"Every position is open to whoever wants to step in as a starter. I am pleased with the improvement I've seen, but we still have a long way to go until opening day," he said.
Wood's statement was justified last season by the emergence of true freshman running back Devin Bowers. In an unexpected turn of events, Bowers was inserted in the lineup in the Samford football game and did he deliver...to the tune of 144 yards on 10 carries, including a 73-yard touchdown scamper as the Rattlers vaulted out to an early lead.
The obvious center of attention will be on who is taking the snaps for the Rattlers. Last season, Carson Royal took the first string snaps throughout camp. During the season, Kenneth Coleman would see plenty of playing time, including some games as the starter. In the Spring, Royal transitioned to tight end and Coleman took most of the snaps. Getting nearly as much time under center was redshirt freshman Ryan Stanley. Stanley's athleticism should provide a viable competitor for the starting position.
Also in the mix for the Rattlers at the quarterback position are junior college transfer Vincent Jefferies and true freshman Tahj Tolbert. Jeffries possesses a load of experience, while Tolbert presents a physically imposing figure with a strong arm. With the open competition at quarterback, any one of these players could get the lion's share of snaps by mid camp.
One obvious improvement in the team is in its physicality. The addition of Parker Brooks as director of strength and conditioning has an immediate visual impact. Several players went through body transformations as a Spring dedicated to strength and conditioning has yielded the desired results. Nowhere is that more evident than on the offensive line. While still large in stature, several pounds of body fat have been trimmed from the offensive line that last season was unable to give the quarterbacks the needed time to throw or running backs the lanes to run in. Offensive line coach Edwin Patta hopes the added muscle mass will lead to improved performance from his players.
The defense's effectiveness will reside with the linebacking corps. Replacing seniors Akil Blount (Miami Dolphins) and Kashawn Butler will be the order of business for linebackers coach Michael Vite. Curtis Alexander and Luke Helms will lead the linebackers this season. Alexander, selected All-MEAC first team, is an imposing figure who has the ability to take over games. The Rattler defense will look for Alexander to have more games like his dominating performance against Hampton University last season.
Wood's biggest goal for this season is set.
"We want to have a winning season for our seniors. These young men have taken the lead in being the ones to turn around the program who hasn't had a winning season in too long. Our first goal is to prepare for the Miami Hurricanes on Sept.3," Wood said.