Making progress

Lions running back Justin Sistrunk returns for his senior season at Munford.

Michael Easley’s first spring as Munford’s head coach was a little different than the previous 14 springs he spent as an assistant at Saks.  

The rookie head coach said it was an adjustment at first for him and the players, but by the end of the two-week practice period, he was pleased with the progress his team had made.

“We didn't have our coaches yet. We hired some more coaches on,” Easley said. “Being a little understaffed and installing everything new offensively and defensively, it was little slower pace than I am used to, but the kids responded extremely well. We got better from Day 1 to Day 10, and that is the main thing.”

Easley replaced Bill Smith, who left Munford for Fayette County. Easley was approved by the Talladega County Board of Education on April 22.

His late arrival on campus combined with factors he couldn’t control hindered the way he wanted to start spring practice.

“The first three days we were in helmets and shorts because we didn't have enough pads to start spring,” Easley said. “I got hired so late, I wasn't able to get everything in time. The fourth day, we were in the gym because that was the day that the storms hit.

“We only got six days in pads but we got better. That’s the big thing. The second week, around Wednesday, I started seeing kids reacting rather than thinking, and that's what you want to see as a coach.”

Munford has several talented players returning from last fall’s team that finished 3-7 in the Lions’ first season in Class 5A, including three-star prospect Justin Sistrunk.

Easley said Sistrunk is one of the most talented guys on the team. Sistrunk has eight offers, including UAB, UT-Chattanooga, Southern Miss, Tulane, Middle Tennessee and South Alabama.

“His athleticism jumps off the page when you watch him,” Easley said. “He had a good spring. He is playing on both sides for us; everybody is playing on both sides for us. He is going to be a guy that's going to have to play a lot on both sides of the ball.”

Easley was also impressed with several other players this spring.

“Lance Smith is extremely gritty,” Easley said. “He is a good fullback/linebacker for us. He is always in the right spot.

“Quarterback Jay Tuck is a talented individual. He is still learning. He was just a sophomore last year. … He is a perfect fit for what we are going to do offensively.”

Keeping talented players in Munford has been a problem recently. The Lions have lost three college prospects over the last two seasons, including Rodney Groce, who transferred to Pleasant Grove last season. Groce is one of the top linebackers in the state, and he holds offers from Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia Tech, among several others.

“I really don’t worry about anything that's outside of Munford,” Easley said. “I am going to line up and coach who is there. You just have to sell your program; the kids have to believe in what you are doing.”

Easley and the Lions will start summer workouts next week.