The Massillon Tigers opened practice yesterday under new head coach Tom Stacy. Stacy, a former Akron U. assistant, is hoping to turn around this storied program after two losing seasons.
If today's effort is any indication, it would seem the Tigers are headed in the right direction.
I've been to practice at Ohio State and Akron, as well as most of the high schools in Stark County, but today's workout was as impressive as any I've seen. Coach Stacy is quite impressive as both a leader and a teacher to his troops. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the game stands out first and foremost.
"We're excited about the opportunity here," said Stacy. "There will be a lot of electricity in the air on opening night. We're expecting a sellout."
The Tigers open the season with a Thursday night game against Dover. Stacy will go into battle with some impressive weapons on his side. Many of his players are listed among the best in the state by Ohio High magazine.
One of the top players is three year starter Brett Huffman, a senior tight end. Huffman has accepted a scholarship offer to play college football at Duke and he should be a big factor for the Tigers in 2005.
Two other seniors appear to be flying under the radar, but are poised to have big years as well. Quentin Paulik has started at quarterback the past two seasons, but it seems his future will find him on the defensive side of the ball. At 6-3, 225, Paulik has the perfect size for an outside linebacker. Paulik also has great speed, evidenced by a 4.6 forty time. Senior tape at linebacker will determine how heavily will be recruited, but he's a player that college scouts are aware of.
Antonio James is another nice looking athlete. James (6-5, 245) has committed to play football at Illinois, but I don't think that will stop the Ohio States and the Michigans from watching his senior campaign very closely. James will play defensive end in college and has the frame that could carry 275 pounds comfortably. James is a player we will keep a close eye on at Ohio High magazine. I believe we have him rated too low.
Andrew Dailey is a player that has been featured in Ohio High since he broke into the Tiger lineup as a sophomore. Dailey (6-3, 215) is a hard hitting safety, and is clearly one of the top juniors in Ohio. Dailey will also play wide receiver for Massillon, and should have recruiters following his progress throughout his career. Dailey can run a 4.5 forty and had a great summer camp season.
Andrew is enjoying the new coaching staff at Massillon.
"Things are going great. The attitude of this team is really good," said Dailey. "We're looking forward to playing for Coach Stacy."
Sophomore running back K.J. Herring received a lot of reps today, and he appears to be ready to continue the fine tradition of great football players at Massillon. Herring, a state track qualifier, could see significant time for the Tigers in 2005.
Coach Stacy will count on seniors Lanelle Robinson, Dirk Dickerhoof, Rob Morris and others to lead the Tigers in 2005. Another weapon will be the strong leg of kicker Steve Schott, a sophomore. Schott is the top kicker in the sophomore class in Ohio and has a bright future at Massillon and beyond.
The atmosphere in Tigertown is totally different than the past two years. This team is responding to the teaching of Tom Stacy and a quite talented staff. This football team is disciplined and aggressive. Today's practice was structured to the minute, as each drill was scripted and executed by the clock. Even though today was the first day of practice the intensity approached a playoff level.
Speaking of playoffs, what are the chances of the Tigers returning to the playoffs? The schedule is brutal and the overall depth of this team is in question, but I would not be surprised to see this team get on a roll and march into the postseason in 2005. The Tigers just might be ready to restore the roar in Massillon.