KNOXVILLE – One week into Fall practice, Grainger head football coach Mike Manis likes what he sees.
Manis, along with seniors Sam Andrews and Landon Patterson, took part in the annual media day event hosted by the football officials association in Knoxville on Friday. Coaches and players from across East Tennessee gathered at Three Ridges Golf Club to meet with the media and talk about the upcoming season which kicks off in a little over a month.
The new Grizzlies’ boss took over a program that is used to making post-season appearances but also one which has to replace a boat-load of graduated seniors. Manis said what he has been most pleased with in the first week of practice is his new squad’s commitment to getting stronger. “So far the best thing I’ve seen is the work ethic of our kids. We have really gotten after it in the month of June in the weight room and we still continue to do that but the buy-in with the weight room has been phenomenal. I think right before the dead period went into effect, everyone had a personal best in some kind of lift which was great to see. Now we are on the learning curve of putting more in of what we did in the Spring as to what our offense and defense is going to look like this Fall.”
Manis said he and his staff continue to introduce the new scheme the Grizzles will utilize come August. “Everything right now is new. Even though we retained some coaches from last year, it’s new and right now, our guys’ investment and willingness to learn has been pretty good. Defensively, we have changed a little bit but a lot of the terminology is the same but the offense right now has been the difference. It’s a lot of things they have done before but now, it’s terminology with tweaks here and there as to how things will be run. That’s been the biggest learning curve for our kids but we have seen some success in our 7-on-7 games as we progressed in each one we have had so far so that has been really good to see.”
“X and O right now, the zone scheme is the biggest thing since that’s all new,” Manis said when asked how his team progressed in the first five days of practice. “All we have done this past week was run inside zone, we do some different things out of the backfield with it, but our rules up front have been the biggest thing for our guys. We are taking it slow on offense and tell them if there is a question, let’s stop, coach it up and then let’s keep going.”
Patterson said he and his teammates continue to work on learning the new playbook. “Everything has changed out there, new routes, everything. It’s a matter of learning that and going forward. We have to get to where we have to be at the right time because timing is everything in what we are doing. In the running game, we have to hold off the defense long enough for us to get somewhere.”
Andrews said he is seeing a team that is buying into what Manis and the new staff is installing and is impressed with how the younger Grizzlies- who will be called on to play quite a lot after the loss of a large number of seniors from last season- are progressing in the first week of Fall drills. “We have a new coach and that means some things will be different. We switched up the offense and it’s all about learning what the new things are and going from there. We are getting stronger, getting better and learning the plays better. We get after it more now. Last year, we lost 18 seniors so we have some of the younger guys who are stepping up to fill some big roles and right now, they are looking pretty good.”
Grainger opens the season on August 20 at home against Cumberland Gap.