense, that’s the key anyway and we’re getting there. We can go into multiple formations from that point.”
At quarterback there’s sophomore Jacob Jones and left-handed freshman Jamarian Ficklin. Walker Newton, a junior who surfaced in place of Ty Williams as the starter behind center with Williams out most of last year, will be used in a variety of other ways, Risenhoover said.
He’s currently an H-back.
“To be honest our best running quarterback would be Newton but he offers you so much more as an athlete and you can get it to him in a variety of ways,” Risenhoover said. “But at this point I don’t think we’ll see a tremendous amount of quarterback run game. One of these is a freshman coming off junior high fields into 6AII, so in his case you don’t want him taking more shots than need be.”
Another young buck is Anthony Watson, a 6-0, 220-pound sophomore listed as a tight end. Watson’s sister is Elexis Watson, an eight-time softball (fastpitch, slowpitch) All-Phoenix selection who was also Female Athlete of the Year as a senior.
“He’s a talent,” said Risenhoover of Watson. “He’s got a tight end body but he’s versatile enough to carry the ball in the backfield and there’s some things in our offense that call for a bigger H-back. He’s also one you have to figure out the best way to use. Newton can also be a good receiver.”
Jayden Bell had the most experience at receiver among veterans last year. “He’s picked up on things faster than anyone,” Risenhoover said.
Brandon Tolbert and Isaiah Givens have some time at running back from a year ago. Givens is a primary guy on defense at safety. Tolbert’s size (5-9, 195) make him a very physical runner, which was demonstrated in pads Tuesday.
“You’ve got a lot of that with a 220-pound tight end (Watson) a 200-pound running back (Tolbert) and the possibility of adding Givens back there,” Risenhoover said.
Blake Todd is a 6-2, 200 senior who will also factor at tight end and especially in two-tight situations, according to Risenhoover.
Two guys up front getting much of the praise were James Moore (6-0, 285) and Vernon Pepiakitah at left tackle.
“Both of those guys have stood out,” Risenhoover said. “I think we really got seven and may be eight right now who could be in that starting five.”