By Erik Harris
For The Tribune
PINSON — At 10 a.m. on Tuesdays this summer, you could’ve found Pinson Valley head football coach Matt Glover and his Indians taking the practice field behind the Old Rock School. That’s where the sixth-year head coach prepared his team for their jump to Class 6A.
There are three things you were guaranteed not to find behind the chain-link fence surrounding the dry, flat ground — three starters from last season’s offensive line.
Seniors Jacob Smith and Mitchell Tyler are the only returning starters from a 2013 front that paved the way for the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 5A Back of the Year Nick Gibson.
Senior Ryan Fuller would have made it three returning starters, but he opted to take college courses this summer, which prevented him from attending workouts and practices. According to Glover, Fuller won’t return to the field this fall.
“It’s a work in progress right now,” Glover said.
Tyler has been getting work at center while Smith lines up to his left at left guard. Juniors Ryan Jackson (left tackle), Tanner Wilbanks (right guard) and Jackie Gulley (right tackle) look to fill in the three vacancies.
Inexperience will be a concern for this front, as it will be tested in the waters of Class 6A, Region 6, arguably the most unforgiving slate in the classification.
“I think this is probably the most competitive 6A region out there in the state,” said Gardendale head coach Matt Plunkett. “I feel like Pinson and Center Point, Clay, Shades, all those guys, including us, are going to make that a very competitive region.”
Glover said he can see all wins on the Indians’ schedule, but he can also see all losses.
The untested line will certainly get an opportunity to prove itself Sep. 19 when No. 2 Clay-Chalkville visits Willie Adams Stadium and on Oct. 24 at No. 3 Shades Valley.
Clay-Chalkville brings with it Mississippi State defensive end commit Kendell Jones. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Jones will be more than a handful in Week 5. But there isn’t a defender in the state more feared than Shades Valley senior defensive tackle Daron Payne, who will be waiting on the Indians in Week 9.
Gibson believes his road pavers will be improved as the season marches on.
“We’ve got a lot of things we need to work on from the spring game from what I’ve seen, but I think (the offensive line) is going to progress as time goes on,” Gibson said. “I think they’ll do pretty good.”