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Morrow surprises Battle in first spring

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

Coming off his first spring as Morrow's new football coach, Niketa Battle came away without a single starter determined.

There is a depth chart, Battle said, but it is still developing as more and more players join the team after finishing seasons of high school track and AAU basketball.

"I have people in mind for places I would play them," Battle said, "but I can't say they're No. 1 or No. 2."

In Battle's return to Clayton County, where he was defensive coordinator at Mt. Zion in 2007, he has emerced himself in an overhaul of a Morrow program that has gone 2-28 the past three seasons and has won four games in a season just twice in the past 11 years.

Battle came away encouraged from his first true look at how his team might perform on the field.

"I really didn't know what I had," Battle said. "We had just been going through weight taining. You really can't tell much from how much a guy lifts or how fast he is. ... I think it went real well."

Battle started implementing a run-oriented offense -- multiple-I and offset wing formations, he said -- and kept to the basic 4-3 defense the Mustangs used the past two seasons under Larry Mortonson. And Battle started to get a better understanding of Morrow's talent.

Daemon Garvin may be Morrow's best player. Battle said the 6-foot-3, 210-pound rising senior was the most consistent player during spring practice last week. Garvin will be a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid and see time as a possession wide receiver.

"He will be our most versatile player," Battle said. "He pretty much had the most consistent spring. I expect a lot of things out of him."

Rising senior Sayyid Clemons was the starting quarterback during spring, with rising freshman Derrick Tucker as his backup. Cornerback Joe Coon will be a starter on defense and contribute on offense at flanker. Battle said at least three incoming freshman could contribute on the varsity team.

Despite coming off an 0-10 season, Battle said players exhibited a level of work ethic he did not expect.

"The work ethic is really surprising," Battle said. "I didn't think the kids would work as hard as they work. We're not where we need to be, but we're a lot farther than I anticipated."

"You've got to get total buy-in from the kids. Once you get total buy-in for the program, and get parental support. I think that's going to be key. I don't know what the support base was before I arrived at Morrow, but I know the key to succes is hard work and the kids are buying in to what we're doing."