OHS football team kicks off spring practice

OKEECHOBEE — Spring practice will have a different feel this year as the Brahmans will play a game against another high school, John Carroll, for the first time in many years.

The Brahmans will square off with the Rams on Friday night May 13, at Brahman Stadium. The spring practice will conclude with the annual purple white game on Friday, May 20.

Coach Chris Branham also expects some college recruiters to be buzzing around campus with Antawyn Fludd already having heard six offers from mid-major colleges. Fludd has received interest from FAU, Southern University, McNeese State, Bowling Green, the University of Southern Mississippi and Western Michigan. Branham predicted Fludd will wait until the fall to decide on what school he wants to play for and could rise to a Conference USA or even a Power 5 conference recruit if he has a strong senior season. Fludd has run as fast as 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Branham said a freshman lineman, Evan Neal, has already generated interest from such schools as the University of South Carolina, the University of South Florida and Southern University.

The Brahmans will be without one of the team leaders Jajuan Cherry who has three broken bones in his foot. He’s expected to be fully recovered for the fall.

Branham said the biggest questions for the team this spring are defensive line, linebacker and overall depth.

“We are excited to get back to work. Many of the kids have dedicated themselves in the off season with a lot of time and a lot of work. We have a new training program called bulk training, and the kids have responded well,” he said.

Branham said he is anxious to see what some of the kids can do with their new bodies.

The defensive line candidates include Evan Neal, Joseph Benjamin, Caleb Smith, Mateo Vasquez, Justin Drawdy and Juanyae Ford. The only returning linebackers are Matt Garcia and Lamar Williams. The coaches hope to depend on Jesse Mond, and several underclassmen at linebacker.

The strongest unit on the team is likely to be the secondary. Juwon Marshall, a transfer from Nova High School in Fort Lauderdale joins a veteran unit keyed by Fludd and Cherry, plus Deshon Wellington, Malcolm Chambers, Andravious Stallworth and Jermaine Moore.

The offensive line also appears strong with Neal, Benjamin, Royce Arnold, Nolan Carpenter, Smith, Andrew Bates, Bradley Shaw, and Eli McMullen the team’s long snapper.

Mateo Vasquez and Shawn Hood could factor into the mix at tight end. Running backs include Williams, a 1,000-yard rusher in six games last year, Ford, Drayton Billie and Devonte Luellman. Stallworth, Moore and Jarrett Mills could factor at wide receiver.

Branham said the weight room commitment this off season was sporadic.

“We get a new start and we bring back a lot of talent. We have some question marks and were working on eligibility questions. We have a new group and were excited to see their potential and the heights that they can reach,” he added.

The Brahmans were (4-6) last year. Branham said the team could have won more games last year. He said a constant challenge is keeping kids on the squad. They lose some to academics, some get other interests and others leave on their own because they don’t play right away.

Branham said he constantly tries to find ways to keep the kids interested.

“Things haven’t changed there. It has been this way for years. Some kids get frustrated because they played well in youth ball and then don’t play on varsity right away. That hurts our depth because eventually younger kids will get to play as the older kids graduate,” he said.

Branham said he expects the kids to be on their toes when the colleges come to visit. He said they have had college visits before. In 2007 the school hosted 48 schools for spring practice.

“Some groups of kids work as hard as they can anyway. I’ve been told motivation comes from within. The coaches are there to inspire. I want these kids to understand what they can accomplish with dedication and motivation,” he added.

A new law that lets all students attend whatever school they choose without having to sit out a semester, shouldn’t impact Okeechobee, Coach Branham said. He said he personally does not like the rule.

“I feel like it takes away from high school football. I feel like it’s going overboard and puts high school athletes like the free agents in the pros. I believe in as a coach you coach what your town has,” he said.

Practice begins on Monday, April 25. One week will be without pads, two will be game weeks and there will be plenty to keep the kids busy.

“Spring has arrived, the new flowers are blooming, there are new birds being born and new Brahmans are getting ready to play football,” Branham added.

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