There is a buzz around the Murray football team during fall camp this year. The tempo is faster, the practices crisper, and the expectations are higher.
When new coach Mike Richmond took the head job, he brought a few of his friends - former Division I players - as assistant coaches. Senior quarterback Justin Adams said having coaches around who have been there before has made a difference.
"There is a lot of excitement with the new coaching staff," said Adams. "They see a lot of things, little things, and they get on us if we need to pick it up."
For a team that went 1-9 last season while being outscored 209-28 in Region 7 games, just about every area could use some picking up.
The Spartans have several solid running backs in Spencer Prestwhich and Deric Sanders who combined for nearly 700 yards rushing last season. Sanders led the defense with 125 tackles and rarely steps off the field.
"Deric started here as a freshman," said Richmond. "He's a tough, physical kid who really wants to win."
Court Adams will man one of the safety positions, and double back as a receiver on offense. He sees the Murray offense as dramatically improved.
"We've got a lot of starters back that have played together for a while," he said. "I think we've got a chance to be pretty explosive."
One of the first things Richmond did upon being hired was take notice of the success of the spring sports of baseball and soccer, and recruit those Murray athletes onto his squad. Baseball player Bo Shipley rejoins the football team after a two-year hiatus. At 6-feet-2 and 230 pounds, Richmond said Shipley will man the middle-backer position, allowing Sanders to roam at one of the outside-backer slots.
LAST YEAR: 1-9, missed playoffsKEY RETURNER: Deric Sanders, senior, linebacker/fullback. Sanders has been a starter at Murray since his freshman season, and his 125 tackles last season means he's all over the field for the Murray defense.PLAYER TO WATCH: Bo Shipley, senior, linebacker. Shipley returns to the gridiron after a two year absence, and his 6-foot-2, 230 pound frame will give the Spartans a physical presence on defense.BIGGEST HOLE: A young but athletic offensive line will have to grow up quickly for Murray to contend for a playoff spot.NEED TO KNOW: Getting off to a quick start would do wonders for a team that went 1-9 but is expecting to be a playoff contender.SEASON OPENER: Hosts Cyprus. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.
Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton
July 26: Hunter/Park City
July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills
July 28: Davis/Juan DiegoJuly 30: Olympus/Judge Memorial
July 31: Alta/Grantsville
Aug. 1: Westlake/West Jordan
Aug. 2: Layton/Hillcrest
Aug. 3: Jordan/Lone Peak
Aug. 4: Viewmont/Stansbury
Aug. 6: Lehi/Cyprus
Aug. 7: Woods Cross/Syracuse
Aug. 8: Cottonwood/American Fork
Aug. 9: Granger/Tooele