Tellico Plains has begun to get into the swing of Bobby White’s tenure with the Bears.
The program has already competed in a 7-on-7 — on the campus of the University of Tennessee — and has begun the process of implementing new systems into a team that will be carried by first-time starters.
The trip to Knoxville saw the Bears compete with programs from Ohio, Georgia and Virginia. Besides reps given to senior quarterback Landon Hollinghead, much of White’s squad saw more snaps than they may have seen in a game last season.
“We competed well,” White said. “We had some guys really step up and make plays. There are still a lot of things to clean up with putting in a new offense and new defense. We are hoping to expand the offense the further we get into the summer.”
Coming off of two seasons as the starter, Hollinghead is expected to be a leader within the team, but the senior is currently having to earn the starting job, and impress the new coach, along with sophomore Omar Miller.
“I feel comfortable with either one at quarterback right now and with Landon’s experience at quarterback, I feel like that gives us an advantage in a lot of ways” White said. “(Omar) has had a really good spring and summer. We are proud of what he has done and he did a lot of good things at UT.”
Hollinghead may have the edge, meaning Miller could contribute in other offensive roles and on defense in 2022. He would be poised to go under center as a junior.
“They have been battling out this summer and I could definitely see both of them playing on Friday night. We are going to continue to let them battle it out but, with Landon having the experience that he does, that is hard to replace,” White said.“They both bring something very different to the quarterback position. I think it can be a weapon for us to use both of them at the position.”
Despite graduating 12 seniors last year, the roster number in Tellico is sitting just shy of 50.
“They have an eagerness to get into the weight room, to practice and to improve daily. We have a good core of young men who have put a lot of hard work in,” White said. “Continuing to do this throughout the summer, and cleaning things up, is our focus.”
For White, who coached four seasons at Sequoyah, the challenge of replacing a deep senior class is eased by the buy-in from the kids.
“From the film I have watched, and looking at the stat sheet, we have lost a lot of production on offense and defense. We will have to rely on a lot of young guys to step up and make players at the receiver position, the defensive line and at linebacker,” White said. “We have some young guys stepping up and guys moving into new roles from the team last year, but we definitely need guys to step up and replace a lot of production.”
Tellico has graduated all linebackers, almost all the secondary and is thin at wideout.
Among the upcoming players, none seem more destined for an impact than Damian Webb.
The senior comes in as one of the more experienced skill players, elbowing some room into last year’s backfield and receiver group that saw the likes of Ethan Teague, Major Carter, Logan Cox and Ethan Thomas.
“We really think he is going to be a big part of our offense and our defense. We are really excited about what he is going to do his senior year,” White said. “Webb is kind of the man right now. I am really excited about using his speed and he has really grown in the weight room.”
Webb has added nearly 15 pounds in the offseason.
Ryan Schaffer can increase his value as a running back and linebacker. The sophomore was a standout for the Junior Bears before seeing limited time as a freshman.
“He is probably one of the hardest working kids on our roster. He brings it every single day. His leadership qualities as a sophomore are rare, so we are really excited about what he can bring this year,” White said.
Ethan Harris brings versatility as a junior. His size can put him in multiple roles on the offense and support the defense from the linebacker position.
Brady Cook has the opportunity to cash in on his senior year as a receiver and defensive back.
“He has really stepped up in a big way for us, both offensively and defensively,” White said.
Cook and Miller have shown great improvement in White’s eyes after scouring over two years’ worth of film since mid-February.
“I have watched a lot of film from the past two seasons, but Omar has really stepped up. He has grown and gotten a lot stronger. Ryan Schaffer has really grown after playing a limited role last year,” White said. “Brady Cook played limited as a junior, and I think he will have a good senior year, but the biggest one for me is probably Damian Webb. He was used in different ways, but was in a crowded receiver corps and backfield last year.”
Cohen Miller and Isaac Dalton return to an oversized line from 2021. Despite the majority being new faces, White is confident with how they trend.
Hollinghead, whose sophomore season ended early with an injury and junior year was up-and-down after picking up an injury in Week 2, is at full health per White.
Tellico continues with a 7-on-7 at McMinn County on June 21 and then travels to Wartburg Central on June 23.