Two weeks down, exhibition game this week for Eagles

Published 10:56 pm Monday, August 16, 2004

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
The first two weeks of practice have told W.S. Neal Blue Eagles football coach Shane Smothers a lot of things.
"We're getting closer to determining our starting lineup, but we still have a long way to go to get where we need to be," Smothers said.
While the season does not officially start until August 27 when the Blue Eagles host Eufaula at 7:30 p.m., W.S. Neal will get an early tuneup Thursday when it travels to Andalusia for a 7 p.m. exhibition contest.
"These preseason games have their pros and cons. A plus is it gives the players a chance to go up against somebody different. They get tired of banging their teammates around every day. As a coaching staff, it also gives us a chance to see how players will perform in a game situation. How players perform in practice and how they perform in a game situation may be totally different," Smothers said. "A dangerous thing about playing a preseason game is the risk of losing a key player to injury before the season starts. You see that happen in the NFL all the time."
Without releasing any names, Smothers said the starting lineup is starting to take shape.
"I'd say at this time we probably have about eight spots on offense set. On the defensive side, we've probably narrowed it down to about 15-16 players for 11 spots," Smothers said.
As to be expected with any team, practice has had its ups and downs in the early going.
"I've been real pleased with the attitude of our players. They've come to practice every day with a lot of intensity. One of our questions at the start of practice was leadership by our seniors. We've had some players really step up in that area," Smothers said. "Probably the area that stands out the most where we haven't made as much progress as I would like is our kicking game. We've still got a lot of work to do in that area. Another area that needs to get better and I think it will is our perimeter tackling."
Although the game this week is an exhibition, Smothers said the Blue Eagles will treat it like a true game week.
"The one difference is our work will be one day ahead of schedule because we're playing on a Thursday instead of Friday," Smothers said.