Morristown East football coach Caleb Slover has been on the job less than three months, but the skipper likes the progress he has seen from his Hurricanes as they prepare for the 2019 season.
Slover, in his first year with East after six seasons at Cocke County, stepped across the Five Lakes Conference and landed in Morristown, and unlike most first-year coaches, he is in a position where he is familiar with the region opponents as well as the personnel with his new team. That has helped him in his transition from the Big Red to the Hurricanes.
“I think it’s been very similar being here as it was being at Cocke County,” Slover said. “It’s the same conference, you face the same people who do the same things. The biggest thing here is we have a bunch of pieces, which I think can be pretty good pieces, and we just have to find a way to put them all together.
“It’s really been a slow deal through June, and the first couple of days back from dead period, we really turned it up and been able to move some kids around. Right now it’s about us trying to find the energy to go to practice every day, which has been phenomenal the whole summer.”
“We’re also trying to find the right pieces and where to put them.”
Slover and his staff have put the ‘Canes through a rigorous spring practice and summer conditioning program, and after coming off of the TSSAA mandated dead period on Monday, East has hit the ground running in preparation for the season opener in a little more than a month.
“Our kids are starting to face adversity really well,” Slover said. “We mix things up with our conditioning in practice and get the guys good and tired and put them in game-type situations when they are tired , knowing they have to be mentally sharp and not make mental mistakes. We’re teaching them a way to fight through it, and the way they have responded has been a big plus. These guys have picked it up from the very beginning.”
Slover didn’t guarantee a single player of playing time or even playing in the same position when he began evaluating his roster, which has grown to more than 80 players as of this week. Still, the players who have been moved from one position to another have made positive strides, not only in their new spot but also with their work ethic.
“It helped me a little bit to be familiar with some of the players here coming in,” Slover said. “Obviously with our new system, new offensive and defensive coordinators, we were going to change some things. I told the kids it didn’t matter what they did or where they played last year, we were going to put them in the right place and the best place that fits us and makes us a better team.
“That’s another piece of adversity that our kids have had to face, and they have responded to it really well.”
For the third straight season, East will open up against Morristown West in the 11th annual Citizen Tribune Kickoff Classic presented by East Tennessee OB/GYN and Dr. Frank Ellis at Burke-Toney Stadium on Friday, Aug. 23. Slover hasn’t given much thought to opening against the Trojans, offering instead that his goal is to be 1-0 each week, regardless of the opposition.
“I’ve not thought much about it yet, but we’ve talked about it a little as a coaching staff and a team that each game is important,” Slover said. “Our goal is to be 1-0 at the end of each week, and we want to do that no matter who is on the other side of the field. We have to prepare to not make mistakes and execute the things that we do and not so much worry about what our opponent is doing.
“We have to continue to grow, have faith in each other and play our positions and not overdo it. Right now, it’s about continuity and trust and knowing we will play hard.”