There are still plenty of questions for the Lenoir City High School football team to answer in the coming season, but head coach Mike Zeller has a better idea where his team needs to improve after a Tuesday scrimmage with the Alcoa Tornadoes.
"I like the way our guys came out and worked," Zeller said. "I thought we played physical. I thought our first group defensively did exceptionally well. They got two big plays on us, pass plays that we hadn't worked on this spring, so we'll fix that. Offensively, it's just going to take reps."
One of those big pass plays came on the first play of the scrimmage as Alcoa threw a long touchdown pass. Buy the Panthers were able to settle in and the first unit played strong from that point forward.
Ryan Weaver intercepted a pass to end one Alcoa possession and Lenoir City did a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback when he dropped back to throw.
"Up front we did very well," Zeller said. "Again, an untested group, they did well. Coach (Jeff) Cortez does a good job with the defense. They looked good today."
The Panthers' offense is clearly a work in progress. The loss of quarterback Jordan Hall, all-state tight end Lucas Hamilton and several receiving targets was evident on several plays.
When the team did show flashes of last season's explosive offensive attack, it came in the ground game. The passing game was, for the most part, stagnant.
"Offensively, we looked good at times, and at times we looked like we hadn't played a down," Zeller said. "(The running backs) are guys that got reps. They're guys that know what they're doing. It's going to take Rashawn (Tallent), the quarterback, a lot of reps, and we've got some receivers that are untested, and the o-line. I think, overall, they'll be fine."
One play that showed a lack of comfort between the young quarterback and his receivers was in a long pass from Tallent that sailed over the head of a wideout who misjudged the ball and slowed on his route.
"That was a great ball," Zeller said. "Again, it's just reps. Those guys don't have the reps that guys last year and the year before had. It's just going to take time, but they'll be fine. I think this offense can be explosive."
Zeller was complimentary of the progress the team has made over the spring and credited offensive coordinator Chris Brittain.
The next step is on the players. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules limit what coaches are able to do with players in the offseason.
"We'll come in and work out, but it's on them to work on throwing and catching. We can't be out there," Zeller said. "I leave it up to them and we'll see what kind of leadership we have.
"I've had groups that threw every day and I've had groups that didn't go out at all in the summer," he said. "It shows in the fall. So we'll see what this group does."