Eastern football gets spring practices underway

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

It may only be the spring of 2016, but the Eastern football team has already begun preparation for its 2016 regular season. The Panthers got spring practices underway on Friday.

The Panthers do not have their incoming freshman here yet, or the seniors who just finished up their respective careers, but they do have nine returning starters on offense, four on defense, and three on special teams.

Devin Church will be a red-shirt senior next year, returning to the backfield for the Panthers’ offense. Eastern, however, did lose the man in charge of the offense: quarterback Jalen Whitlow.

“The fact that we lost our quarterback kind of starts over for everybody,” Eastern head coach Kim Dameron said. “Obviously it’s great to have Church back and some of the lineman, some of the receivers and the tight ends. But for the most part when you’ve got new quarterbacks, it’s always a little bit new.”

The Panthers have two quarterbacks on the roster who are returning for this year including back-up quarterback in 2015 Austin Green. Green will be a red-shirt junior next season.

Eastern will also have Mitch Kimble, who will be a red-shirt junior next season. Kimble sat out all of 2015 due to an injury.

Florida International transfers Bud Martin and Jared Pilson will also be competing for the starting job, Eastern head coach Kim Dameron said.

“They’re competing every day,” Dameron said. “Just like every other person on the field. That position is absolutely no different than any other one.”

Green has had the most experience with the offense the Panthers run because he has been here the longest.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are losing a few key members of the defense. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, safety Jourdan Wickliffe, and defensive lineman Dino Fanti all will graduate this year.

Although the Panthers are losing much of their defense, Seth McDonald will return to his linebacker position next year as a senior. McDonald led the Panthers with 109 tackles in 2015.

The Panthers will have a new defensive coordinator in 2016. Linebackers coach Michael Hodges will be moving into the role replacing Kane Wommack who left for South Alabama.

Kicker Nick Bruno will return for the Panthers as a junior in 2016 and will also be looking to take over the punting duties for the spring. Kickoff specialist Carlo Mosnia will be back as a red-shirt junior next year. Also returning on special teams will be long snapper AJ Hantak. Hantak will be a red-shirt junior in 2016.

The Panthers have 15 practices scheduled for the spring and a Spring Game set for April 23rd at O’Brien Field.

Overall in the first few days of spring practices, Dameron said things are going well.

“It’s going good,” Dameron said. “We’re installing a lot of things and we’ve got some new people and some new things. It’s good though. They’re competing well, and people are picking things up, so I’m happy with it.”

Even though some of the future Panthers have not arrived at Eastern yet, Eastern putting almost everything in.

“We start pretty much every spring and fall at square one,” Dameron said. “We start installing the base offense, base defense, third down package on both sides, red-zone. So we do it all. It’s basically on a schedule.”

Dameron said not much will be changing much for the offense, but will take what they have learned from the year before to make certain adjustments. For the most part the defensive scheme will be the same.

“A lot of it is personnel driven,” Dameron said. “As, ‘How are we going to get this guy the ball more, as the defense, we don’t have Kamu this year, what are the things we can do with the linebacker we have now?’”


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]