By: Garrett Mitchell, Staff Writer
The 2021 high school football season is less than two months from kicking off. The Woodruff Wolverines have been hard at work preparing for a much-anticipated campaign that looks to bring capacity crowds back into the stadium and a talented roster poised to breakthrough in the 3A ranks.
A successful two-week spring practice session in May and now a return to summer seven on seven passing competitions have afforded the Wolverines opportunities to prepare and improve. That was not viable in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Woodruff Head Coach Bradley Adams sees a return to physical conditioning as one of his team’s most significant strides of the offseason.
“We came into the summer out of shape due to several small obstacles we faced throughout the second semester,” Adams said. “Our guys that were struggling early in the summer are beginning to make strides toward getting in proper playing shape. Getting in better playing shape has been the biggest improvement.”
For rising junior quarterback Carson Tucker, an opportunity to have live snaps in the summer has allowed him to develop solid chemistry with a wide receiver group which Adams describes as having “several playmakers.”
“Last year, when I didn’t have a spring practice or passing competitions, it was a challenge,” said Tucker. “Having those opportunities this year has helped me in making my reads.”
Nonetheless, Tucker put together an all-star sophomore season. He passed for 2,000 yards, 19 touchdowns, and completed 65 percent of his passes in just eight games. Adams believes his signal-caller will be even better this year.
“The biggest thing that Carson has improved on is knowing the offense,” he said. “He now knows the offense inside and out, which should help him make quicker decisions in his reads.”
The 2021 Wolverines are also a team laden with players who have embraced a leadership role. Jailen Tribble, who will enter his third season as a starter on both sides of the ball, returns as a team captain. Other players such as offensive lineman Jacob Abreu, defensive back Nemo Cochran, and running back Damarian Elmore have also emerged as team leaders.
“We feel like we have a much more unified team this year and a lot more leadership,” added Tucker.
Adams agrees with his quarterback.
“The best part about this team so far is the leadership,” noted Adams. “The seniors and a handful of underclassmen step up and take control of the team when we need a leader.”
The early returns have been positive. Woodruff defeated 2A power Saluda and fellow 3A opponent Mid Carolina decisively in their first passing competition in June, with several more on the docket.
It is all valuable preparation for a regular-season schedule that should be among the toughest in the state. The Wolverines play non-conference games against defending 1A state champion Southside Christian, 4A powerhouse Greer, and solid 5A Hillcrest, all within the first five weeks of the season. A fierce region schedule includes two-time state champion Chapman, Union County, and a much-improved Clinton team.
Tucker and his teammates are looking forward to the challenge.
“We are looking forward to playing Greer,” Tucker acknowledged. “They have the number one recruit in the state (wide receiver Jaleel Skinner), and we are looking forward to playing them. Hillcrest is a good 5A team, and Clinton was my worst game last season, so I’m looking forward to us playing them again.”