Prep football: Murray Spartans preview

Murray thinks they’ve found their guys after seeing last year’s coach leave after a season.

New coach Todd Thompson has plenty of connections to the Spartans.

He was a Spartan before playing at Southern Utah University. His wife went to Murray, just like his parents. He was the school’s wrestling coach for a dozen years and applied for the football job more than once.

Now the longtime assistant is in charge.

“I finally got a crack at it,” Thompson said. “I’m excited. For some of these kids, it’s their third head coach in three years. One of the things is to get these kids to buy in.”

One big change will be to change from a spread offense to Thompson’s preferred veer-style offense.

“If we have a hard time catching the football, it makes no sense to put five guys out, throw the ball and then drop it,” he said.

MURRAY SPARTANS <br>Coach • Todd Thompson, first year <br>Last season • 3-7, 1-4 in Region 6 <br>State championships • 1954, 1975, 1977 <br>Other state title game appearances • 1955 <br>2017 SCHEDULE <br>Aug. 18 • Taylorsville, 7 p.m. <br>Aug. 25 • Skyridge, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 8 • at Juan Diego, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 15 • at Highland, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 22 • West, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 29 • Skyline, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 6 • at Olympus, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 13 • at Lehi, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 18 (Wed.) • at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.

Behind center • The Spartans have four candidates to replace graduated Noah Shoeman, but senior Kobe Graham (5 foot 8, 155 pounds) appears to have the inside track. “He’s not big, but he just has to make the right call and hand the ball off,” said Thompson, who adds that Graham will throw as well. Fullback Damien Symes (5-11, 205) got some action as a junior, and he’ll be joined in the rushing attack by senior Merrick Klinger (5-11, 200), who is expanding his repertoire from his linebacking duties a year ago.

Ball hawks • Brandon Alvarez (5-11, 175), who played linebacker last season, is slated to see more time on offense as a senior because Thompson would like to put him at tight end. “He’s got a knack for the football,” the coach said. Junior Eli Taeoalii proved himself capable in summer camps of snagging passes, and he’ll join older brother Isaac Taeoalii (6-0, 150) as part of the receiving corps. Junior split end Jordan Searle (6-1, 150) also can fill in defensively, like Isaac Taeoalii, while Bingham transfer Todd Golder (5-10, 165) will serve in the same capacity.

In the trenches • The new coach notes that his team was senior-heavy last year, and the opposite this time around. A pair of juniors will lead the way on the lines, with Victor Leal (6-2, 230) at center and Jackson Rose (6-1, 210) next to him at guard. Rose will double on the defensive side as either a defensive end or outside linebacker. Look for big senior Diego Leal (5-11, 350) to get plenty of time on the D-line at a tackle or nose guard spot. “We’ve also got some younger kids that are bigger,” Thompson said. “We’ll let them play some.”

Hit men • Alvarez can “lay the hat”at linebacker, Thompson said. He was in on 78 tackles a season ago. Klingler will see some linebacker duty after recording 44 total stops in 2016. Junior cornerback Jason Horman (6-0, 170) and senior safety Ethan Smith (5-9, 150) also are physical players who could make an impact on opposing offensive players.

Key returners • Brandon Alvarez, Sr. (TE/OLB); Merrick Klingler, Sr. (RB/LB); Jackson Rose, Jr. (OG/DE); Damian Symes, Sr. (RB)

Key losses • Noah Shoeman, QB; Hunter Jones, RB; Jordon Orozco, WR; Dylan Bennett, LB

The next wave • Eli Taeoalii, Jr. (WR); Todd Golder, Sr. (WR/DB); Victor Leal, Jr. (C); Kobe Graham, Sr. (QB)

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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